Décor diva Vinita Chaitanya takes a break from designing the spaces of the rich and the famous to share insights into her USP of ‘divine mixology’.
A leading name in the realm of interior design since several years, suddenly a Vinita Chaitanya designed home or customized space has become an absolute must-have for those who have ‘arrived’! What’s the feeling like?
Pretty darn amazing… but it’s been a long journey… 34 years of being in this biz… and, except for the first six months of the pandemic, I super much never took a sabbatical…
To what do you attribute this more intense phase of attention coming your way?
Social media… you cannot deny its reach!
Your client list ranges from Bollywood’s A-listers Deepika Padukone and Ranveer Singh, to business tycoons Narayana Murthy, Kiran Majumdar-Shaw, to sports celebrities like Prakash Padukone. What draws them to you?
My business works largely on word of mouth. Before I got onto Instagram, I wasn’t on any form of social media and, even today, new clients largely approach me because of referrals… And I’m super chuffed to say that, over my career, I have worked at times with three generations of the family, starting with the older generation and then their kids and now the younger lot. That’s something I am really, really proud of, that I have been able to evolve and keep current that even this gen looks my way.
Was design always an area of interest?
After I completed my Bachelor’s in Art, I knew I wanted to do something creative. For a bit, I even worked with friends in advertising. Very soon, my family moved to Calcutta from Bangalore and, on a whim, I joined the WPTI next door to our hotel in Calcutta to do a diploma in interiors. In about six months, the Oberoi Grand picked me up as an intern for their design department. And the rest is history.
You set up your design firm Prism in 1988. What were some of the challenges encountered and victories enjoyed through this journey?
I had just got married and I seriously thought that I would take a break after working for about four continuous hard years. Then things changed one evening and I got offered a job which I took without even having an office at that time. Just grabbing the opportunities at the right time and working hard towards achieving what I wanted to, has always been my mantra. The challenges were normal, like a young person today starting up. But things started moving so rapidly after my first project… I received some great projects… And then I had Diya (our daughter) in the first two years after being married. I remember getting an offer to do seven paging offices (for MaxPage) throughout India at the time when she was three months. And I accepted it because my husband said, if you can do it, go for it and that was it. I literally took her with me everywhere but never thought so much about it. I think I was pretty gutsy… have always been!
How much have tastes and trends changed over the decades?
Yes, trends have changed and I am happy to say that this change is for the better. We have evolved. My clients have always been world travellers. About 10 or 15 years ago, most of the homes would be filled with high-end western brands. The last five years, I have clearly shifted this mindset. Now 50%-60% of items of furniture in the home would be an incredible ’Made in India’ brand, and it’s been an incredible, incredible success. Clients who come to me now are very aware that I am India-proud and a lot of the pieces I recommend are made in India, and a few accent pieces would be imported. It’s almost a reversal of what used to happen earlier!
Your design language is characterised by luxury, liveable art, Indian heritage, and Western contemporariness. How do you manage to combine all these elements into one cohesive whole?
Personally, I enjoy anything beautiful. Indian culture and heritage is a very, very big language in my work. But I do also enjoy learning from, and using pieces which are finely crafted from all over the world. Ultimately, luxury in lifestyle is what I aim to give all my HNI clients.
You are known for your unique flair for ‘divine mixology’, wherein you layer different cultures and periods to delightful effect. Do explain how this works.
I do love layering. It’s my USP… I am able to bring in elements from everywhere in the world and put them together in one single space or in a home. I don’t think so much about it. I do think that there are aspects of every culture which are so superbly interesting to me and which are so beautiful that I want them all in a particular place, and I am able to set them up together with a unique blend …That is the Vinita Chaitanya magic!
How much of your client’s personality is reflected in your design of their spaces?
I honestly work with all genres. Every single home is unique to the client’s brief. I may be just that magician which puts things together, but ultimately it is their home and there are no two ways about it. I do not think I’ve ever repeated maybe even a designer tile over all my projects.
Your belief in the art and heritage of India sees you promote and showcase it extensively in your work.
Why are we the only ones who don’t recognize what an incredible culture and heritage we have? When I was younger, I had the opportunity to meet some incredible people who are rooted in our culture and whom I learnt so much from. And today I have a platform and I can reach out to so many people. I do feel that I would be wasting the platform I have if I could not impart this knowledge and this feeling of pride, which is inherently a part of me.
One of your USPs is your passionate involvement in every project from concept through to delivery. How intensive is the process?
Gosh, this is so, so intensive but I have created this monster and there is no stepping back from it… it only has to become better! In fact, this week, I’m handing over a project and I am literally creating mood boards of spaces and discussing with my team and my colleagues as to how the space will be detailed with the finest layering of objects and arts and floral, sometimes fruits and herbs… and how I am going to make the clients feel welcome in their own home. So yes, my interior spaces do not end with furniture and soft furnishings, but I personally style your coffee-tables and all the rooms… and many times I have even stocked the refrigerator so that when the clients enter, voila, there’s fresh orange juice in the kitchen!
An acknowledged expert on all things design and taste, do you still feel the need to learn and stay abreast of trends and technology?
Everyday… you just gotta stay abreast of things.
Travel is apparently a key source of fresh inspiration and inventory for you…
Yes, travel for me is the hugest inspiration. It’s all about the experiences and every time I do travel, I try and venture into seeing and discovering the new. I am that person who would prefer to stay in a new hotel every time I go, even if it’s back to the same city, just to discover the area around me and to walk through places and notice the little things – from the flowers growing there to the architecture.
Amidst your demanding professional assignments, you clearly still manage to strike a sublime balance with your downtime at your Coorg home, called SlowLife.
It’s so important. I cannot even emphasize what SlowLife means to us. Going there helps me think more clearly. It’s as if I am recharged… it has changed my life.