Charu Gandhi is a qualified architect, who studied and taught at the Architectural Association before joining the London offices of Allies & Morrison Architects in 2006. In 2011, Charu joined the Candy & Candy group. Registered with RIBA and ARB, she built a highly prestigious international portfolio of commissions, which included exclusive villas and private homes across India and Africa and residences in the esteemed One Hyde Park development. In 2014, Charu started a new journey at Elicyon, where she could combine the rigors of her architectural practice with her creative flair and passion for design and craft. With a strict client-oriented view, she takes each one on a personalized journey. Her international background permits her to move consistently between different cultures. Charu Gandhi is inspired by historical references and cultural details via travels and people, architecture, sculpture and theatre.
For the first point of the interview, we asked the designer what is the thing that she loves the most about her work. “It’s simple, I love design and being creative. I love the fact that I’m learning about the world through design, whether that be experiencing new cultures when we travel for our projects or meeting interesting craftspeople and makers in all areas of the globe. It of course helps that our clients are also incredibly inspiring individuals. The industry generally is very fast-paced and so I enjoy that our studio is being challenged and that we are stretching ourselves, we’re constantly evolving and that’s an exciting journey.” – said Charu.
Like any journey in life, everybody faces moments of challenge. Going through this idea, we wanted to know what was the most challenging time for the designer and how she overcame it. “About 6 years into practicing architecture, I went through a phase where I felt disillusioned, the projects I was working on were heavily restrained. There were many rules around planning, rights of light, consulting with neighbors and budgetary constraints and I felt like I was losing touch with the creative aspect, and I really struggled with that. When I moved to Candy & Candy, I fell back in love with design all over again; there we had generous budgets, enviable projects in the most incredible locations, and the clients allowed us to work with craftspeople again and champion individual makers, which was important to me. The fact that I’ve continued to design schemes that I love is what keeps me going.” – explained her.
Although Charu feels blessed about her path in the design world and even knowing she had accomplished many goals, she believes that there is a lot more to come. “Whilst I’m incredibly grateful and proud of where Elicyon is today and what the team has created over the past seven years on this journey with me, I certainly don’t feel as though I’m done… if you ask me what my favorite project is, I always say it’s the next one. It’s the excitement of the new, and I very much look forward to adding to the Elicyon portfolio.” – told us, the designer.
Asked about her dream project, Charu put it very simply. “Projects are like children, every single one is special and unique for its own reasons, so it’s impossible to pick a dream project as we’re so lucky with all the projects we get to work on, they’re all dream projects really! Having said that, personally, my dream has always been to build a house in India for my family. It’s where I’m from and my parents never fully finished the home they started building in India when we were younger as it became too ambitious a project to continue with. Now, with my experience in project managing, my background in architecture and my passion for interior design, it’s something I’d like to embark on to honor their dream as well as mine.” – stated Charu.
Describing her relationship with clients, she defends that for this job, everyone should have a natural skill to deal with people. “To be a good designer serving the clientele that we work with, you need to have an innate interest in people and the way in which they live or aspire to live within their homes. I have been blessed to work with clients from every continent and have learnt to combine my knowledge and understanding of various cultural needs with a client’s individuality and their own specific desires and tastes. I find the process of working with individuals and characters to bring out their individual expression – be it through private collections, hobbies, ways of living – one of the most delightful aspects of my work and a cornerstone of our design philosophy. Our process as a team is very much journey-based, and it’s one we are constantly refining based on the client brief and the overall concept. We want each client to fall in love with the design, with craft and to have a sense of self-actualization.” – said Charu.
At the moment, the designer is working on a few projects worldwide. “We are working on an incredible lake house in the English countryside, a large family home in West London and a penthouse at Battersea Power Station. Further afield, we are currently working on two private projects in Dubai, looking at projects in the South of France and continuing our foray into yacht design.” – told her.
“2020 and 2021 have been the years of outdoor socializing and we expect this to be the case again this summer and Autumn. Our clients are therefore putting much more thought into their outside spaces, whether they be an expansive garden, courtyard or rooftop terrace. We want to create an inviting, warm and cozy outdoor ambiance that appears like a natural extension to the interiors and are seeing a growing demand for statement outdoor furniture, accessories such as wall lights and lanterns, durable throws and cushions and innovative heating solutions. When it comes to the materials and colors that our clients are currently drawn towards, we have seen a definite shift in favor of natural materials and textures and calming shades. The move away from silk and sheen-textured fabrics continues and we are focusing heavily on using linens, wool, rattan and light blonde timbers. I am enjoying using a color palette of ‘new neutrals’, comprising ivory base notes and a scattering of additional warm tones including rust, pink, beige, mustard and burnt orange. These are very ‘liveable’ colors and work well for clients spending more time at home.” – Charu Gandhi
Charu Gandhi described her type of client as one of a kind. “Our clients have the ambition to live a life less ordinary. They range from entrepreneurs to those in incredible jobs and positions across the world, but they are otherwise completely diverse in age, culture, and educational background – we don’t have a typical client, they’re all very different. They’re the sort of people who are interested in design and are used to working with an expert and are happy to go on a journey to create their home.” – explained the designer.
Asked about craftsmanship, Charu was very specific when she answered. “Hanut is an Indian jewelry designer whose work I find just exquisite along with Viren Bhagat. Christine Vanderhurds’ hand-knotted carpets and dhurries are particularly catching my attention at the moment, and the age-old La Manufacture Cogolin are so clever. I am into marbling, and Florence’s work at INQ is rather lovely. I think it’s so wonderful when craft feels accessible and easily enjoyed. Furniture makers such as Jan Hendzel and Marcin Rusak are championing their craft and deserve our support. James Plumb Studio is creating some really interesting sculptural pieces.” – she said.
For the future of the design, Charu sees it with great simplicity. “In terms of materials, on our mood board at the moment is lots of blonde timbers, which works really well in a fresh white scheme as well as woven leather and hanging tapestries. I am also very partial to bouclé and suede for upholstery – both are very different in terms of texture and style but both create a sense of richness and sumptuousness and I love their feel and tactile nature.” – she said.
“I’ve been thinking for years that for clients it’s a convoluted process knowing what each interior design studio provides for their services, for example how projects are rendered and charged. It would be beneficial for us as studios – and for clients interested in bringing on an interior designer – if the process was streamlined and there was a standard benchmark to follow. That way, we would be collectively promoting our industry by creating an accepted standard. An element I would like to see a change in the luxury design world is minimizing wastage. It should continue to be at the top of our agenda when planning design schemes, especially in the elite world in which we work. It’s about doing the best you can for the planet, which is sometimes challenging in our line of work but we continually try our best to do better. This means that we retain and repurpose furniture and infrastructure where possible, and reuse materials elsewhere to limit the amount of wastage produced. Designers, by nature, often let perfect be the enemy of good but at Elicyon we are constantly pushing ourselves to re-evaluate processes, and it’s never been more important to be sustainably conscious as a brand. It’s a vision I’d like to see projected across the design world more.” – Charu Gandhi