This intrepid interior designer from Chennai gravitated towards her field from an impressionable age, spotting elements of design in everyday objects like the cushions on a couch or the various hues of flowers in a vase..
Farah Agarwal shares her remarkable design journey in a special rendezvous with HELLO!
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Talent is often innate. Even the best school in the world can only offer you theoretical knowledge. But if the desire to excel doesn’t come from within, success will remain elusive. Having organically gravitated towards interior design, Farah Agarwal embodies this philosophy.
“I’ve always been drawn to design. Even at a younger age, I found myself noticing design in everything around me. Like in a simple floral arrangement in a vase, or in the random placement of cushions on a couch. And as someone who loves stories, wanting to understand the story behind the designs of different spaces is what pushed me into learning the art of it,” she explains.
This inborn sense of curiosity with a keen eye for detailing, coupled with her passion for visual stories, was amplified during Agarwal’s multiple international sojourns.
“I’ve travelled extensively. My eyes are instinctively drawn to the most inconspicuous details. Like the embroidery on a table napkin in a tiny café, a faded bit of graffiti on a forgotten wall, or even a whole season and its nuances.”
Design is purely subjective, and every designer of repute has an inimitable style that makes them both stand apart and sought after. Agarwal, who’s naturally drawn towards more eclectic design concepts, elaborates, “I love working with bold features and androgynous elements, mixing masculine and feminine concepts, layering them in such a way that they are almost natural together, creating a seamless symphony of sorts.”
While her style has evolved over the years, Agarwal has always been strongly inspired by designers Zaha Hadid and Donatella Versace.
“Currently, I’m crushing on a lot of curved façades in terms of furniture with focuses on voluptuous pieces and sharp angles. This is definitely drawn from Zaha Hadid, whose designs have always had a way with unconventional shapes. What I love about the effervescent Donatella Versace is her ability to be so unapologetically maximalist, oozing drama at every turn. And that again is something I love to incorporate in my projects... These two powerhouse women broke norms by being unconventional and never giving up on their individuality just to fit in.”
An outdoor person, Agarwal is influenced by the fresh hues of nature, evident from the natural elements she subsumes into the homes she designs.
“I try to embrace that aspect by bringing in flashes through indoor plants and warm colours. More than inspiration, I’m more enchanted by the way nature makes you feel, and that’s what I try to embody in my designs. Be it through a warm, cosy library that reminds you of fall leaves crunching under your feet, or a busy art-filled living room that’d be the epitome of nature to an art lover.”
As her business evolved, she set up her own design studio Chestnut Storeys, when her second child turned three. Reminiscing about the advent of her journey, she says: “With the kids getting busy with school and after-school activities and the pace of my projects growing rapidly, I thought that was the perfect time to focus on establishing a full-time studio, where I could build a team and cater to my quickly growing project lists.”
Since then, Agarwal has designed villas, beach houses, apartments and even workspaces. “Every project to me is unique and fulfilling in its own way. But to be truly honest, residential projects are my favourite. Taking a client’s brief and turning it into a home that personifies their personality and unique requests is what I love about it. It’s humbling to be able to give them their dream home, a cherished space to come back to, where they can make memories, share secrets and experience life as a family. There’s nothing more fulfilling than that!”
And like most new-age mums who balance home and career, Agarwal has also had to rely extensively on her multitasking skills to handle the challenges that cropped up.
“Balancing the two worlds is very demanding, but I enjoy the stress of having a full and super busy day and the joy that comes with being able to juggle so many things at once. Multitasking is a way of life for me, though I soon learned that delegation is just as important. Trying to find this balance has made me a better, more organised person, planning in advance not only my own day but the days of my kids, as well.”
Agarwal recently bagged her first international project in Germany and is thrilled about it.
“This project has shown us just how much technology breached international boundaries during Covid. We’re working with a family on their beautiful independent two-storey home with an expansive backyard. It was definitely one of my quickest projects, given how amenable and decisive the family was with their design selections. We can’t wait for it to be completed and kickstart our foray in the industry globally.”
Designing a space as personal as a home can be a gruelling task, both physically and mentally.
But Agarwal does not necessarily feel the need to unwind after completing a project. “I always feel a sense of contentment when I hand over a project. Seeing the client happy takes away whatever stress and fatigue that may have come with it. Though on particularly demanding days, I enjoy unwinding with my friends, surrounding myself with laughter and great company.”
This is an excerpt from an interview that was originally published in Hello! India’s October 2022 issue. To read the full interview, get your hands on the latest issue right here!