Interior Designer Janavi Javeri© HelloIndia

3 Millennial Interior Designers On Their Aspirations & Challenges

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Anandita De

Effortlessly harmonising contemporary and classic styles, the delicate dance between aesthetics and functionality, three budding interior design maestros reveal their challenges, aspirations and odyssey in an industry overshadowed by titans.

Janavi Javeri

Interior Designer Janavi Javeri©HelloIndia

In her design sensibility, Janavi positions herself squarely at the intersection of contemporary and classic. When it comes to her clients, however, the interior stylist is entirely committed to one direction, which involves serving their needs.

“Defining your personal space can feel overwhelming and it’s difficult to visualise different elements coming together. That’s where our team of stylists comes into play. From creating mood boards and selecting colour schemes, to curating the furnishings and home accessories, we bring clean design and elegance to a space while ensuring it aligns with our clients’ personalities and lifestyles,” she says.

A graduate from King’s College, London, Janavi worked as a merchandiser and buyer for Reliance Brands, where she dealt with global giants such as BCBG, Max Azria, Kate Spade and Furla, among others. She discovered her passion for interiors and home decor when she was redecorating her home, which led her to create Walls & Things. It started as a platform on Instagram, gradually evolving into a professional endeavour based out of Mumbai.

Merging her passion for fashion with her expertise in merchandising and visual presentation, Janavi has built her design philosophy around sharing her taste.

Interior Designs©HelloIndia

HELLO!: From a merchandiser and buyer to designing spaces, how would you describe your journey?

JJ: “In the realm of interior styling, skills like trend research, attention to detail, budget management and understanding customer preferences can be highly advantageous, all of which I honed during my time at Reliance Brands, where I curated collections. I’ve learned to make the most of my former experience by demonstrating how it supports my new professional path. Patience, persistence, continuously improving one’s skills and expanding one’s network are key for growth.”

H!: What are the most challenging aspects of the job?

JJ: “A high-profile interiors project involves collaborating with prestigious clients, and renowned architects and designers. There is pressure to live up to the high standards of clients who have an impeccable sense of style and beauty, and usually want exclusivity and personalisation. Maintaining confidentiality and discretion is crucial. Lastly, staying on the cutting edge of design trends and innovation is essential to ensure the final result aligns with the client’s status and expectations.”

Interior Designs©HelloIndia

H!: What sets the design sensibility of millennials apart and makes it unique?

JJ: “As millennials, I think we have moved into a more modern, practical and effortless way of living. We prioritise a ‘less is more’ ethos, favouring decluttered spaces and viewing design through a practical lens. We focus on comfort and relaxation in design, incorporating elements like oversized throw pillows, cosy furniture and tranquil bedrooms.”

H!: With the global focus on sustainable living, how do you integrate it into your work?

JJ: “My dedication to sustainability drives me to craft environmentally conscious homes. Local sourcing minimises transportation carbon footprint and durable design reduces replacements. While renewable resources are an integral part of my design approach, it helps that a growing number of clients are also mindful.”

H!: How difficult is it for up-and-coming designers to make a name for themselves in an industry where a small group of established giants dominate the scene?

JJ: “Admittedly, a few key players dominate the industry, making it challenging for newcomers to enter the market. I encountered two primary challenges: firstly, gaining exposure, and secondly, persuading clients of the value I bring to the design process. However, I was able to carve out a niche for myself as an interior stylist on social media and soon architects and clients found value in my services and started hiring me.”

Anoushka Parkash

Interior Designer Anoushka Parkash©HelloIndia

The work of an interior designer may revolve around the external aspects, such as aesthetics and functionality, but a skilled professional understands the importance of being connected to and inspired by their client’s thoughts and feelings. So it’s no surprise when Anoushka Parkash says, “Creating a space that reflects my client’s inner world is important to me.”

Anoushka founded her own interior and furniture design studio, Studio Knosh, in Mumbai, shortly after earning her bachelor’s degree in Interior Architecture and Design from Raffles Design Institute in 2012. From the start in 2016, Anoushka along with her team has expanded and taken on various residential, office and bespoke furniture projects.

The young entrepreneur, who recently earned her master’s degree in design from Elisava Barcelona School of Design and Engineering, firmly believes that aesthetic value and style are just as crucial as a space or product’s functionality. Good design, according to her, involves optimising utility without sacrificing aesthetic significance.

HELLO!: What motivated you to study interior architecture and design, and make it your full-time career?

Anoushka Parkash: “For me, choosing the path of an interior designer was intuitive and effortless. I can honestly say I’ve never questioned it. What I love the most about design is the balance of art and science, where problem solving and strategy come together with creativity. Interior design allows me to flex both the left (analytical) and right (creative) sides of my brain.”

