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Podcast Ep 8: Designing For Well-being with Shalini Misra

Prioritising wellness at home is needed now more than ever

Jon Sharpe By Jon SharpeChief Creative Officer

London-based Shalini Misra is an architect, interior designer and founder of her eponymous international design studio. Winner of countless design industry awards, Shalini features in the top 100 designer lists of Architectural Digest India, House & Garden and LuxDeco. She serves as a highly respected authority on design for various boards and committees within the industry, including the South Asian Acquisition Committee at Tate and the Advisory Board of KLC School of Design. Style-wise, each of her projects is notably individual, adorned with incredible art and supreme craftsmanship, and formed by the diverse lifestyles of her international clientele.

It is her passion for wellness in design, however, that I am most curious about and, in this episode, I caught up with the resolutely conscientious designer about just that. Listen in as we discuss why wellness should always be an intrinsic design principle and how interiors can serve as positive forces—both physically and emotionally—for their inhabitants.

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"Our homes should be sanctuaries, and every space needs to be considered for our health and well-being."

 

DON’T MISS

  • What is designing for well-being? at 08:22
  • How she designs for emotional wellness at 14:41
  • What she thinks about sustainability at 29:49
  • And the search for increased wellness in her recent home renovation at 36:45
Shalini Misra | The Tastemakers design podcast | Healthy interiors | LuxDeco.com

Image Credit: Shalini Misra

Links & Articles

Explore Shalini's Squat London project

LuxDeco 100

Shalini's website

Shalini's Instagram

Shalini Misra | The Tastemakers design podcast | Designing for Well-being | LuxDeco.com

Image Credit: Shalini Misra

 

"Wellness is a state of complete physical, mental, social wellbeing. It's a quality or state of being healthy in body and mind, especially as a result of deliberate effort, which brings a sense of purpose. If you have a lifestyle that embraces the methods that make you feel good and you enjoy your surroundings, this will filter into every aspect of your life."

 

The Tastemakers design podcast | Shalini Misra | Designing for Well-being | LuxDeco.com

Image Credit: Shalini Misra

Fresh Rooms | Shalini Misra | The Tastemakers design podcast | Designing for Well-being | LuxDeco.com

Image Credit: Shalini Misra

 

"The well-being relationship between our inner selves and our external environment which surrounds us, is hugely important and fascinating. How does the space that you're in affect you? How does it make you feel? Both of these are very critical to wellness."

 

Interview with Shalini Misra | The Tastemakers design podcast | LuxDeco.com

Image Credit: Shalini Misra

Interview with Shalini Misra | The Tastemakers design podcast | Designing for Well-being | LuxDeco.com

Image Credit: Shalini Misra

Shalini Misra | Designing For Well-Being | Design Podcast | The Tastemakers | LuxDeco.mp3 transcript powered by Sonix—easily convert your audio to text with Sonix.

Shalini Misra | Designing For Well-Being | Design Podcast | The Tastemakers | LuxDeco.mp3 was automatically transcribed by Sonix with the latest audio-to-text algorithms. This transcript may contain errors. Sonix is the best audio automated transcription service in 2020. Our automated transcription algorithms works with many of the popular audio file formats.

Jon:
Hello and welcome to The Tastemakers: A LuxDeco Podcast. I'm Jon Sharpe, your host and Chief Creative Officer for LuxDeco—the world's leading luxury interiors platform, which is changing the way people design and shop for their homes. Part of our commitment at LuxDeco is to help people live beautifully. In the Tastemakers, we do that by exploring interior design and lifestyle through the stories of our influential guests. Guests who was celebrated for their fine taste in design and beyond. Subscribe and listen for inspiration straight from some of the world's most incredible style authorities.

Jon:
London-based Shalini Misra is an architect, interior designer and founder of her eponymous international design studio, winner of countless design industry awards, Shalini features in the top 100 designer lists of Architectural Digest, House and Garden and LuxDeco. She serves as a highly respected authority on design for various boards and committees within the industry, including the South Asian Acquisition Committee at Tate and the Advisory Board of KLC School of Design. Style-wise, each of her projects is notably individual, adorned with incredible art and supreme craftsmanship and formed by the diverse lifestyles of her international clientele. It is her passion for wellness in design, however, that I am most curious about, and in this episode I caught up with the resolutely conscientious designer about just that. Listen in as we discuss why wellness should always be an intrinsic design principle and how interiors can serve as positive forces, physically and emotionally, for their inhabitants. Shalini, welcome to the show. How are you?

Shalini:
Thank you, Jon. What a lovely introduction. I'm well—thank you.

