‘Quirk’y and creative: meet the interior designers who quit their jobs to start their own boutique studio
Disha Bhavsar and Shivani Ajmera were colleagues at Elle Décor when they realised they shared a similar passion and drive for interior design. Their similarities led them to quit their jobs and take the entrepreneurial path.
In 2013, the duo started Quirk Studio, a boutique design studio in Mumbai with an aim to depart from conventional ideas of luxury and to cater to modern, novel notions of comfort and self-expression.
From colleagues to best friends to co-founders
The two of them had very different experiences before venturing into the design space. For Shivani, it was a chance encounter to design a space in 2004 which turned the then media student to follow a career in interior design. She graduated with a Bachelor’s in Mass Media from KC College, Mumbai and worked in advertising for a while before realising she was passionate about designing. She then went on to study interior design at the Florence Design Academy in Florence, Italy - the cradle of Renaissance. Early in her career she worked with architectural firms such Talati and Panthaky Associates and Red Architects. She also worked with Better Interiors magazine and later with Elle Décor as an interior stylist where she met Disha.
For Disha, the inclination towards design started at a young age when she studied in Muscat, Oman. Later, she moved to Mumbai to study interior design at Nirmala Niketan. After her graduation, she went to the UK to study Design Management at Winchester School of Arts at University of Southampton. After returning to India, she worked with Beyondesign and Elle Décor before co-founding Quirk Studio.
“Design seemed like a good balance between complex problem solving and creativity-driven activity. I was and still am, incredibly fascinated by observing how people and communities think and behave and I knew design had a huge influence in that,” says Disha.
As principal designers of the bespoke studio, the two describe that their primary motivation was the drive to create spaces that would inspire viewers and leave a long lasting impression.
“We were inspired not just to create aesthetic or functional spaces but to design tangible, balanced experiences within the spatial volumes that we worked with,” says the duo.
In six years of working together, the two have often been asked about the experience of working with one’s best friend. However, they say they were colleagues first, who worked very well together and over the course of time became best friends.
Starting up process
Small steps and projects helped the duo establish their practice.
“We had little to no backing, so we invested our time and effort into creating unique, aesthetic and functional spaces for our clients. We built everything together brick-by-brick, whether it was recognition from our clients or a stronger working relationship and trust with allied contractors. Our journey has been gradual and full of challenges, but it has been greatly fulfilling,” they say.
Starting up for the two meant more than just investing money. The initial investment to start the studio just covered essentials such as computers, printers and a rented office space. “The most significant investment in our case was passion and patience, as we began our journey in this industry,” says Shivani.
The bootstrapped practice has designed several residential and commercial spaces that include ‘House no. 12’, a residential project, ‘Office with a view’, a luxury office space for a steel company, the WeddingNama Office Space, retail fashion store for Fancy Pants, show apartments for Spenta Corporation Pvt. Ltd. (Alta Vista) and The Trees by Godrej Properties.
The Studio’s work has been featured in numerous publications such as Elle Decor India, Architectural Digest India, India Today Home, iDecorama, Good Homes, Home & Design Trends magazine, and Home Review to name a few.
“We push ourselves to create warm and luxurious spaces that ticks off the requirements of creating contemporary, compelling spaces that capture the essence of the volumes through textures, colours and eclectic elements all woven together.” They categorise their work as contemporary, modern and minimalist with a touch of eccentricity and surprise.
Apart from their work, Disha and Shivani also conduct workshops for young and aspiring designers to help them start out in the industry.
Disha and Shivani lead an all-woman team at Quirk Studio, that they say are both creative and feisty.
In a service industry where work has to be conducted with the cooperation of other stakeholders, they face a myriad of challenges. The biggest challenge that they face is commitment with regard to project deadlines and professionalism. “We try to work in organised schedules, however our work requires external intervention that can often lead to some form of delays. The only way to tackle this is to add buffers before making any commitments to a client. Despite the variety of challenges, this remains a great industry for women to shine,” they feel.
Currently, like millions of people across the globe they are also facing challenges due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Most architects and interior designers fall under small businesses therefore the challenge currently is mainly how to sustain the business and keep it running and afloat,” says Disha.
“We are all trying to be as connected and on top of our work as much as possible, and having regular meetings online to stay updated. But there is only so much one can do sitting at home, so we do face challenges in terms of selection, on site work, etc.,” says Shivani.
Edited by Rekha Balakrishnan