Friday, February 8, 2019

Think Outside the BOX ! – Why Interior Design is more than just factory made modular boxes

Chapter 1: It’s not the box babe’ – it’s your Life

The boxes have taken over, where we live – BOX, our entertainment – BOX (think TV), our breakfast – BOX (think breakfast cereals, tetrapack milk), our lunch – BOX (think Swiggy), our travel – BOX (think Car), Our work space – BOX (think Cubicle), our gateway to the world – BOX (think cellphone). The other day I was asking a client her requirements for interior design and not surprisingly she said Kitchen (BOX), Wardrobes (BOX), TV Unit (BOX) and Foyer Unit (Another BOX). “So, do both you and your husband have a 9 to 6 job”? I ask. “& who cooks at home”? “What about the kids - how old are they”? Do your parents stay with you? no”? “How often do they visit and how long do they stay”? A little offended with the questioning she says “Why are you asking me this”? and I say “it’s not the box madam, I need to design your house based on your life. The boxes will come, but much later.” While we had a great discussion after that, what was clear was that the general impression of Interior Design too in minds of home makers is sadly - BOX

Chapter 2: Raw wine in fine bottles - The maturing of the Interior Design Industry

We had a different problem 10 years back when I started in the Interior Design Industry, the industry was fragmented, unorganized and it was difficult to find someone to do the job professionally. A part of that problem today has been done away with angel funds churning the wheels of young startups in the field of modular furniture and service aggregators. The young ones have deep focus and hunger to capture the untapped potential in this so called “high margin” business and slogans of “we do it in 45 days or pay you rent” and “get a lower quote and we will match it” are not uncommon. But dig a little deeper and one finds that in the hunt for hypergrowth, new investors and the desire to be acquired by an IKEA, the output of these startups remains restricted to delivering modular boxes and basic services. The appreciation of the lifestyle needs of the residing family and the accompanying design element beyond just the boxes still remains a far-fetched dream.

Chapter III: What Now??

Now that that the “cat is out the bag” or as the pic shows – the baby croc has broken its shell - you are left wondering what you as a home owner should be doing. I think it finally boils down to awareness. Once you are aware what you are missing and ask for it then the industry in the long run is bound to cater. The fact that customers are fine with factory made modular boxes & expect no more from service providers reflects the state of maturity of our industry and customer expectations and only time and awareness can change that…time and awareness that will turn the baby croc into the big crock it was always meant to be…

I would strongly encourage you to read the 3 posts below that I had written some time back on related subjects.

Happy reading and awakening

Signing off

Monday, January 28, 2019

The Best of Houzz 2019 Award - Thank you for all your support

Last week we were notified by the Houzz team that we have been awarded the Best of Houzz in both the Design and Service categories. The awardees are chosen by the Houzz community of which I understand a lot of the readers of this blog are members - so a big thank you to you for choosing us.
The formal press release that has details of the award is below.



The Studio by Nandita Manwani Awarded Best Of Houzz 2019 

Awarded by the community of over 40 million monthly users, annual BOH badge highlights home renovation & design professionals with Top ratings and most popular home designs

Bangalore, India, January 25, 2019 The Studio by Nandita Manwani has won “Best Of Design & Customer Service” on Houzz®, the leading platform for home renovation and design. The 8 year old design firm founded by Bangalore’s leading Interior Designer Nandita Manwani was chosen by more than 40 million monthly unique users that comprise the Houzz community from among more than 2.1 million active home building, renovating and design industry professionals.

The Best Of Houzz is awarded annually in three categories: Design, Customer Service and Photography. Design award winners’ work was the most popular among the more than 40 million monthly users on Houzz. Customer Service honours are based on several factors, including the number and quality of client reviews a professional received in 2018. Architecture and interior design photographers whose images were most popular are recognised with the Photography award.

A “Best Of Houzz 2019” badge will appear on winners’ profiles, as a sign of their commitment to excellence. These badges help homeowners identify popular and top-rated home professionals in every metro area on Houzz.

