The partners of FADD Studio, Farah Ahmed and Dhaval Shellugar met while working at Khosla Associates and recognised their skills, outlooks and expertise would complement each other’s. Farah has an international education and experience as well as the drive to constantly try something bold and risky, whereas Dhaval knows the home market and the Indian clientele in great detail.
Together they set up FADD Studio in 2012, and have already built an impressive portfolio with work ranging from residences to offices and retail spaces to hospitality – a testament to their energetic approach to the world of interior. They describe it as, “It is easy to stagnate into a style that becomes a firm’s identity”. To avoid this stagnation, they constantly try to re-invent their style while adapting it to each individual project.
However, from an outside perspective, there seem to be a very clear connection between the projects. There is a certain undefined, yet somehow recognisable style imprint, which they have only recently realised, and are yet to either fight or embrace. The projects all ooze of the warmth of traditional Indian-ness, with its saturated colours, paired with an almost minimalistic approach with clear, uncluttered lines. A contemporary approach with deep-seated respect of the country’s heritage.
What was the main drive and ambition behind setting up your own studio?
There’s no satisfaction or pride that can be compared to the kind that comes from having something that is yours. The desire to see our designs manifest into reality was the main motivation behind FADD Studio. We were confident of our ability as designers, have the right amount of work experience and education and the time was right to branch out on our own!
Is the climate in today’s India encouraging and supportive for young designers?
Yes. India is at a great stage of development now. There are several things that are working in our favour. Increase in real estate development is a big factor. Builders can’t always afford the most well known names in the field. Also, they want something fresh and innovative and are happy with the work we show them. Additionally, people are travelling more and more now days and therefore, becoming more aware of global design trends. As a result, their desire to have something bespoke and professional is heightened. This is where we come in – we are the line that divides surface embellishment, decoration – which any one can do – from interior design, which includes detailed exploration of all spaces in a project to achieve practicality, functionally with perfect aesthetics.
You have already had the opportunity to work on a large variety of projects, but are there any, where you feel more comfortable than in others?
FADD: Not particularly. We pick projects that we feel comfortable with in all aspects – size of project, client, timeline etc.
That being said, we find that unlike residences, commercial projects provide the freedom to really entrench yourself into a concept or a theme and then fly with it. Residences are usually safe so we tend to enjoy the commercial ones in terms of the thematic liberty they provide. With Le Cristaal, it was the French boudoir and with Flower Box it was the Zen look and feel. And in both projects there are one or two strong elements – the 2D chandeliers and mirrors in Le Cristaal and the bamboo veneer installation and shaded walls in Flower Box – which were conceived with incredible excitement, like a eureka moment, and then painstakingly but successfully put together with very fine details.
What do you consider the most important elements in creating atmospheric spaces?
Lighting, colours and textures – If the shell is done right, anything can look nice in it. ‘Less is more works’ for us. We avoid clutter and excessive decoration as much as we can.
Where do you find your inspirations?
The honest answer is everywhere and anywhere – in the most mundane places or in the most unexpected ones. India is most definitely the land of colour. So you don’t have to look very hard. For colours, inspiration is truly everywhere – the tropical flowers and leaves, the stunning tropical skies and sunsets, women’s saris and outfits where some colour combinations are ethnics and some pastels. For textures, we turn to tropical and colonial architecture that can be seen in places like Goa and Calcutta.
Do you feel it is important to reinvent yourselves as designers, or do you draw upon your past experiences?
We are stubborn about constantly reinventing ourselves! FADD Studio’s design aesthetic is mostly eclectic contemporary. However, we try not to get comfortable with just one style or type of design. It is easy to stagnate into a style that becomes a firm’s identity. And we believe that having a singular style defies the purpose of design, which is to push beyond what we known, achieve something novel and unique in every project, and be constantly propelled out of our comfort zone into a world where we not only embrace new concepts and techniques but also create trends of our own that are timeless.
With this stubborn sensibility and desire to be original, we aspire not to create a style unique to us but to give each project a design identity that is exclusive to that space, thereby creating the design brand/look for that project. That being said, we always aim to have a memorable, in other words, a “wow factor” in our projects that ensures the experience of the space will be an unforgettable one. This criterion ties our projects together.
What would be your dream project?
Farah: A whole resort/hotel or a night club internationally
Dhaval: A yacht or a huge thematic hotel at an international location
by Runa Mathiesen