Interior Designer Shonali Mahajan Cooper© HELLO! India

Ace Designer Shonali Mahajan Cooper On The Interior Decor Trends To Look Out For And More...

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Jeena J. Billimoria

Current trends, people’s evolving choices and tips to keep in mind for home spaces — HELLO! gets the details and more from the founder and creative director of Mumbai’s Studio Wodehouse.

HELLO!: Tell us about your journey as an interior designer so far. 

SMC: “I started my career interning with Neterwala & Aibara at 16. With Sunu Aibara as a mentor, I honed my skills and interest in interior design at Rachna Sansad, while also being in college at St. Xaviers, studying psychology. My love for design was pretty cemented then. My next step was Milan, where I did a masters in interior design at the Domus Academy. I stayed on to work with Matteo Nunziati — another incredible experience of working and designing with an original Milanese design firm, with projects across the globe. I returned to Mumbai in 2010 and worked with Pinakin Patel. He quickly became everything to me; a boss, a friend, a guide, a mentor. We still share a special relationship. I’ve learned so much from each experience. Aesthetics and form from Pinakin, drawing details and the professional process and practice from Matteo; finishing details and luxury from Sunu and Phirosa (Naterwala).”

HELLO!: How would you describe your work style and aesthetic?

 SMC: “I’m constantly evolving, learning, and bettering myself. There’s always something to tweak, refine and perfect. That probably defines my work style, but also that I need everything down on paper and for things to be crystal clear; I hate ambiguity.

My aesthetic, too, is constantly evolving, though I’m quite deep-rooted in contemporary design. I love old-world charm, but I like to repurpose it and make it more relevant. My personal aesthetic is a mix of subtle, neutral, simple and muted shells, peppered with a lot of antiques, art tribal elements and bold graphics. Black and white is my favourite combination.”

HELLO!: What’s more important in a space, aestheticism or functionality? 

SMC: “Function! If a space doesn’t work, regardless of the aesthetic, it becomes useless. We design spaces, not art. It has to be lived in; it has to be easy; it has to work. It’s like designing a website that you can’t navigate. The user experience and interface has to be seamless!”

HELLO!: The latest trends in interiors? 

SMC: “Everything curved, sculptural and organic in form.”

HELLO!: And what’s out? 

SMC: “That everything has to match perfectly and rectangular shapes. Gone are the days that your furniture had to be defined by perfect geometry.”

HELLO!: Are these trends ever-changing? Is it better to follow them or stick to one’s own aesthetic? 

SMC: “These don’t change as often as fashion, but I would peg it as a yearly shift. In the long run, one should stick to their own aesthetic because trends are cyclical in nature. They come and they go and tend to lose relevance.”

HELLO!: And colour palettes? What do people seem to be steering more towards? 

SMC: “Neutral tones are still very much holding fort — whites, greys, taupe and greiges with pops of colour, ranging from deep blues to ochres, rusts and olives. The base shell always remains fairly neutral, with warm whites, greys or creams with variations of contrasting colours.”

HELLO!: Your hacks for maximising the use of a space. 

SMC: “Minimise your life and you’ll be happier!”

HELLO!: How has the landscape of interiors in India evolved over the past decade?

 SMC: “It’s changed completely. There’s so much available now, so many amazing stores, designers, materials, collaborations... We used to think sourcing things from abroad was the only goal, but there are so many amazing products being designed locally, and great interior designers, as well. Everyone hires a designer now, while earlier, most people did it themselves. The market has become so much bigger and aware — and more demanding, too!”

HELLO!: What does the future of home décor look like to you? 

SMC: “More quick fixes, affordability, faster turnaround times, greater professionalism and better quality. Most people are shifting to newer, ready-to-move-in apartments. They don’t have the time nor inclination to build from scratch. I believe home décor brands need to start keeping more stock, having quicker timelines and making their processes and delivery periods more efficient. I’m also hoping us designers can finally just focus on designing, and that people recognise the difference between a designer and a project manager.”

HELLO!: The best places in Mumbai to source unique objects for a home. 

SMC: “My favourites are The Pure Concept Home, Phillips Antiques, Chiki Doshi, The Great Eastern Home and Aqueous.”

Do you love reading about interiors and are on a constant lookout for expert advice? In our July issue, we are celebrating the top architects and interior designers of the industry to give you an insight into their world along with an inspirational guide to spruce up your homes. Get your hands on the latest issue right here!

This story has been adapted for the website from a story that was originally published in HELLO! India’s July 2022 issue.