“We are humbled and honoured to receive this recognition from Houzz in both Design and Service categories. It gives us strength to take forward our mission of bringing in ethical practices as well as appreciation of lifestyle and life-stage based design in the highly unorganized and scattered interior design industry in India.” said Nandita Manwani

"Best of Houzz is a true badge of honour as it is awarded by our community of homeowners, those who are hiring design, renovation and other home improvement professionals for their projects,” said Sanjay Nadkarni, Country Manager at Houzz. . “We are excited to celebrate the 2019 winners chosen by our community as their favourites for home design and customer experience, and to highlight those winners on the Houzz website and app."

About The Studio by Nandita Manwani
The Studio by Nandita Manwani is amongst the top Interior Design Companies in Bangalore. Founded by Nandita Manwani one of Bangalore’s most respected Interior Designer and the author of the popular design blog the firm specialises in creating designs and spaces that are global in quality but matched to the unique Indian needs and taste.
The Studio's designs are contemporary, straight line & uncluttered, concentrated not just on the presentation and looks but also on liveability and lifestyle of the residing family.

About Houzz
Houzz is the leading platform for home renovation and design, providing people with everything they need to improve their homes from start to finish – online or from a mobile device. From decorating a small room to building a custom home and everything in between, Houzz connects millions of homeowners, home design enthusiasts and home improvement professionals across the country and around the world. With the largest residential design database in the world and a vibrant community empowered by technology, Houzz is the easiest way for people to find inspiration, get advice, buy products and hire the professionals they need to help turn their ideas into reality. Headquartered in Palo Alto, CA, Houzz also has international offices in London, Berlin, Sydney, Moscow and Tokyo. Houzz is registered trademark of Houzz Inc. worldwide. For more information, visit

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Thursday, January 17, 2019

Flooring Options For Home: Pros and Cons of using Stone, Marble, Granite, Tiles, Wooden Flooring and more

I recently received a question from one of the readers of this blog on flooring options and recommendations and realised that this is a subject that I have not dwelled upon in my posts…so here goes
Flooring options literally can floor home makers (pun intended) with the breadth and depth of choices available, however if one looks closely, the different options can be classified under the following 4 categories
  1. Tiles – These can be Vitrified or Ceramic 
  2. Stone – This can be Marble (Italian/ Indian or from anywhere else), Granite, Engineered or Artificial Stone 
  3. Wooden: Laminate floors to engineered wood and pure hardwood will come under this head 
  4. Other Exotic types: Mosaic, Red Oxide, Vinyl and specialty flooring (Safety Floors/ Sports Surfaces etc.) 

Let’s now go through each in details and discuss the pros and cons

1. Vitrified Tiles: 

Nowadays this is really the big daddy when it comes to flooring. Vitrified keeps adding new finishes each season. Just to give you an idea, you get vitrified tiles in finishes such as Terracotta, Stone, Granite, Marble, Wood, Stacking Stone, Bamboo, Glass, 3D and more…and as I said this list grows every 3 months. In addition, tiles of size 8 by 4 feet have recently been introduced. With these there is little difference that an untrained eye can make between real stone/ marble & tile.

The only thing where Vitrified tiles don’t score well is 1) Bragging Rights – what that means is that vitrified tiles are not cool. In a ‘mine is bigger than yours” debate vitrified will be outright defeated and downed by Natural Stone, Italian Marble and the likes. That’s why while you will find many builder advertisements emphasising that they have used Italian marble flooring, you will find no advertising going gaga over Vitrified Tiling. Secondly vitrified tiling by nature is HARD, hence if you are looking to do kids’/ toddler rooms or play areas then wooden or vinyl may be better options. 

The use of Ceramic tiles has considerably reduced since the onslaught of Vitrified. One of the main reasons for it is the fact that they are difficult to maintain and gather dust and muck easily. While ceramic tiles are great for rustic and vintage type looks, you get better options for the same in vitrified tiles. Hand made and made to order designs in ceramic tiles however are in vogue in high end homes nowadays. While these are expensive, they help give your home have a one of a kind look.