Jon:
We first met at the LuxDeco 50 designer's dinner at Claridges last September, I think, and it's remarkable to think that that was almost exactly a year ago and, of course, how times have changed! I'm really keen to get on to talking about the current situation in a little bit, because, you know, it obviously relates to how design is changing and how your philosophy of design addresses that. But, first, could you tell us a little bit about your story and about what your career in design has looked like so far?

Shalini:
Well, I've always been in love with the design world since a very young girl and I think at the age of 15 I decided to be an architect. At that point, I really didn't know what wellness was all about, but I did a lot of studying in architecture. I went to New Delhi for my undergrad and and then specialised in urban planning at Columbia University in New York and worked as a research associate at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh and finally did a master's in Bartlett School of Architecture in Virtual Reality at UCL in London. A friend then happened to ask me to do her interiors of a home—she was moving to London—and I just absolutely loved the process and I just wanted her to be a really superbly happy client. And I think that's when the wellness story started where, you know, the client wasn't happy. the project really wasn't a successful one. So I wanted the clients to be happy and well in whatever work I did. So that's when it really took off. And it combined my love of design, architecture, craft, art, culture, tactility. How spaces really make us feel? There's so many factors and I love it more and more every day.

Jon:
Well, it's a fascinating journey spanning decades and continents and even artificial intelligence. We now have you here in London and are really delighted to have you on the show today, particularly because your design philosophy really embraces something that's become evidently so important these past six months or so, which, of course, is wellness and wellness as enhanced or diminished by and through design.

Jon:
And I guess for many people, it seemed to come as something of a revelation to many in lockdown that interiors truly do affect us. Can you tell us a little about how you're starting to see attitudes towards interior design changing as we're collectively becoming more aware of how our environments impact us?

Shalini:
Yes, you're right, Jon. It is something that has been taken a lot for granted. Now that we have all experienced staying in the same space for longer periods than usual, we can really appreciate how much interior spaces affect our mood, how we function, how we live, how we work. Even small changes in our spaces like, say, reorganising a shelf or drawers to put the most useful thing that you use in the foreground can help with wellness as these aspects all contribute in a more seamless way, reducing unnecessary moments of irritation or stress. Making sure that you're always comfortable in the task you do and with the furniture that you use is especially important. These are so many elements that combine to create an interior geared towards wellness.

Jon:
And what's been your own personal experience during lockdown? Clearly, as a designer, you're a person more likely to understand the effect that the quality and condition of our interiors has on us. But was it still surprising even to you just how wearied one can become of the same environment day in, day out? And, if so, how did you how did you cope with that? Were you constantly just reorganising your drawers and moving furniture around or what happened?

Shalini:
Well, a lot of people really suffered during lockdown, and I do understand that. But for me, fortunately, it was really a time during which I enjoyed being at home as I had more time than usual since I wasn't racing around on busy schedules and, you know, travelling around the world and all that for work. I had more time to think, focus about my business, about my passions, and to really refocus more on the important aspects of life. I got some really important projects during COVID, so that was really good. I'm very, very lucky because I understand the recession is coming so we got really busy with those projects. I created routine to keep my day productive both work-wise and with wellness and personal aspects—eating together, simple act with the family, more often was a really positive side. We were blessed with such amazing weather, especially in May so we enjoyed eating outside in the garden a lot. I made time for yoga, meditation, which are both so grounding.

Shalini:
I called friends and family often to see how they were and to chat in general as there was a bit more time for this. It felt more important than ever since everyone was going through a lot of anxious moments. Keeping a positive mental attitude was very important. Unprecedented was a word really being used a lot during this lockdown. But people have been through many difficult times before and come through it, like the Spanish flu, World War 1 were devastating but people came through it and progressed with life stronger and more determined. There are also a lot of practical aspects that have come to greater focus recently, such as the private study space for working from home and open planned spaces needing partition as often now there are family members in the house for extended periods of time and all with varying needs. So, you know, I reassessed my home. People are reassessing their homes. Whether a bedroom can be repurposed into a study or a combination of a bedroom and a study or making certain things of the house more peaceful with limited technology so we can have moments of calm.

Jon:
So having established that interiors impact us so greatly, moving on to your kind of design philosophy, which is obviously heavily geared towards wellness, can you tell our listeners how you would define wellness in design and then why it's so important?

Shalini:
Well, I think starting with the environment, which I think has a big, big impact on how we feel, how we interact and function from our homes to our workplaces, we really need to feel at ease and healthy in them. So along with, for me, having the principles of architecture, which are firmly embedded in my design practice, we regard wellness as having been one of our core, core greatest value over the last maybe 20 years of practice. This well-being relationship between our inner selves and our external environment which surrounds us, is hugely important and fascinating. It does raise the question, how does the space that you're in affect you? How does it make you feel? Both of these are very critical to wellness.

