Sanjeev Punjabi & Sangeeta Merchant (SPASM Design Architects)
Sanjeev Punjabi and Sangeeta Merchant begin each project on a clean slate, with fresh ideas. The duo operates in India and East Africa — two tropical zones with diverse cultures. This has greatly helped in the way they approach every venture. We admire their interpretation of the values of the sites and its subsequent transformation and evolution. For instance, the Mbweni Ruins House that sits on a cliff on an isolated beach in Tanzania prompted the architects to visualise the house “as a body of timeless brute as a continuum of the horizon”.
Lotus Design Studio
This young, talented firm welcomes three disparate design streams into its fold: Architecture (Sidhartha Talwar), graphic design (Ankur Choksi) and engineering (Ambrish Arora). What we like about this design team is that their signature style is to not have one. Therefore, if you are their client, you could expect the unexpected and the unusual. The only constants are a refreshing perspective and a wholehearted openness to experimentation. Their projects are rich in visual details. They currently have several hospitality projects under their belt.
Kapil Gupta and Christopher Lee (Serie Architects)
Kapil Gupta is part of Serie Architects that has offices in London, Mumbai and Beijing. Gupta and his partner, architect Christopher Lee, create some stunning work in urbanism and design. If ‘different’ has a synonym, they have to be it. Been to Blue Frog or Tote in Mumbai? That’s them. We love Serie’s work for its industrial craft-like quality.
Designers hanker after large square-footages. So if you have a small studio apartment that you wish to do up tastefully, chances of getting a good designer to handle the job are slim. But for Shabnam Gupta, all spaces — large and small — are grist to her mill. Her spaces are infused with a wonderful, endearing idiosyncratic quality. We like her attention to detail: A window grille that apes falling rain, a trail of miniature ants walking across the wall. This interior designer-furniture-and-lifestyle store-owner is very practical when it comes to space management as well.
An autodidact when it comes to design, Rajiv Saini made heads turn almost immediately after setting up practice in 1995. We vote for Saini because despite having elite clients, his designs refrain from glitz as he stays away from tawdry exhibitionism. His work is contemporary, yet rooted in this country’s culture. Indian craft is often presented with a modern twist. Saini doesn’t cut any design-corners. His work for the Devigarh Palace in Udaipur epitomises his style.
sP+a (Sameep Padora and Associates)
Sameep Padora’s work includes commercial and residential projects as well as product design. His work reflects modernity and draws immensely from the surroundings. Padora, whose work has been featured in The Phaidon Atlas of Contemporary World Architecture, shuns straight lines and derives most of his inspiration from natural forms. Therefore, most of his projects like Indigo Deli, Palatte and the Galeecha showroom have a magnetic pull — these spaces offer you a totally different special experience.
Aamir Sharma & Hameeda
Sensual earthiness, like something right out of a dream. That’s how most Aamir Sharma projects look like. This Hyderabad-based interior designer largely uses an industrial material palatte — concrete unfinished walls, raw black slate and rusted metal sheets. He clubs this ruggedness with delicate touches of customised art. What we like about this award-winning designer is his go-getter attitude that governs his design sensibilities. Though residential design is his forte, Sharma has worked on some interesting retail and restaurant designs.
(Rupali Sebastian is editor, and Deepa Nair is assistant editor, Better Interiors )