2. Stone: 

As mentioned above, natural stone has the maximum bragging value. And the more the distance between the Indian border and the place where the stone has been imported from, the more the bragging value. Hence Italian Marble retain its title as the favourite. It may also be so because of the many shades and colours in which Italian marble is available. On the other hand, Granite, which is considered cool (and expensive) in the west is seen a notch below Italian Marble here in India. I’m sure it is my theory on the “the bragging value being directly proportional to the distance of import” at work here.

Whatever be the case, stone does give that solid “well made” feel to the home. Personally, I do think that this is not just due to how it looks but how stone “feels” under the bare foot – psychologically it’s like walking in a place of worship or somewhere pristine.

While Granite is a great choice, it comes in limited colours. There is imported granite being sold nowadays that adds to the colour choices but that too is fairly limited and definitely not as extensive as what you get in Italian marble. It is due to this colour limitation that Engineered or Artificial stone is starting to find favour with customers. Engineered stone is available from AGL, Kalinga, Johnson and some others here in Bangalore. Engineered stone offers higher colour choices and a price point that is lower than imported marble. In terms of durability, ease of laying and life it is similar to natural stone, however you cannot say that for its psychological effect and bragging value.

3. Wooden Flooring: 

This is one market that is booming today and nearly everyone wants to have some space in their home done with a wooden flooring. Wood by its nature brings a feeling of warmth and comfort to a space. However, it is important to merge wooden flooring with the theme of the particular room where wooden flooring is being used else the space may feel unbalanced. As an example, see the image below where we used rope partitions to create the theme (natural & woody) of the room along with the wooden flooring. 

In wood, there is immense choice when it comes to finishes, colour and price. While pure wood flooring costs the highest, laminated MDF floors are the cheapest. The bragging value theorem again works here with wooden flooring imported from China considered cheaper than its counterpart from Europe. In real both are made in China J but are different in quality and sold at separate price points and to different audiences (Budget or Luxury).

I have found wooden flooring great to partition spaces. Using a patch of a wooden floor in a large room instead of vertical partition retains the “space-ness” of the room that otherwise would have looked cramped due to the vertical partition. An example of this would be having a small family area or a toddler crawling area done up with a wooden floor within a large living room that has a vitrified floor.

The other good thing about wooden floors is that they can be laid on top of the existing floor, something that is not possible in stone & vitrified tiles (though nowadays there are ways to stick tiles on top of tiles, there still are some limitations – but that is a separate topic of discussion)

4. Other Exotic Flooring: 

Had we been writing this article 30 years back no one would have imagined Red Oxide or Mosaic flooring mentioned under Exotic floors. Even floors in villages used to have red oxide floors those days & most city homes were done with mosaic flooring. I still vividly remember the effort it used to take to just get the undulations and the slope right in laying mosaic floors. Like all good things both Red Oxide and Mosaic have made a dramatic come-back in a much refined and exclusive avatar – reminds one of the wars between Dabur Lal Dant Manjan and Colgate tooth powder and how Colgate killed the Aurvedic tooth powder competitors with superior advertising. Fast forward to now & Colgate itself advertises the advantages of its Swarna Vedashakti toothpaste.

Coming back to the floor – both Mosaic and Red Oxide are heavyweights and NEED the theme of the home to be created in a way that it is in synergy and does not clash with the floor. Such floors go well in a villa or outhouse and are not recommended for apartments unless it is above 3000 square feet at a min.

In the "Other" category you also have vinyl floors which, while being popular in commercial spaces, find specialty applications in the residential segment. For example, if you are looking to make a bathroom safe for the elderly then vinyl can be a good option. Or, if you have a dedicated entertainment room, dance room or a media room then vinyl will be a good option as it is soft and provides good sound insulation.

Ok that does it for the floors. As always if you have a question then do feel free to write in. Also, if there is another topic that you feel I have missed on my blog then do let me know and I will make my best effort to pen something down to the best of my knowledge.

Signing off