Shalini:
Our homes should be sanctuaries, and every space needs to be considered for our health and well-being, whether it's a simple act of opening the windows every day to ensure a thorough flow of fresh air, having ample source of lighting, artificial and natural, and very good storage in order to organise your space, these all impact our day to day living and functioning. Using, say, a spa as a wellness event, but wellness attributes should be infused into our daily routine to ensure we reap the benefits without too much effort. It's important to have a space where you can switch off. In our designs, we often incorporate screens—door screens—so flowing open planned spaces can be adapted to smaller spaces to enjoy a bit of privacy when required. Comfort, of course, is of great importance, making sure we always try furniture before we buy it. There are so many designs that look fantastic but may not actually be that comfortable.

Shalini:
Beds and mattresses are something that I always encourage my clients to invest in. Sleep. Sleep is a major part of our lives, or at least should be. And we must ensure that we are comfortable to let our minds and bodies restore themselves at the end of each day. Organisation is a key to encourage seamless functioning in your day. Then simple acts such as lighting a scented candle or using a diffuser with essential oils can be a way to elevate the mood and atmosphere.

Shalini:
To get more into it, we know that it affects us profoundly when colours are with our sensibilities. There's a lack of light or airflow or cramped and disorganised space. We also sometimes have the feeling that the energy of the place is not quite right. These aspects do affect our mode of behaviour and how we function in our day to day living and working. Our aim as interior designers is to create a space in which the energy works with the people it is being created for and the overall design complements their lifestyle and is versatile so it can be adapted to any future lifestyle changes. See, right from the start of each project, we analyse the property, the window locations, the flow of light and air and designed the layout to maximise the light and air flow and the physical flow through the property so it is seamless to walk around and avoid any awkward corridors or spaces. Views through the spaces are already really important and they give us a sense of space and invite to two different areas. Maximising user views of gardens is always essential. Essentially, the layout of the space is to increase the air and light flows. That is the key.

Jon:
I mean, it seems to me in many ways that wellness was almost ancillary to the main space for quite a long time in design. So at the high end of the market, people might have a home gym or even a home spa or a yoga room and at the lower end of the markets, people might regard that bathroom as a sanctuary, to use your word. But I guess what you're espousing is that wellness can no longer be ancillary to the way we think about the entire space. It has to be holistic and actually run throughout the entire property. And obviously, wellness has many facets. There's physical wellness, of course, but but also emotional wellness too. And you talk about this on your website when you refer to the "physical, emotional and aesthetic side of interior design". How do those three elements interrelate?

Shalini:
They're all combined to create a great space. The physical is how you use the space, interact with it. Also the material side, what you see, what you touch, which really links with the aesthetic side. Our first impression of a space when we arrive is totally visual. This sets the scene. The emotional side is brought about by all these elements as they impact how we feel. This can be from the way the spaces make you feel at ease or not, or how objects, materials and colours can create stories reminding you of experiences. We also create experiences in our spaces, whether they are great meetings, meals or enjoying a pastime, our surroundings have a large part to play in this. Physical and emotional wellness are tied together and one works with the other. They influence each other, of course. As an example, if you enter a space that is welcoming with the light, fresh air and interesting art objects or photographs to look at. It really captures your attention, you can then sit in a very comfortable armchair or sofa, upholstered in a natural material and soft to touch these all set the scene for physical and emotional wellness as you are at ease and in the state of comfort.

Jon:
So physical wellness might be a bit more obvious. You know, as you say, don't use harmful materials, consider the tactility of the materials you're using... But, overall, what is designing for emotional wellness? And I guess, most importantly, what are some of the most common barriers to emotional wellness that you encounter in a space and that arguably many of us have in our homes?

Shalini:
Well, you are right, it is important about the materials that we should use and using natural materials, again, as I say, is not just about them being healthy for us physically as they're natural, not manmade, but they actually benefit our emotional wellbeing through touching them. For example, studies have shown that natural materials for furniture and how we benefit mentally rather than, say, plastic or other manmade materials. The act of working on a wooden desk, touching it, is better for you than— And it's really a subtle thing, you don't have to consciously think about it. Just opt, opt, opt for natural materials and continue with your activities. Natural materials, in particular, recycled natural materials such as cotton, linen, cork, reclaimed timber, wool, bamboo and natural fibre mattresses are all one to consider now. Now designing for emotional wellness incorporates natural materials which bring the feeling closer to nature. Ample natural light where possible, or artificial light that mimics daylight, good ventilation, furniture that is comfortable, tactile finishes and objects and artworks that are meaningful. I really love the well-known quote by William Morris: "Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful." This is a great mantra, I think, to guide you into your interior design decisions. Another thing is biophilic design, which is vital as it draws on the human connection with nature and how essential this is to our well-being, and we must incorporate natural elements into our interior and exterior environments. As a Scottish American naturalist, author and environmental philosopher of the 19th century said, "In every walk with nature, one receives far more than one seeks." We are becoming more conscious of the importance of the presence of nature in our daily lives. Biophilic design and architecture can reduce stress, improve cognitive function and creativity, improve our well-being, and has been shown to expedite healing. These qualities are even more important, especially in a time when people are limited in their activity and mobility through a virus pandemic. Forest bathing has been prescribed in Japan for well-being. There have been studies on recovery time of patients for surgery and those who had views to the gardens actually recovered faster than [those] who didn't. Nature is intrinsic to us—we need it in our lives. So we need to incorporate it into our interiors and outdoor spaces. You can grow herbs in your kitchen on the windowsill, have house plants in clusters throughout the house, and especially one that loves humid atmosphere in, say, bathrooms such as ferns and ivies. Barriers to wellness and interiors are anything that makes you feel uncomfortable. This can be from a lack of light and air flow, bad organisation, uncomfortable furniture, colours that jar you, absence of peace and quiet when needed, a lack of greenery...

