Designer in Profile: Charu Gandhi, Founder and Director of Elicyon

Elicyon have been shortlisted for Interior Design Scheme – UK, City Space (Apartment/ Penthouse) – London and Residential £20 Million Plus (Property Value) Awards in The International Design & Architecture Awards. Read more about Founder and Director of Elicyon, Charu Gandhi, below:

Name: Charu GandhiElicyon

Company: Elicyon

Position within company: Founder and Director

Website: www.elicyon.com

Tell us a little about your background in design:
I am a qualified Architect, registered with RIBA and ARB, who studied and taught at the Architectural Association before joining the London offices of Allies & Morrison Architects in 2006. In 2011, I joined the Candy & Candy group. My role in the private commission team led to my running their highly prestigious international portfolio of commissions, which included exclusive villas and private homes across India and Africa and residences in the esteemed One Hyde Park development.

My international upbringing has instilled in me with a wealth of knowledge and experience that allows me to move seamlessly between different cultures.

How would you describe your personal design style?
My personal style is very much about exquisite interior couture, that creates a home and space that is tailored to our clients. As a trained architect, my style is driven by a spatial approach to projects and how I imagine they will be experienced – this ranges from how the space flows, to how natural light enters the room and how the furniture elements are placed. I love mixing a range of styles, using a lot of natural materials and interesting textures, coupled with striking art. Manipulating how we experience a space through an interplay of materials and patterns and how colours work together within it, are of particular interest to me.

Where does your design inspiration come from?
My architectural background continues to remain my strongest source of inspiration, and I am almost always obsessing over an architectural tome – my time at the Architectural Association exposed me to a great breadth of creatives – ranging from Carlo Scarpa, to Hussein Chalayan and Rachel Whiteread – and they all inspire me in different way. But I am also inspired by beautiful handmade jewellery, the world of craft in general and the incredible textures, patterns and colours in nature.

I have a great curiosity for historical references and cultural details via travels and people, sculpture and theatre, and find that they create great visual and referential inspiration, that I often draw on for my work.

In what direction do you feel that design is moving towards in a general sense?
As Interior Designers we are no longer just visual artists. We are also curators of sensory and emotional experiences. Our clients are asking for spaces to have a deeper meaning based on memories, heritage and history. Instead of approaching our schemes from the perspective of a look or style, we start with the narrative. Through this storytelling, we can take our clients on a journey which gives the design context and meaning within its surrounding, while remaining functional for their needs.

Name five key themes to consider when approaching design in 2020 and beyond.
We have touched upon so many themes relating to changes brought about by COVID recently, such as wellbeing and working from home, so I would like to focus on some design related themes, that are somewhat independent:

1. Material Honesty
Material honesty is the idea that a substance should be itself in its pure form rather than reworked to mimic something else. We are seeing this return to interiors in the form of untreated timbers, unpolished stones, raw textures, and undyed natural fabrics. Blended in with our otherwise refined material selection, these coarse finishes and textures add contrast and definition to our schemes.

2.Earth Tones
Following a few years of bright jewel tones, we are starting to incorporate deeper earthy shades to our schemes, such as rust, ochre, umber and sienna. These rich and complex neutrals are vibrant yet serene and lend our interiors a significant degree of refinement and personality.

3. Decorative Soft Furnishings
It’s all in the detail, particularly when it comes to soft furnishings. Elicyon have recently experimented with layering trims and fringing to curtains and commissioning elaborate embroidery and bead work to our cushions and throws. These bespoke touches hugely elevate a space and add heaps of personality.

4. Graphic Patterns
An effective way to elevate any scheme can be through adding bold graphic print to the design. Complimenting a neutral material palette with an unexpected dark abstract pattern makes it more dynamic and compelling.

5. Exposed Detailing
In a similar way to how material honesty applies to finishes; exposed detailing applies to bespoke furniture design. Instead of covering joints and concealing fixings, Elicyon like to celebrate them and make them a feature. Not only does it add personality to a piece, it also shows off the fact that the pieces are bespoke and hand crafted.

