Friday, February 10, 2012: 04:00:45 PM

Cover story


Debarati Bose explores the current status of the interior design industry in India and innovations in this sector

In today’s interior design and architecture industries, luxury and art go hand-in-hand. For years together, architecture has mirrored culture, aesthetics and human inherent desire for better living. Every form of design is distinctly unique and visually gratifying. Designers have always worked very hard to deliver artistically flattering interiors, as they have worked on opulent exteriors.

Today, interior design is driven by certain fundamental factors, besides the urge to strike a balance between comfort and elegance in interiors. The quest for effective use of space and functional design has been the major driver behind the inception of contemporary design. Given this sector’s growth dynamics, it is also attracting various professionals as a lucrative career option. This story explores the various nuances of interior design in India and looks to decipher where this sector is heading in the next five years.

Exploring the Interior Design Industry
Currently, Indian retailers are capitalising on a large number of buyers and investors who are driving revenue in the interior designing industry. In 2010, the interior designing market was worth $28 bn and as per forecasts, it is likely to grow by 42 percent to $48.5 bn by 2015. The Indian consumer’s fascination with western trends and the growing importance of better interiors has caused a considerable surge in the volume of money that is spent on interior products. This, along with fastpaced urbanisation, has catalysed rapid development in the interior design industry.

According to last year’s data, the furnishing products category held a 29.5 percent market share and was worth `384.95 bn ($8.38 mn). This had the greatest market share among all the other Indian interior product categories. This was followed by the fabrics and soft furnishings category valued at `320.51 bn ($6.98 bn). Other aspects of the interior designing industry have their own impact on its growth. Also, if the kitchen segment’s expected CAGR of 18.4 percent is achieved, then it will be regarded as the highest contributing product category in this sector. The furnishings category would be second in line, with an expected CAGR of 16.34 percent, followed by the lighting products category with a CAGR of 12.44 percent.

Interior Demand
Given this surging industry, several professional designations have been recognised such as aircraft interior designers, interior design technicians, kitchen designers, office space planners and retail space planners. People are educating and training themselves in this profession in order to capitalise on the palpable potential of this sector. A number of factors such as increase in utilisation of spaces and the desire for higher visibility have led enterprises, retailers and other industry players to focus on finer aesthetics and interior designing.

Given the superficial nature of the business, immense care is taken to design a particular interior space to perfection. For instance, consider the example of aircraft interior design. The designers have to attach immense importance to the passenger’s comfort right, from the design stage. Colours and patterns are chosen keeping in mind fatigued flyers, and thus, these are always serene and comforting. Minute details such as textures, shapes and lighting arelooked into very closely. In order to carve a niche in this sphere, airline majors place immense importance on relaxing hues, curved-shaped interiors and elements that add to the illusion of spaciousness, while sharp edges and bold lines are largely avoided.

Lighting is a prominent feature in any inner space as it helps to soften the environment and lends a calming look to the room. For kitchen designers, however, hues are not so much of a problem. They can choose from bright shades to lukewarm ones and finalise a fine mix of both. Recently, solid wood kitchens that help to create a quaint ambience have surfaced as one of the key preferences of customers. Manufacturers and retailers of kitchen products have noticed an upward trend in this segment and foresee its growth in the near future.

An Impressive Inner Space
Today, a lot of importance is placed on the way interiors of office and retail spaces are designed. Designers prefer to give office spaces bright interiors, complete with smart and comfortable furnishing. Generally, spacious interiors and open spaces are the prime requisite by the client and this factor continues to remain as the key challenge for interior designers, especially in big cities. Thus, designers often turn to classy wall fittings, neatly clubbed furniture, glass walls and bright lights to add the illusion of space.

Retail spots are usually sprawled across a large area and are completed with attractive counters, lights and high ceilings. Thus, for any of these areas, the right kind of furniture is extremely important. Furniture is usually customised to fit into a pre-designed interior ambience. For example, high stools fit perfectly in lounges and cafés, and can be teamed with bean bags and couches that compliment the room’s shades and textures.