Shalini:
Houseplants are so important, especially if you don't have a garden. Another thing to do is to maximise any good views you have through your windows or trees to parks, etc. You can have window boxes that you're guaranteed, which will give you a dose of nature. Sleep, again, is very crucial. Successful sleep is one of the main elements for health. So by choosing a mattress that's comfortable and supportive and made with natural materials teamed with blackout blinds or curtains, you create a setting that really aids good sleep. Use natural-like fibre bed linen, lowering light towards the end of the day is a good practice as it encourages us to write down and signals to our bodies that is just the end of the day when the sun is descending.

Jon:
So now we better understand what wellness is and some of the barriers to achieving it, let's get practical. You've highlighted a few areas of design which you believe are integral to designing with wellness in mind and which I'd love you to expand on a bit. And I think our listeners will probably find this really helpful, too, especially now they may have become more acutely aware of certain things about their home that just aren't sparking joy, to quote the ubiquitousness Ms. Kondo. So let's begin with with natural air and light, which you've touched upon. What should listeners be aware of in relation to natural air and light, which can aid in creating a more healthy space?

Shalini:
Well, something simple that we are every day exposed to is pollution from water we drink, the food we eat and the air we breathe. While more of us are consciously opting out for organic food and filtered water, very few of us pay attention to the importance of purifying the air we breathe in, both outdoors and indoors. There's a whole variety of things you can do to improve this quality of air at home, like placing air purifiers to the rooms with direct exposure to busy roads, avoiding artificially fragrance products and choosing natural beeswax candles or diffusers with essential oils. Light is one of the most interesting and important aspects of every interior. See, upon entering the room, attention often shifts to the sources of light, whether it's a large window that looks out into the lush gardens or a beautiful chandelier. Regardless of its configuration, there's one quality that's constant for all of us. Access to natural light has been found to alleviate depression, regulate circadian rhythms, lower blood pressure, improve mood and keep us alert and focused. In short, significantly contribute to our overall well-being. Natural light is energy-boosting, making the most of your windows, opening them as often as possible for a blast of fresh air and keeping curtains, blinds and shutters open to maximise the natural light in your interior.

Shalini:
If you don't have ample natural light use mirrors. Reflect light around the space, brightening it and as a bonus, making it feel more spacious. Glass interior doors—instead of solid doors—enhance the light floor and light bounces off the glass, reflecting more of it around the space. Glass furniture is another option to make a room feel more spacious and airy. Tables and shelvings are two good options for glass furniture. When it comes to window dressing, you don't need privacy. Use a sheer fabric instead of a solid fabric curtain, which is lighter overall in the window, avoiding blocking any light.

Jon:
And what about artificial light, Shalini? Sometimes it feels that it gets a bit of a raw deal when compared with the benefits of natural light. But how can artificial light be better used to encourage wellness in the home?

Shalini:
I love artificial light and I think it's so important as we have shorter daylight hours in winter here and we aren't guaranteed sunshine every day. Having enough light when studying, reading, etc. is pivotal to our eye health and concentration. Light bulbs are becoming more and more advanced, giving good impressions of natural light indoors. It's important to get lighting design right. We always have several layers of artificial light in our projects from stunning pendants and chandeliers which provide great design interest to floor and table lamps, perhaps some lighting in niches of bookshelves and some spotlights. It's essential to have dimmers on all of these light sources so you can control the levels. Don't go overboard and spotlights. You don't need that many. See where specific tasks will be done and ensure there's light in that area. It is necessary to confirm a furniture layout before wiring for the lighting, of course. Once you have all these layers of lighting, you have great versatility in your space and adapt the level of light to the time of the day. Remember, in the evening, bring it down. Natural brightness from windows and doors add to the activity you are doing. I must add that there are so many superb lighting designers out there. For every project we have, so many beautiful proposals, we have to narrow down from. Lighting can be sculptural, simplistic yet bold, like jewellery for the walls and ceilings. Pendant, wall lights, floor lamps, all add to an interior. We incorporate these for layering of lighting as well as physical and aesthetic presence of great designs.

