Commissioned to renovate a 30-year-old apartment in Lokhandwala, an upscale residential enclave in suburban Mumbai, interior designer Smita Thomas of Bangalore-based practice Multitude of Sins (MOS) was tasked with creating a modern environment of timeless sophistication, which while suitable for hosting guests was also sensibly designed for the everyday life of a young family with two restless toddlers. Despite such an exacting brief, what proved to be the greatest challenge for Thomas was the client’s requests for a muted colour palette – the designer you see has a penchant for vibrant colours and bold chromatic combinations. What the apartment may now lack in colour, it more than makes up in an artisanal approach to craftsmanship, sumptuous materiality and graphic panache, courtesy of Thomas’ Art Deco-inspired design language of geometric forms and patterns that extends from the floors, walls and ceilings, to doors, furniture and décor.
Conceived and designed in large part remotely due to pandemic-related lockdowns in Mumbai and Bangalore, the apartment’s renovation encapsulates MOS’ unconventional aesthetic and eye for detail, as well as their ingenuity. Drawing from Mumbai’s Art Deco heritage – the style was very popular during the era that India was part of the British Empire – Thomas and the design team developed a decorative language informed by the geometric abstraction of De Stijl and Suprematist painters like Mondrian and El Lissitzky, filtered through a lens of contemporary minimalism. Add in the exquisite craftsmanship that underpins every element of the design and the result is a residence of artistic creativity and artisanal refinement.
Entering through a crisply designed foyer clad in light grey marble and black subway tiles, you step into a long passageway that ceremoniously leads you into the apartment’s communal and private areas. Tessellated tile wainscoting beneath a dark-stained wooden cornice animates the otherwise subdued space while the grooved wood-panelling in the ceiling enhances horizontality as does the inlay markings seen in the marble floor. Extending across the adjacent open-plan living and sitting area, the carpet-like marble flooring is a true showstopper; the custom-designed flooring features hand-cut pieces of light grey, dark grey and black stone, wood tiles and brass inlays, painstakingly laid into the marble to form abstract geometric compositions.
The linear and circular markings of the marble floor set the tone for the design of the entire space, from the series of five arched openings that connect the living room with the corridor, to the minimalist mural consisting of thicker and thinner horizontal lines, to the selection of furniture and light fittings, including bespoke pieces such as the 1970s-inspirerd cylindrical bar cabinet made of polished teakwood and brass that was conceived as a tribute to the healing powers of alcohol vis-à-vis the lockdowns. A sculptural high-gloss dining table paired with minimalist built-in banquette seating and mid-century modern-inspired chairs comprise an elegant dining nook.
Grey-washed walls underpin a monochrome palette of neutral hues subtly complemented by discrete pops of colour like the sage-green underside of the arched portals and matching sofa, and the grey and powder-blue armchairs.
Playful geometric shapes, sumptuous materials and muted tones carry on in the kitchen where aquamarine square wall tiles are interrupted by dark linear and circular stone inserts, concrete floor tiles that feature linear inlays, and fluted cupboards that echo the striped interior lining of the vitrines. The only exception to the project’s muted colour palette can be fittingly found in the children’s bedroom where the grey-washed walls and concrete floor are juxtaposed with the bright orange built-in bookcase and desk unit. Featuring concealed LED lighting, a mesh board, a fabric pinboard, and an adjustable desk height system, the custom-designed unit combines functionality with crispness but at the same time attests, much like the rest of the project, that simplicity need not be boring.