Charu Gandhi, founder of Elicyon, sees interior design as an adventure, as a journey of exploration during which she tries to capture one beautiful moment after the other. Her design studio has gained many successes with this approach and has in a short period of time – the studio only just celebrated its fifth anniversary – already built a very rich portfolio of luxurious and unique projects.
Interior design for Elicyon is all about storytelling. Every aspect of a design has a purpose and is part of a bigger whole or – as the London studio likes to put – journey. On the one hand, a space is a translation of its location, surroundings, history or heritage. On the other hand, it should also be able to tell you something about who is living there, what his or her interests are and how they are living their life. At the same time, this very distinct story is one of beauty and of creating an emotive response for the clients. “I feel no shame in saying that I’ve chosen something because it’s beautiful,” Charu Gandhi tells us quite candidly. “Sometimes the journey of just making something beautiful is more of a story – I think the pursuit of beauty is a story in itself.”
The fascinating thing about this job is that every story is different. Every project has its own unique aspects and for Gandhi and her team it is always an interesting journey to go on with the clients so both parties can learn from it and grow. And although the founder says it’s hard to define Elicyon’s style, the projects can be characterised by a certain boldness and stylised playfulness. As an example the designer mentions a recently finished apartment in One Hyde Park, a luxurious living and shopping development in Knightsbridge, London. Ghandi has already completed seven projects in this building and although the spatial environment and layouts were similar, she very much enjoyed making each one unique.
We happily turn to Charu Gandhi to let her tell us more about her journey and how she reached her current position in life and in her job.
Did you always want to become a designer?
“My dream of becoming an architect and interior designer began from a very young age. When I was a child in India, my parents decided to build us a new home and worked with architect Sujata Kohli. I would watch Sujata walking around onsite, instructing construction teams and implementing her vision and I was very enamoured by her. She’s still a mentor of mine – for me, she combined a scientific, analytical mind with creativity and this became my goal for my future career.”
You are an architect by training. Why did you end up chosing the path of interior design?
“The allure of architecture was certainly all-consuming during my training, but in practice the vocation didn’t really give me the satisfaction I had expected. I was critical of the fact that there was a pressure to post rationalise. Everything had to have a gravity to it, which I feel interior design doesn’t overtly do. It doesn’t complicate. In architecture, you can’t say something is beautiful for the sake of being beautiful, it’s too blasé and surface-level and architecture tends to think more intellectually than that. However, my years of architectural practice have taught me a lot about buildability, construction and the rigour of producing information so that your vision is transformed into reality.”
What is your life or work philosophy?
“One of my life lessons or philosophies is summed up by a favourite poem of mine – I go back to the words when I need to reset or seek inspiration. Ithaca by C.P. Cavafy talks about the journey and adventure of life, which is so much more important than the final destination. It discusses resilience and determination, as well as taking time to see the wonders and beauty in the world: ‘As you set out for Ithaca, hope your road is a long one, full of adventure, full of discovery.’"
Every project has its own unique aspects and is always an interesting journey to go on with the clients.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
“A lot of my inspiration comes from within the studio. We are a very creative, diverse mix of designers and architects from all over the world and often share inspirational images of textures, artwork, details and rooms with each other. We have a very open and robust discourse within the design process, where everything is challenged and questioned – this is a huge source of inspiration. Everything from Scandinavian minimalism to strong mid-century influences, tassels and knitting, find their way into our design workshops. The craftsmen and artisans that we work with – some of the world’s leading glass makers, crystal makers and innovative producers of plasterwork, finishes and furniture – are my single biggest inspiration. Understanding how something is put together, the process it undertakes, the precision of the craftsmanship, lights a creative fire for me.”
Which one of your projects truly stands out for you and why?
“All of our projects are significant to me, each for a different reason. We recently completed a three-bedroom apartment in One Hyde Park in Knightsbridge, London – our seventh project there. The building holds a special meaning for me as it’s where Elicyon began – we did our first ever project there in 2014. Having grown up in India and retaining strong roots, working in my home country had been a long- cherished ambition that I achieved through working on a new, luxury residential development in Mumbai. It was wonderful to combine my knowledge of the city, culture and way of living to the project with a strong influence from my design studies, which are European in origin. The project’s vision represents a moment in my personal design journey, a confluence of east and west, celebrating both without detracting from either.”
Which project has been your biggest challenge so far?
“I always say that our biggest challenge is the next one. We are always striving to learn, grow and push the boundaries so that both our skills as designers and our projects are in an ever-evolving state. I am constantly developing as a designer, a studio lead and businesswoman, and am very self-critical with both myself and the team on any lessons learnt. We are always questioning how we could do something more special, more groundbreaking with each project.”
Last but not least: Where does the name of the company come from?
“Elicyon is a portmanteau, a combination of two words. The word derives from the phrase ‘Elysian Fields’, which describes a place of bliss; and ‘Halcyon’, referring to a time when things were wonderful. It perfectly encapsulates the Elicyon ethos: to evoke a feeling.” The images we see here definitely make us very happy and we have the feeling that we can expect to see many more unique and exclusive projects from Charu Gandhi’s design studio. That is also what she promises us when we reach the end of our talk: “Whatever comes our way, we’ll continue our adventure with design, beauty, craft and innovation that enables us to take clients on an incredible journey of exploration and enjoyment.”
The full interview can be found in Imagicasa Autumn 2019. You can still order this issue through our webshop.
All Images Courtesy Of Elicyon