Jon:
And how about colour? That also has a huge impact on our well-being, doesn't it? So what are some of the tips you have for using colour to improve wellness.

Shalini:
Oh, colour is so important in our lives. We all have personal reactions and preferences to colour, so I can't describe a one way suits all approach, but I must say that it's important to vary colour in interior spaces. Monochrome spaces don't provide much visual stimulation. If you like a monotone space, you can introduce colour through, say, furniture, accessories and artwork. Colour can have a great effect on how we feel, both positively and negatively. Naturally, we all want to enhance positivity and this can be done in an interior with some clever and simple ways. There are colours that are calming and can be apparently make you focus or even suppress your appetite. However, as we all have individual responses to colour, we need to listen to this when we decide what colours to use in our homes. If a certain colour reminds you of a fantastic trip you took, you may want to include it in one of your rooms. Colour is seen because of light and light is energy. We all react to colours on instinctive levels, liking some, disliking others, even seeing coluors in different ways to each other. When considering colour in our interiors, we are bound to use those that we like as a starting point in tandem with using colours that we find aesthetically pleasing. We can look at the emotional effects of them to inform our decisions. These are split into warm tones like reds, oranges and cool tones like blues and greens, with many variations within them and tones in them. Warm colours are typically seen as stimulating and cool tones are seen as more useful.

Shalini:
In practice, in my work, we love to use colours to lead the eye. For example, in my home I have a staircase coming down and some of the walls of the staircase are clad in striking red relief tiles done by this really amazing artist, Markus Schinwald from Austria. Your eyes are immediately drawn to this and when you're walking up or down the staircase, you have something quite intriguing to make you pause to enjoy it.

Shalini:
We use colour in many ways from, say, a blue ceiling in a bedroom contrasting with the colour of the walls to the interior of a utility store cupboard that we painted raspberry, which elevates the daily action of getting something from a cupboard, just by having that bright, uplifting colour. Often interiors of cupboards are neglected and they are thought of as just secondary spaces, merely storage areas. However, to open the door and see a beautiful tone can provide a moment of delight. As designers, we treat every space with special attention, and this cupboard is turned to an uplifting space thanks to the colour used rather than a plainly functional space for storage. We also love lining drawers with an interesting material in a contrasting colour to the main joinery. These pops of colors create visual interest throughout your day.

Jon:
And one of the other things you focus on is versatility and layout for both social areas and privacy areas. Now, of course, most of us have these naturally in our homes—our social spaces, being the living room of the kitchen and the private spaces being the bedrooms and bathrooms. But, again, thinking about your philosophy that wellness shouldn't just be a restricted area or a token gesture, but instead woven into every area of the home. Do you try to incorporate both of these into individual rooms and if so, how?

Shalini:
Yes, Jon, this is something we address in all our projects. We really want to create a good feeling of space, but also giving the option of seclusion. Our homes really need to be multifunctional, as we've seen during COVID times, so that in one day you can you can entertain for a large group (not more than six now) then be spending time in small groups alone with a bit of privacy. We often use sliding screens to enhance the flow of space by providing an opportunity to create a more private, secluded space when required. Versatile seating and dining areas are also a factor. Having seating area layouts made up of modular furniture or several armchairs and sofas means you can peel off into a smaller group. Having a dining table that can extend or be modular is also a great way to increase your options.

Shalini:
In one of our projects, we commissioned a modular dining table which was made up of several tables in walnut with a few in bronze. And this provides flexibility to move them around the space or have them together in one long arrangement. Now, as we spend more and more time in our homes, the versatility of the layouts is very important. If you have an open plan kitchen, dining, living space, you can install sliding doors between the kitchen and the living area. This will have cordoned off a messy kitchen from an area where you may want to study or read in. And we always incorporate desks into children's bedrooms so that they can study in private. Then There's always the option to use a larger table, such as the dining table, if you want to study together.

Jon:
So that's physical wellness and emotional wellness sorted, but one thing we've only briefly touched upon, which arguably can span both, is, of course sustainability. And I say it spans both because sustainability certainly has physical and emotional elements to it. Physical in that sustainable products are often some of the more thoughtfully designed and emotional in that there's a sense of moral duty to design in a way that is safe and friendly to the environment. So how does sustainability play a role in your designs with wellness in mind?

