Two years ago, Elicyon featured in our Ones To Watch article. The London interior design studio was an easy choice, what with their solid background in architecture – led by founder and principal Charu Gandhi – outstanding cumulative experience and promising commissions. Now, two years on, the studio is going from strength to strength with many of those early commissions now successfully completed and representing just a few of an ever-growing portfolio.
As they celebrate their fourth birthday, Charu talks how far they’ve come, famous clients and what sets them apart from the crowd and chooses her favourite LuxDeco pieces.
Q: What led to the founding of Elicyon?
Charu Gandhi: My primary objective in setting up a studio in 2014 was a vision of an atelier where creativity and luxury was at the heart of everything we do, enveloped in a very personal and professional service; to offer a designer/founder led studio that offers a professional service – bringing together the rigours of architectural practice with the vision and beauty of interior design. We offer the consummate client experience, always to hand and acting in their best interest. In an industry where there is great opacity, we offer transparency and credibility with a world-class team. There are many studios that talk about luxury design [but] we are truly a luxury design studio, taking the client on a journey from the genesis of the project to past their move into the property.
Q: How did you feel about setting out on your own?
Charu: It was a very exciting time – I had such a strong vision for the studio which propelled me forward through some of the more daunting decisions. Having two clients and a team with whom I’d previously worked at Candy & Candy that believed and supported me added to the clarity. Cecilia Halling, our Creative Director was an intrinsic part of the early vision and she has remained a driving force behind the studio.
I always say that you need a little bit of magic for a new business to come together, and looking back it is quite amazing how certain things just fell in place.
Q: How would you describe the Elicyon aesthetic style and way of working?
Charu: We don’t have a house style and our aesthetic is all about our clients. We want to be an aspiration for the global elite through unsurpassable service and an understanding of the ultimate balance between timeless luxury and artisan techniques. We create unique and exclusive environments tailored to the individual requirements of our clients, crafted with precision and care.
While creativity is at the heart of everything we do, it is grounded in a very process driven methodology. We have very clear stages to our projects, checklists and lessons learnt documents. This does not thwart our creativity at all – to the contrary, by knowing the limits, we are better able to push them!
Q: Charu, how has your training in architecture influenced your interior design work?
Charu: I am often asked whether I miss the larger scale architectural projects I cut my teeth on early in my career and the answer is a resounding no. I see what we do at Elicyon as very architectural in its singular focus on detail and innovation. Our furniture interventions are spatial in nature and we use interior design to create a narrative through spaces.
While creativity is at the heart of everything we do, it is grounded in a very process driven methodology.
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.
Creating spaces and homes for people is all about storytelling through the project. I learnt such a wide variety of storytelling techniques at the Architectural Association that ranged from Super 8 films (I still have my Super 8 camera), to developing and printing my own black and white photos, and exploring space via dance, that this notion of storytelling is the backdrop to my design inspiration. I obsessively imagine the handover [to the client] – how will I walk [them] through the space, what will be the stopping points, where will they spend the most time…
Q: What inspires your designs most?
Charu: 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. At our most recent One Hyde Park Residence, we obsessively understood how the straw marquetry for the headboard was made, dyed and assembled and the end result is just spectacular.
The [leading] craftsmen and artisans that we work with are my single biggest inspiration.
Q: What has been your greatest learning experience?
Charu: I learnt a lot in my training at the Architectural Association, and then at my time at Allies and Morrison, Candy & Candy and Morpheus. Each phase taught me different skills – life lessons and technical knowhow that cannot be distilled into one standout event. My strongest message from this collective learning experience is that ‘Our best project is our next one’ – this makes reference to always learning, always growing and pushing the boundaries so that both you as a designer and your projects are in an ever-evolving state.
I am ever-evolving as a designer, a studio lead and businesswoman, and 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.
Q: Where have some of your most exotic commissions taken you?
Charu: We have worked on projects around the world in the last four years – New York, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Shanghai and Dubai. We have recently commenced a project in Mumbai, India. Our clients have homes and properties across the world and we have flown to many exotic locations for meetings and to attend design and art fairs and auctions with them or on their behalf – from a day trip to Cairo for meetings to the palace grounds of a Middle Eastern kingdom for installs.
We often have meetings in the South of France, Monaco as a lot of our clients spend time there in the summer and have travelled to art fairs, such as Art Basel, to select and purchase pieces for projects.
We were asked to design and decorate the hospital suite for a client’s daughter, who was due to have a baby who would be the heir to the throne of a Middle Eastern country. They have a tradition to host a reception the day after the birth, and we designed and set up an exquisite design for the suite at the hospital for the royal family in the location. This included monogrammed linen, decorative items and the table dressing for the reception. It was quite extraordinary, with a very short timeframe to prepare and a wonderful sense of involvement in a special and historical occasion!
We were asked to design and decorate the hospital suite for a client’s daughter, [whose baby] would be the heir to the throne of a Middle Eastern country.
Q: What are some of your most notable commissions to date?
Charu: In the last four years, we have had the opportunity to work on some incredible projects. We have worked with really special clients ranging from celebrities such as Simon Cowell to others who are leaders in their fields. We have completed projects in London in notable addresses in Knightsbridge, Mayfair and Chelsea and further afield worked on projects in Kuwait, Los Angeles, New York, Saudi Arabia and Dubai.
Our largest project to date is a 23,000 square foot private home on the Wentworth Estate, filled with bespoke joinery and beautiful furniture, it was two and a half years in the making. [And] we recently completed a show apartment for the developer Omniyat at One Palm in Dubai and our design is being rolled out as the base build across the building. One Palm is unique for its record breaking sale prices in the region and their tie up with the Dorchester Collection.
Q: How is Elicyon different to its contemporaries?
I always tell our clients and others that we work with, that we want the relationship to end better than it started. Our focus on building long-term relationships and providing the ultimate bespoke service to our clients sets us apart from others. Each project has a Director as a key point of contact and we are on hand to guide our clients through a really joyful project journey.
My strongest message from [my] collective learning experience is that ‘Our best project is our next one’.
Q: What are you working on at the moment?
Charu: We have some fantastic projects in the studio at the moment including a 29,000 square foot apartment in Dubai. Its scale and the client’s design vision married with our own, is creating an absolutely stunning concept design at this stage. It was the most expensive penthouse sale in history in the Middle East, so has had its fair share of news already!
A listed lateral duplex in Knightsbridge, where we are retaining all the features of historical merit, while bringing a contemporary luxe aesthetic. We really enjoy working on heritage projects, so this is particularly special.
We are commencing an incredible project for a visionary developer in Mumbai, more to be revealed on that in time but the building itself promises to make a phenomenal impact on the city’s skyline!
It’s a very diverse portfolio that we are very proud to be working on.