Indian Designers Embrace New Hospitality Interior Aesthetic

August 28, 2003

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BANGALORE – The Taj Hotel Group, which owned prestigious luxury chain hotels during 1970s, is credited with setting the benchmark in interior design as well as in architectural standards.

The Taj group successfully combined tradition and modernity by using overseas consultants for execution and consulted with interior design experts from France and Britain. These pioneers in the Indian hospitality industry ushered in a sensibility that centered on higher design.

In India, it was a rare instance when an interior designer was called upon at all. Usually the selection of décor, like fabrics and wallpapers, was the domain of the housekeeping department or on the owner's wife or his sister (which is not to say that they had bad taste).

However during the last 30 years Indian interior designers have taken note of the fresh design springing up around them and the cooperation between domestic hotel owners and European interior designers.

Socialistic economic policies of the government of India have definitely influenced the conservative styling of interiors as imports are subject to heavy custom duty. This limited the choice of materials. However a new architectural aesthetic has emerged. Architects are delegating sub-contracts to interior designers and others are utilizing in-house interior designers.

"Architects by and large still decide on interiors but talent in the interior design profession is abundant," observed Neelam Mukerji, interior designer, Art Creators, Mumbai. "Today, interior designers are working with the property owner and consulting with the architect and even independently."

The boom years from 1985 to 1990 supported construction of many new hotels, including several international chain hotels. Later the industrial economy also grew as the policy makers opted for market-driven economy and the profound influence of the software industry set the ball rolling. Corporate entities integrating to international business, global travelling increased and western multi-television channels influenced the Indian consumer lifestyles enormously.

Rajesh Haldar of Associates, Architects and Interior Designers agrees that the current interior designers are showing maturity. His firm has been executing restaurants, hotels and residential properties. "Interior designers can now better visualize and illustrate the effects to execute creative use of space, light, furnishings, glass and matching props to meet the aspirations of the customer and the client," he said.

New design avenues are also opening in India, including malls and restaurants. Information technology has made more it common for office buildings to hold 3,000 workstations. SOHO (small office home office) concepts are in demand to beat the urban traffic and growing pollution.

"We have total independence to execute interior designs by the property owner based on fixed budget where visual concepts and themes have to be translated," said Kartik Punjabi, director of the Mumbai-based Vijay Punjabi Consultants Private Limited, Architects and Interior Designers. The company has executed several projects of star hotel lobbies and bars in collaboration with Hirsch Bedner Associates, an international design firm with offices in the U.S. and England. Punjabi believes that India's design talent is deep. He also said that international exposure pressures the designer to deliver the best as clients and customers have increasingly global profiles.



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