Shalini:
Sustainability invokes making choices that are better for the environment. A healthy environment is good human health. These choices cover the materials we use, technologies that limit waste and how we approach what we actually have in our projects. For example, when we make bespoke pieces for clients, we want them to become heirlooms which are passed to other generations. As this is not wasteful, it is a sustainable approach. Avoiding waste, I think, is the key to sustainability; the meaningful side to this is creating heirlooms plays to the wellness aspect. Preserving what you already have is also key to sustainability. This continues the story with the homeowner. Buying things that last should be at the forefront of our decision making. Connecting and connection to your surroundings form part of wellness as without meaning, there is no purpose. At my studio, I use a lot of vintage pieces as they tap into history, are unique, are often one of a kind, and will maintain or increase in value. Using something that already exists is crucial to sustainability. Getting involved with the stories and history side of things is fascinating and connects us to our surroundings—the past, the present and the future. Always to include sustainability in our designs and decisions through the materials, upcycling, using vintage pieces and heirlooms and more open up— They really open up a dialogue with our personal environments and are fulfilling. This connection contributes to our wellness.

Shalini:
And how long has sustainability been a part of your design philosophy and have you seen the appeal of sustainability increase of late for both clients and perhaps even competitors?

Shalini:
Well, when I was a student of architecture, I spent a lot of time studying sustainable materials. I researched at Carnegie Mellon on that and even in India. So it really has been part of my growing up. And the other thing is, I just love nature. It inspires and totally restores me. So I've always paid respect to it. I do— I do pay more attention to sustainability now than before, as it is crucial now more than ever before. I always look at the longevity of design, which is one of the key components of sustainability. If you design something for short-term, it will be wasted, whereas if you design something with future changing needs in mind, it will be long-lasting. That's more sustainable.

Jon:
And you're particularly fond of upcycling, as you've mentioned. Now, for a lot of people, upcycling would seem somewhat anathema with the luxury sphere. So what does upcycling look like in the luxury world?

Shalini:
Well, when we start a project, we always look at our clients' existing furniture, lighting and accessories, their collection and see what we can refinish, what we can reupholster, what we can repurpose... Whichever piece we can do that. With pieces they no longer want, we advise them to give them away. There are charities that collect furniture, which is a great way to give them another life for a good cause. Upcycling can be refinishing a vintage piece, reupholstering a beloved sofa or simply repainting a piece. These are all things that can be done in a luxurious way with interesting fabrics and materials or done on a budget. I would say that we always want to respect the original design, while enhancing it. This can be simple by replacing the knobs and cabinets and furniture. Always remember to try to do something with part of the furniture that you are changing, such as giving the original knobs away or using them elsewhere, perhaps as, say, coat hooks to ensure there's minimal waste. Often we reupholster when the fabric is a bit tired and to suit the new scheme. Once we have found the perfect sofa seating, we don't want to let it go so this is reupholstered and it's worthwhile. One client of ours loved her sofa so much that we went through three projects of hers and we carried the same sofa in a tree house moves. We reupholstered them to go with the new scheme. If the fabric you're removing is still in a good condition, you can use that for something else, such as cushions, a bed throw or see if you can sell it or give it away. It's always worth asking the upholsterer if they could use it or pass it on as well. Upcycling is really looking at life of the furniture and aiming to extend it for as long as possible, and it can be done in the most luxurious of ways.

Jon:
And what is the one thing that you wish more people understood about the importance of sustainability in design?

Shalini:
Well, first of all, it's not a trend or a buzz topic. It's about how we should be thinking, designing and behaving from now on forever. It's the way our world needs to function and cannot be dismissed. It's not something to limit what you want to do, but a guide to ensure you make healthy decisions for yourself and the planet. Always ask about sustainable options from a supplier, and if they don't have many, this will encourage them to maybe increase their ranges.

Shalini:
And Shalini, you've been quoted as saying wellness is intrinsic to a successful lifestyle. How have you seen that manifest in your own life or the life of your clients?

Jon:
Well, wellness is a state of complete physical, mental, social wellbeing. It's a quality or state of being healthy in body and mind, especially as a result of deliberate effort, which brings a sense of purpose. If you have a lifestyle that embraces the methods that make you feel good and you enjoy your surroundings, this will filter into every aspect of your life. I recently renovated my own house and so many new elements of redesign contributed to my wellness. We increased the flow of space in the lower ground floor by altering the staircase. The floor-to-ceiling glass door brings in abundance of natural light and nature and we— When we open them we have a generous flow of air. We also designed a small space on the side facing the garden where we have an exercise bike with a view to the lush greenery of our garden. While exercising, we can enjoy nature. Often gyms are in the basement areas, which I understand as you really want to keep the above ground areas for communal reception areas, bedrooms, etc. but I would really advise placing one machine, whether a bike or a rowing machine or your yoga mat, next to a window with a great view. It will be a much more fulfilling exercise session. Having several seating areas, that means we can all be in the same space, but enjoy doing our own thing. I enjoy being on the open plan, lower ground floor of our house next to the garden while my daughter and friends are sitting on a separate seating area, chatting and laughing away. We are together, but are separate. I can enjoy their presence as a discrete audience, hearing their general chatter and they can have a bit of privacy.