India’s growing population of professionals and entrepreneurs, along with the comparatively low cost of living show a remarkable potential for the luxury-land list. Increasing disposable income and a need for a better lifestyle have made Indians one of the most attractive target audiences. As foreign brands have realised this truth and are penetrating the market, Indian retailers are not far behind. Designers can specialise in various deisgn segments including acoustics and noise abatement, security, electronics and home theatres, home spas and indoor gardens.

Green Design
There are three types of interior designs that are turning out to be immensely popular. These are: ergonomic design, elder design and environmental/green design. Ergonomic design includes the designing of work spaces and furniture design that places importance on good posture and reduction of muscular strain. Elder design is about designing interior spaces so that the environment is conducive to the movement of the elderly and disabled. The third and the most popular form is green design, which involves the use furniture and accessories that have not been exposed to chemicals, artificial and hypoallergenic materials. In this kind of design, energy-efficient and renewable resources are particularly selected and used.

In contemporary design, green materials are in-demand. Many of the green materials are essentially basic materials that have been profusely exploited in the past and are now being incorporated in an innovative manner. These green materials not only are more durable but also provide a greater artistic edge. The practical implementation of green materials is also providing a major dimension to design. Moreover, this concept shuns synthetics—the production of which leads to toxic releases. Given the growing awareness of green design, many designers have come up with newer and fresher techniques of interior design.

On the flipside, giving importance to green design for homes does not change anything in terms of power and energy utilisation, but it does impart an eco-friendly feel to any space. Also, fabrics with organic pigments have recently assumed a strong role in the modern décor.

Designing With Style
Colours such as maroon, grey and magenta have found a place in contemporary design. Grey and magenta blend well together and this combination is often perceived as a mercurial one, resulting in increased usage. Today, customers and designers prefer designs that are both real and natural, instead of artificial landscaping. This way, earthen tones and hues are constantly being explored, and so are the strategic use of planes and levels in order to add to spaciousness and grandeur. Mild colours such as beige, off-white, peach and other palette shades add to the comforting ambience of interiors, and are seasonal favourites.

One of the main challenges for designers today is to balance the needs and desires of the customer. It is a challenge for a designer to add functionality within a limited space. Labour and costs are equally important and difficult to balance as skilled labour is always hard to find.

The major difference between commercial and residential interior design is the client’s basic preference. The designer needs to understand the difference between the requirements in commercial and residential spaces. With commercial projects, the design will need to attract the target audience. For instance, a lounge has a completely different look as compared to a departmental store, or a florist’s shop would differ from a fast-food joint on the highway.

While designing a house, the designer must keep in mind the needs of an individual or a family. These preferences may differ depending on age and utility. However, various designers are rapidly getting involved in architectural detailing. Processes such as crown moulding to procure architectural novelty are gaining traction. On the other hand, planning the layout of a building which is undergoing a revamp remains a huge challenge. The decisions to determine the location of windows, stairways, escalators, walkways and effective usage of different planes are a few of the designer’s woes.

Designing Forward
Interior designers are required to read blueprints, gather a proper understanding of building and fire codes, and have complete know-how of their sector. Designers frequently interact with architects, technicians, electricians and building contractors to ensure that their proposed designs abide by the safety norms and coincide with the requirements of construction. Thus, it is important for designers to educate themselves in architectural and development jargon.

After gathering the requirements of the customer, the designer lays down a design plan and then the cost estimation begins. Today, designs are usually created with sufficient help from Computer-Aided Design (CAD) software. This process lends a more detailed look to the layout and the plan of the place, and is more precise than sketches made by hand.

India is experiencing radical lifestyle uplift that is propelling the growth of the interior decoration market. This sector remains to be the fastest-growing markets in the world. Despite the global economic melt down, the Indian interior decoration market registered a CAGR of 11.53 percent by 2015 during the review period, as per a report published by BRIC data. If these numbers are to be believed, this market has nowhere to go, but up.

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