If you could offer one piece of advice when it comes to design schemes, what would it be?
Interior Designers are often seen as providers of a beautifully finished end product. However, we are strong believers that our true value lies in the service provided by our team enroute. I am an advocate for allowing the designer the time for research, drafting and prototyping in the early stages of a project; it is time well spent and will result in a far superior output. To take our clients on a memorable and enjoyable journey, we need to spend the time to get to know you and creatively approach the project.

How important are The International Design & Architecture Awards?
These awards are internationally recognised, including submissions from the best and most reputable designers in the world. To be acknowledged as a finalist within this space is a great validation for a Design and Architecture practice such as ourselves.

What projects are you currently working on?
Elicyon are working on a beautiful home in Belgrave Square, with an amazing history, and a large Chelsea Townhouse which is undergoing an extensive amalgamation and extension. I am looking forward to completing our really special Mayfair apartment in the coming months and several other homes in Knightsbridge, Marylebone, Lancaster Gate and Chelsea; these range from new apartments in buildings such as One Hyde Park, to complex heritage projects in listed buildings. Overseas, Elicyon are looking forward to completing some incredible projects in Dubai, a wonderful beach villa in Kuwait and a project in Mumbai, India. Our concept design for an incredible Yacht is keeping us busy, and we are looking forward to unveiling our work on this in the coming months. We are busily preparing to start a project in the South of France and looking at some other exciting projects both at home and abroad in the coming months.

What are your aims and goals for the next twelve months?
2019 was a very exciting year for Elicyon as we celebrated our fifth anniversary and moved into our new studio in Kensington Village. These were both milestone achievements for the studio and we are looking forward to continuing to build on this success in 2020. Championing creativity and design will be at the forefront of our mind for the next 12 months, as Elicyon embark on some exciting new creative ventures, continuing to push our commitment to beautifully crafted interiors. 2020 will also see our continued expansion into new areas of the industry, including spas, yachts and hospitality.

Final thoughts; tell us a little more about yourself and your daily inspirations:

Your most treasured possession?
Jewellery given to me by past generations, particularly my grandmothers, my family or my husband. All the jewellery I wear is a gift, it’s like carrying the wishes and love with me every day.

Your favourite holiday destination?
The Maldives, Brazil, the French Riviera, California, and hopefully soon to fulfil my upcoming trip to Japan.

Your favourite hotel, restaurant & bar?
It would be difficult to choose one – but I have some very happy memories of meals sitting outside at the River Café in London. Istanbul and Marrakesh both have some striking, beautiful restaurants that are so experientially strong. I love the Devigarh hotel in India and the Sujan in Ranthambore, both really steeped in a special experience.

Your favourite book, film & song?
Akhenaten Seeker of Truth by Naguid Mahfouz always struck me for how potently it communicates that there is no one truth, everyone’s experience of the exact same event is coloured by their vantage point. It makes you realise that all history books are inherently skewed.

Your favourite food and drink?
Home cooked vegetarian Indian food, delicious oriental food, particularly sushi. I love a great glass of white wine or an Aperol Spritz. More recently, I am really enjoying drinking and learning about sweet wines such as Sauternes and Tokaj.

Your favourite way to spend an afternoon?
Outdoors, in a field of flowers on a slightly warm day, watching the clouds roll past and looking out at a view across the landscape. Running a thriving design practise in London means ‘busy’ is the mantra of my life. An afternoon of stillness hits the spot. If it’s not something connected to nature, then a good rummage in a vintage market or fair, looking for beautiful pieces and fabrics – where I can indulge my love for design, always leaves me feeling energised and excited about sourcing special pieces for clients.

If you weren’t a designer, what would you be?
That is difficult to answer, everything I love leads me back to design – it would involve craft and doing something with my hands, such as sculpt or throw ceramics.

Elicyon have been shortlisted for Interior Design Scheme – UK, City Space (Apartment/ Penthouse) – London and Residential £20 Million Plus (Property Value) Awards in The International Design & Architecture Awards.

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