Shalini:
And having done huge research into arts, crafts, specialist furniture skills in the UK and abroad, which we want to incorporate into our design. This alone gives me such great pleasure and fulfillment as I look at the skills and techniques that have gone into the declaration of our interiors. Having this personal connection into another person's skill creates a story and meaning which all filter into wellness.

Jon:
So Shalini, we've heard about your philosophy. Now it's time to hear about your home life, which means we've arrived at the section of the show we call How I Live. So let's begin with where is home for you?

Shalini:
Well, London has been my home for the last 26 years, and I also grew up in Delhi so I just finished building a dream home—a real labour of love so I would call that also my home.

Jon:
How would you describe your home style, either in London or Delhi? Because I imagine they're quite different.

Shalini:
Well, the chief ingredient in both both homes is being happy and being well. So that that really is the main emphasis in the home and both homes are full of stories from my life, current and past. As a family, we love to travel and learn from different cultures. We have many treasured objects from these travels at home. We have many pieces of furniture that we purchased years ago and have adapted and upcycled over time when required. Both our homes are a celebration of craft. We use mainly local craftspeople and artisans to create furniture and finishes for the interiors. In Delhi, several workshops were set up on the site where craftspeople made their work in situ. It was fascinating to see this process. I Really thrived on it. It's part of interiors that is so important to me as it keeps the skills alive and you can choose to revive a certain skill. We used a lot of terrazzo flooring in Delhi, which had become less popular over the years, but is now seeing a revival. In London, we have marquetry applied to some cupboards. The applied arts side of interiors is really invigorating.

Jon:
And what's been your most recent purchase for your home?

Shalini:
Oh, I love home products so— Recently I bought this really beautiful cashmere bedspread from Oyuna, one of my favorite companies. It's a very indulgent piece I've bought in a long time, and it's just pure pleasure. And I also bought these cactus glasses from Casa Rialto. It's just clear glass and it's got beautiful, beautiful works inside it.

Jon:
And when you're at home, which room do you spend most of your time in?

Shalini:
I love the family snack seating area on the lower ground floor as it is by the floor-to-ceiling glass sliding doors, which goes on to my patio and garden. The natural light there is fantastic and I have views of my beautiful lush garden. It's very relaxed as a family, playing board games, watching films, reading books... It's next to an open plan space and a double height ceiling, which has views to the upper ground floor. I can enjoy so many aspects of our home from the area. It's also very near to the kitchen, which is, of course, really important.

Jon:
Well, I'm glad to hear the board games are relaxing in your family because in my family they tend to end in open warfare. But on the subject of relaxation, what's your favorite way to relax at home?

Shalini:
Oh, so many. I love reading. I love spending time with the family, having friends over for dinner, playing with our puppy, enjoying the garden, playing bridge online and always have music on doing all these activities.

Shalini:
You've clearly got relaxation down to a fine art. And now on to the section we call Who, What, Where and Why—some deeper questions which we hope will reveal a little bit more about you. So first up, who is your style inspiration?

Shalini:
Oh, they are really so many people that inspire me constantly. So much talent out there in the world so maybe I should just tell you how much I admire the designs and theories of the late Charles Jencks. He had a keen interest in the forces of cosmology and translated these into landscape design projects. I was very lucky to work with him in one of my most treasured projects and simply loved his style, philosophy and energy. But there are countless others I love too.

Shalini:
And what is the most defining characteristic of your personal style?

Shalini:
I think it's the detail. It's the colour, pattern, texture, tactility. I like there— I like there to be a little surprise. Everything from interesting lining in clothes to a beautiful handle on cabinetry. So like a "wow" moment.

Shalini:
And where were you the last time you were inspired with a great idea?

Shalini:
Well, we've all been fairly close to home in the last few months because of this well-known virus out there so I think the latest, greatest idea has been in my own home.

Jon:
And why is living beautifully important to you?

Shalini:
I think living beautiful is important for us to feel not just good, but great. Feeling positive infuses into everything in our lives from how we interact with people to our attitudes and outlooks.

Jon:
And last, but by no means least, A Question of Taste—our final round where we ask you ten questions about taste.

Jon:
At what age did you have the worst taste?

Shalini:
I don't think there's any such thing as bad taste in my life. Taste's like love—it's an individual thing and one person's heaven may be another person's purgatory.

Jon:
At what age will you have the best taste?

