The Super Homes of Super Mom, Shilpa Kapadia
Self-taught interior designer Shilpa Kapadia claims she is not a superwoman. But juggling several clients as well as her other full-time job as wife and mother-of-two, the native Mumbaiker sure seems like one. Though she studied psychology in college and spent many years as a teacher in Bangkok, her eye for interior design gradually began taking her places. What started out as small decorating favours for friends in the mid-90s gradually became full-on interior design assignments for the houses and condos of Bangkok’s hi-so Indian expats, several corporate office spaces, and the sun-drenched, brick-lined studio space for fashion boutique June Fifth by Bonny. Part of the reason behind Shilpa’s success, sheer willpower aside, is her simple aesthetic and her insistence on contemporary Asian touches that resonate with her Bangkok-based clients. It also has to do with the ergonomics of her design work. “When I design a room for elders, I look out for safety, like bathroom tiles. Rooms for children are made to scale,” she says. Now with a decade of experience, she feels ready to start marketing herself in a serious way. Here, she shares this plan and talks to us about how she manages to do it all, both at home and at work. —REENA KARIM
How did you develop a passion for design?
Ever since I was a kid, I would plan and rearrange my room, and keep things in order. It’s been a need wherever I go. I have always known that I loved interiors; you can say it is a gift rather than a studied skill. Later, I started designing my [home] office and also for a few of my friends. Word spread, and I have been busy since then.
How would you describe your personal style?
It’s very simple, and for me functionality is more important. It should not be decorative but elegant, something that you can have for a long time.
What inspires you?
Different places, colours, nature, people, and exotic cultures. I have a vision board that helps me visualise all the things that matter to me. I like to design with that in mind. My design can never lack Asian-ness. Despite my design being contemporary, you’ll always see some Asian material and influences. We live in Asia, and it would be silly to go all Italian. It may look nice, but it lacks the element of India or Thailand.
What’s it like to manage both business and home?
What I do is allocate certain chunks of my time. When I am doing homework with my son, I don’t let anything disturb me. When I am working, I don’t let other things [interrupt me]. I segregate different aspects of my life into time slots and have to stick with that. It has its advantages and disadvantages but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I want to be both a full-time mom and a working professional.
What does your husband think of your work?
He has been very encouraging and supportive of my work. Often my husband has to take the kids for their activities or fill in for me, and he does that willingly in spite of handling a high stress career himself.
Has there been compromise to allow you to work?
All working women have to give up personal time to work, but to see the final results of your hard work makes it all worthwhile.
What is the most frustrating aspect of your job and the most rewarding one?
It is difficult to convince [clients] about certain design elements, and to help them keep patience for the right thing to come and to let others pass. But it’s very rewarding when I see my vision being translated into reality. There is nothing like that.
Initially when I started, [since] I was not qualified as an interior designer, people hadn’t seen my work and had to be convinced. This is why I go that extra mile. In fact I even go with them to buy their plates, spoons, and floor mats because I want it to be right, and a wrong choice will take away from the whole show.
What is next?
Getting an office space and establishing myself better in terms of marketing. I want to work on getting better at PR.
Design advice for home decorators?
Bright colours. If you are not comfortable with them, then use them in small doses, so they’re easier to change. I am biased towards an Asian influence, with materials that are easily available in Thailand, easy to maintain and re-use rather than get something from Milan. The look should go with your own personality.
Published in Masala magazine, October 2012
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