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Around the world of interiors

A mover and shaker of interior design, Laila Bijlani Malpani’s career takes her across the globe and keeps her inspired a step of the way.

 

Artistically inclined from a very young age, Laila’s penchant for art and design dates back to the early 80s. The story goes: her parents who were budding art collectors had invited famed Indian art gallerist, collector and connoisseur Kekoo Gandhy, who pioneered the promotion of Indian modern art from the 1940s, to their house to ask of his inputs on how to display the works of art they had been collecting over the years. Nine year old Laila enthusiastically followed them around the house and even offered her opinions when asked. It was then that the legend himself, Kekoo Gandhy exclaimed that he wasn’t required with a natural like Laila around. And the rest as they say is history! But anecdotes aside, Laila confesses, “I have been attracted to all forms of design for as long as I can remember. Be it art, fashion or even spatial design. I don’t think a single person or event has shaped me as much as the travel that my parents exposed us to growing up. It was fascinating to observe the amazing art, varied cultures and destinations, and this of course clocks back to a time when Indian design was going through a renaissance of sorts.”

Her young born passion soon enough transcended into a full-fledged, prestigious career. She graduated from the Inchbald School of Design, London by the age of 21 and right off the bat landed a job with the legendary Sunita Pitambar. She started off as an intern and eventually blossomed into heading her own design team. She shares, “It was one of the most enriching experiences of my career. I got to learn so much from one of the most talented people India had seen. From buying art at Sotheby’s auctions to tapestries in Paris, I was involved in designing homes for some of the most well heeled in the world, from Michael and Shakira Caine in London to industrialists in Dubai, Kathmandu, Delhi and Mumbai.”

Fast forward ten years and her passion for design led to a brush with fashion styling within the film and advertising industry followed by Laila launching and successfully running a fashion label. After that, life took Laila to New York where she had a brief stint with a top interior management firm to style spaces. She recently moved back to India with her family and her reignited love for interiors compelled her to launch her very own boutique interior design firm that exemplifies her varied experiences and exposures to design of all forms. Her eponymous brand focusses on bringing luxury, style and comfort to each project while maintaining the values and sensibilities of each individual client. She explains, “I try to utilise texture, colour, proportion and shape in a unique manner, and I pride myself on perfectly balancing heritage and modernity resulting in spaces that are aesthetically beautiful and enticingly inviting.”

As a design practice, Laila’s policy is not to be ‘brand led’ but rather responsive to a client’s desires. She emphasises, “I work hard NOT to have a signature look and instead prefer to address the client’s wishes and requirements on an individual basis. I believe this keeps me fresh and in touch with all sorts of skill sets and styles. I can be doing restoration work in the morning, shabby chic at lunchtime and a contemporary penthouse in the evening! The best design I believe is when you marry more than one style to make it eclectic.” Reminiscing from her own journey, Laila confesses that she especially loves to work with clients who have collected art over the years and small objects from their travels. It provides more than a ‘designer look’ and tells a story about the person and their lives. “I love that part of individualism.”

As for her favourite space to design, Laila reveals it’s the living room, since that is the most important room in a family’s home. It is where everyone spends time together and it is also the room that one would entertain in and becomes the focal point of the house in one sense. She loves spaces where design can take centre stage and be most impactful. But she also confesses that she enjoys designing bathrooms.

When asked about her most defining moment or project as an interior designer Laila shares another anecdote, “I wouldn’t say defining but one of the most interesting projects I worked on years ago was for an industrialist in Delhi. He was so married to the project that he slept on site on the charpoy most of the year that we worked. He would call me everyday at 6 am to discuss his ideas. On a whim weekly we would take off to Paris, London or Italy to pick up pieces or order furniture for his project. I actually went to the Baccarat factory to order 18 identical chandeliers for this home. It was a crazy, surreal experience because of its challenges and how highly demanding the client was, but also oddly and immensely satisfying because of his strive for perfectionism. We didn’t give up till every detail was immaculate. I may have aged a little during the process but I honed my skill set and it was one of the most memorable experiences to be thrown into the chaos and frenzy of design in different parts of the world.”

Apart from Laila’s lovely anecdotes, in terms of the future of design, we ask the design maestro about what in her opinion are the key design trends to look out for in the new decade. She quickly announces the biggest buzzword of the moment: Sustainability—and emphasises how it is the need of the hour. “The new sexy ecosystem of design therefore includes products like another brand’s mosaic, a flooring system of solid wood tiles made from 100 per cent recycled wood repurposed from the furniture manufacturing industry, London-based architects, APT collaborating with Mallorcan tile maker Huguet to produce a terrazzo-inspired material that uses construction and demolation waste, Dust London’s re-use of tea waste to make stunning origami-inspired household objects, or the Chip(s) Board making a fully recyclable, biodegradable material from potato waste, an innovation supported by the McCains. Expect to see a lot of collaborations in the name of sustainability like this. While here in India, sustainability has always been a part of the fabric of our society, and continues on: repurposed furniture, wood and artefacts are not only stunning when mixed with modern materials but also aids in saving our planet. Win-win!”
We at Isprava couldn’t agree more with Laila, and are keen citizens ourselves of this enthusiastic, sustainably-driven world.

Laila’s tips on how to revamp your favourite space!

1. Colour is a great way! So repainting your space using an interesting colour on a single wall or even on all the walls is fun, painless as well as easy on the pocket.
2. Wallpaper is also an easy, quick and effortless solution to transform something old and boring into something new and vibrant.
3. Adding a rug to a floor can quickly liven up a space and make it feel rejuvenated.
4. Decluttering and reorganising is a key method, especially in kitchens and bathrooms.
5. A pretty potted plant or two can add so much to a space, not to mention in city homes it also gives you that literal fresh breath of air!

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