Shalini:
Well, given the business that I'm in, my passion, I hope that my taste is appreciated by all the people I work with. All I can say is that I keep absorbing the incredible creativity that we see from craftspeople and artisans, embroiderers gilders, glassmakers, and we're constantly blown away by how creative we humans can be.

Jon:
What's the most tasteful object in your home?

Shalini:
To me, everything is very tasteful. Do you remember that William Morris quotation? "Have everything that's beautiful"?To me, everything is tasteful, but I naturally have favourite items that I walk past every day that still makes me melt with appreciation for the inspiration that has gone into the making of them.

Jon:
And what's the most tasteless object in your home, if you can think of one?

Shalini:
As I said, I don't think it's very fair to tell someone they have bad taste. Some people don't understand why Banksy sets the heart racing or why Tracey Emin was voted one of the most powerful women in the United Kingdom so I'll stand by all the items in my house.

Jon:
What's the worst thing you've ever tasted?

Shalini:
Oh, years ago, I think twenty six years ago, I was expecting my second child and I travelled to Japan and at that time, Japanese food really wasn't very fashionable and I had no idea what it was. So I went to a Japanese tea ceremony and they gave me the green tea and then they gave me this red kidney-based dessert thing. And that I just— You know, maybe it was my pregnancy, but I just— I think— I still remember the taste of that all these years later Japanese food is now my favourite food and I do like I do like the desserts very much. But at that time...

Jon:
As long as you can avoid that particular one.

Shalini:
Yes.

Jon:
Which restaurant serves the best tasting food?

Shalini:
Wow, that is a difficult question. For Indian food, I like Chakra and Benares and for Italian, which I think is really lovely, is Osteria Basilico in Notting Hill.

Jon:
Which interior designer has the best taste?

Shalini:
We all strive to offer the best taste that we can. I admire all designers for putting themselves out there and making their statement to this world.

Jon:
Are there any figures from history perhaps that have been particularly influential for you?

Shalini:
I am in love with Frank Lloyd Wright, the architect's work, because he just didn't do architecture. He did interiors. He did objects. He just carefully thought through every every detail in the house. So, yeah, for sure.

Jon:
What is the most tasteful historical period of design?

Shalini:
Can we ever get bored of Versailles? So I would see the 17th century, but I love the Mid-century as well so Gio Ponti, the Italian architect in 1950s, Alvar Aalto, the beautiful objects and furniture from Brazil [Joaquim] Tenreiro so, yeah, I would say the Mid-century and the early 17th century.

Jon:
And conversely, what is the least tasteful historical period of design?

Shalini:
I think it was a very difficult period, but I think the post-war period—the homes that were built for heroes that were very much less than heroic and the urban landscape really suffered one or two atrocities. But I obviously understand that it was a difficult time so a bad period of design.

Jon:
What's the best taste you've ever acquired?

Shalini:
I have good enough taste to understand that everyone's style opinions must be listened to.

Jon:
Which country, out of all of those you visited, has the best taste?

Shalini:
Japan. I think Japan for its approach to and respect for crafts and materials that went into details and the delicacy. But it's also impossible to travel in Italy and not be totally taken by the architecture [and] interiors and every step you take is steeped into beautiful historical design and detail.

Jon:
What is the number one crime against good taste that people commit in their homes?

Shalini:
Trying to keep up with their neighbours and not being prepared to go with their own passions.

Jon:
And when it's bad taste, actually good taste?

Shalini:
When you love what you have, no matter what your peers think.

Jon:
And when it's good taste, actually bad taste?

Shalini:
When you're obsessed with something, irrationally, you're always subject to criticism.

Jon:
And who is your taste icon?

Shalini:
I think it's mostly female figures like Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn...

Jon:
And, finally, why does taste matter?

Shalini:
Taste, just like love, really makes the world go around.

Jon:
Thanks, Shalini. Can you tell us where people can find out more about you?

Shalini:
Well, my website has a lot of information about my work, about my press, about the talks that I give and my Instagram handle is @shalinimisralimited and the website is ShaliniMisra.com.

Jon:
Thanks so much, Shalini. It's been a really, really fascinating chat and so many inspirational ideas and also ideas that we can apply so thanks so much for sparing the time and sharing your philosophy with us.

Shalini:
Thank you. It was really interesting. I enjoyed it very much.

Jon:
That wraps up this episode of The Tastemakers. Thanks for listening. If you'd like to be notified of new episodes, please subscribe wherever you get your podcasts. And if you enjoyed the show, please do rate and review us. You can discover related images, articles and products in our show notes at LuxDeco.com where you can also shop over 150 of the world's finest design brands and subscribe to our online magazine, The Luxurist. I've been your host, Jon Sharpe. You can follow me on Instagram @jonsharpe—that's j-o-n-s-h-a-r-p-e—and follow LuxDeco at @LuxDeco. I'll see you next time. Until then, live beautifully.

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