H!: Do your designs lean towards an old-world charm, or do you prefer a more contemporary aesthetic with clean, modern lines and style?

AP: “Ideally, I would place myself dead centre on the spectrum of contemporary and classic. I love mixing styles—a little vintage piece in a contemporary aesthetic adds to the complexity and depth of the design.”

Interior Designs©HelloIndia

H!: During your studies in Barcelona, what European interior design principles did you pick up and now apply in your work in India?

AP: “One of the most valuable pieces of advice I received from a professor was: know your client. Learn about how they spend their day, how they use their space, what is working for them in their current space and what is not. User experience is often underestimated, but in the end, they are the ones who will be using the space, so our design should revolve around their needs and comfort.”

H!: What sets the design sensibility of millennials apart and makes it unique?

AP: “I would say that millennials prefer a simplistic approach to design. Perhaps it’s because we are generally opposed to the excess and extravagant maximalism favoured by previous generations, but the most frequent request I receive is to declutter and maintain a clean aesthetic.”

H!: How difficult is it for up-and-coming designers to make a name for themselves in an industry where a small group of established giants dominate the scene?

AP: “There’s no doubt that to stand out from the crowd, you have to put in time, effort and energy to work towards making a mark. But India is currently blowing up in terms of development and opportunity. There are players on all levels, creating products and services to fit every person’s needs. For every seller, there are 10 buyers. In my opinion, you just have to find your place.”

Shonali Mahajan Cooper

Interior Designer Shonali Mahajan Cooper©HelloIndia

Much like a writer composing a narrative within the pages of a book, an interior designer crafts a story within the walls of a home. Each room serves as a chapter, with furniture and decor acting as carefully chosen words that add depth and meaning to the tale.

Shonali Mahajan Cooper, who uses this analogy, sees herself as a storyteller. “Instead of words, my medium is fabrics, furniture, architectural elements and personal items. Clients entrust me to craft their biographies through design, weaving their narratives into the very spaces they inhabit,” she articulates.

Shonali’s age belies her experience; she started her career after majoring in interior design at Domus Academy in Milan, and went on to work with renowned architectural, interior and product design firms in both India and Milan, including Matteo Nunziati, Pinakin Designs, Neterwala & Aibara and Fusion Access. This journey culminated in the establishment of her own Mumbai-based boutique interior and architecture firm, Studio Wodehouse, in 2014.

HELLO!: You began your career interning at Neterwala & Aibara at 16, with Sunu Aibara as your mentor. Later, you pursued a degree in Milan and worked with Matteo Nunziati. Given your extensive experience, what sets you apart from other interior designers in India?

Shonali Mahajan Cooper: “I believe it’s our process, our meticulous attention to detail, our unwavering commitment to achieving top-notch quality finishes, our ability to collaborate with the finest craftsmen in the industry, our detailed drawings and our dedication to professionalism that set us apart. We have had many big developer clients commend us on our precision and commitment to delivering comprehensive information upfront, leaving no gaps for later.”

H!: After returning to Mumbai in 2010, you worked with Pinakin Patel who swiftly assumed the roles of a leader, confidant, mentor and trusted friend. Could you share some of his enduring lessons?

SMC: “One of the most valuable lessons he imparted to me was the importance of establishing a personal design philosophy and adhering to it diligently. To create with purpose and meaning, rather than because it looks good. He taught me about maintaining aesthetic control over the entire project landscape and fostering an appreciation for local art and craftsmanship. Moreover, he ignited an obsession within me for perfecting the alignment of my design axes and junction lines.”

Interior Designs©HelloIndia

H!: What sets the design sensibility of millennials apart and makes it unique?

SMC: “They embrace minimalism, valuing clean lines and simplicity, all while incorporating vintage and nostalgic design elements. Sustainability is a top priority, resulting in a preference for eco-friendly materials and practices. Authenticity is of utmost importance, with a focus on genuine and relatable design elements. Personalisation and authentic photography take precedence over overly staged imagery.”

H!: How difficult is it for up-and-coming designers to make a name for themselves in an industry where a small group of established giants dominate the scene?

SMC: “I think personally there is space for everyone. The stalwarts have their category of clientele; those types of clients don’t usually like to experiment with an upcoming designer for their primary residence, but tend to be open to experimenting on their other properties. The fierce competition younger designers face is among their peers, given the abundance of talent. Social media plays a crucial role in the industry today, but I haven’t mastered it yet!”

Interview: Anandita De; Photos: Anoushka Parkash - Profile: Krutarth Mehta; Janavi Javeri - Interiors: Ravi Kanade

This story has been adapted for the website from a story that was originally published in Hello! India’s October 2023 issue. Get your hands on the latest issue right here!