She may have come to be known as the favourite designer of Bollywood stars, but the 45-year-old Shabnam Gupta’s repertoire spans a wide gamut of iconic projects – residential, hospitality, commercial – that stand out for their distinctive appeal. And going by the growing demand for her work, she is leaving behind a big band of happy patrons. Not without reason. Her spaces are a visual and visceral treat. A curious melange of disparate materials, textures and patterns, with a tantalising dose of eccentric touches and bold strokes thrown in.
Shabnam launched The Orangelane, her design solution firm in 2003, and soon made a mark with her unique style that showcased Indian aesthetics against a contemporary palette. The firm functions as a consultant and provider of complete turn key solutions. Her other brand, the Peacocklife, a design label established in 2010 is doing as well.
Like her designs that grow on you with their organic naturalness, her business has also evolved word-of-mouth, without she ever having to market it. Her projects for the stars too were just a part of this progression. She first designed Aditya Chopra’s bungalow in 2013 and then went on to do Parineeti Chopra’s apartment in 2014. “As I had designed homes of TV personalities such as Jankee and Nakuul Mehta, Irrfan Khan and Kangana Ranaut contacted me. “I have never gone out and sought work. I guess our clients like our genuine and artistic work and relate to it easily,” she says. “My design is all about instilling the client’s personality into the space. It is not enough to simply make a space look beautiful, how the space makes the client feel is important too,” adds Gupta.
Clients today are well informed. “They do their homework before coming to you. They know the different kinds of tiles available. We, thus far, have never been out of sync with our clients,” she says. It is also because she focuses on the clients’ needs and desires. “It is important for me and my studio to do unique things and constantly push boundaries,” says Shabnam. “There’s so much more to do and achieve. When you are conscious of that and instill the same sense of ambition in your teammates, you are constantly on your toes, the expectations go up, not from clients, but ourselves.” This passion to excel and to do diverse work drove Shabnam to launch Peacocklife. While initially it retailed products created for her projects, it soon grew to include décor objects by other designers as well. She has launched an online sales platform for Peacocklife products this year, and more stores across Mumbai are on the anvil. Meanwhile, she is getting offers from outside the country to open stores. “Orangelane is already doing large private homes in London and we are looking at launching the design label there and in Mauritius,” she says. With an array of fabulous projects for the stars, we wonder if Shabnam has a personal favourite. With its unique artistic touches, her work for actor Irrfan Khan’s apartment was considered a masterpiece. The 3,670-sq ft house in Mumbai, completed in 2016, was much appreciated by connoisseurs and Instagrammers alike for the way it brought nature indoors. “I don’t think it’s fair to say I like one project more than the other, though sometimes, certain experiences leave a lasting impact,” says Shabnam.
The designer is currently working on Kangana Ranaut’s Mumbai home, and is constantly reminded of the beautiful journey of doing up her vacation home in Manali in 2017. “The stunning location amid scenic mountains added to the wonderful experience,” she says. The Commerce graduate with a Diploma in Interior Design from LS Raheja School of Architecture, Mumbai, is also known for her hospitality and commercial projects. The nostalgia-inducing vintage vibe of The Butler and the Bayleaf in Mumbai; the quirky interiors of The Bar Stock Exchange outlets in Mumbai and Bengaluru; the two Social outlets in Pune, both, millennials’ favourite hangouts, stand apart with a fun industrial look, are a few of them. So, what makes better business sense to Shabnam – commercial projects or residential ones? “I don’t know about the business angle, but with hospitality spaces and stores, you have more freedom to do what you want.
These projects aren’t too time-consuming either,” she says. “Residential spaces are more individualistic as you work with the client’s personality. They need to be personal, detailed and beautiful. Can’t really compare the two. For commercial spaces, we need to keep the essence of the brand and the target audience in mind. It, nevertheless, is an open canvas for trying out new ideas. You can’t get very experimental with residential spaces. We do about 50 per cent of residential and another 50 per cent hospitality and I enjoy both. If I were to do only one genre, I would be bored.” Shabnam has also recently worked on a private university near Chandigarh as a design consultant.
With so much of critically acclaimed work, Shabnam has often found herself amid the elite of the design fraternity. She was on the list of the AD50 2017 Awards for the 50 most influential architects and interior designers. She was among the ‘7 Interior Designers & Architects To Watch Out For’ by Forbes India in 2010 and the Elle Club 2012. She has also won the IID National Awards for Best Hospitality Project in 2012 and the International Property Award in the Residential and Hospitality categories in 2014. Her design for Parineeti Chopra’s Juhu residence got her the Asia Pacific Property Award 2016-17. These are just a few among the lot. But ask Shabnam how it feels, and she gently plays it all down. “It is nice to be recognised, definitely a good validation, but these days a lot of people do a lot of beautiful work, so, I don’t take awards or success very seriously. My motto is to keep doing good work.”