Most people can ‘decorate’ their spaces, but ‘designing’ is something only a professional can handle, says architect Vivekanandan in a chat on interiors.

Design has permeated our lives. Says Shankara Smriti, who is pained that he did not hire an interior designer, “I hardly knew that ‘a professional touch’ was necessary to get even a simple store room in the kitchen look and be more functional. Our ideas have only increased as we have to use ladders to reach some portions! Expert advice is so vital,” he adds.

“Look at our library make-up, there isn’t sufficient light or air coming in. Planning is necessary, and only a designer could have been able to ‘see’ with a specialist-eye,” says Rama Chikkodi, who completed her home about six months ago.

Today the designer’s touch is a ubiquitous one. Demands rise as sensibilities refine. But the language of designing walks beyond just the assemblage of furniture and artefacts. “Be it the fashion showing with your clothes, the dresser in your living room or the unassuming terracotta lampshade in the lobby, it’s the professional eye that gets its marks and that’s precisely why it’s time to talk design in a serious way.

Says interior designer and architect R. Vivekanandan of Vivek & Associates, “With interior design penetrating the mass psyche like never before, sensibilities get refined, and demands rise.”

But is he seeing growing awareness that is fraught with increasing misconceptions? Says Vivekanandan, “First things first. What’s interior design? Is it the assemblage and display of various furnishing materials? Or is it decorating the given space with materials and colours of our choice? So many questions flash across our minds. To make a long definition short, interior design is about sensitive understanding of the surroundings, analysing the needs of the user of the given space, thorough thought about varied elements of the interior and ultimately about the grammar of aesthetics.”

Merely displaying varied interior elements like furniture, furnishings, artefacts and light fittings because they look good does not make good designing. “If mere aesthetic judgment comes into play without any serious thought to the user’s needs and demands of the given space, then we might as well use the word ‘decorate’ instead of ‘design,’” says Vivekananadan.

The three Ws

The designer terms it the ‘soul of interiors’ with his three Ws — Where, Who and Why. “A search for the answers to these questions, without pretensions, will lead to an understanding of how designers come up with seemingly effortless, yet beautiful interior spaces. Further, it will also help you comprehend and appreciate the nuances of the design in a much better way,” he says.


“Where” is about a contextual approach with respect to the building (architecture), street, neighbourhood and region. The economic influence of the region, climatic factors that influence certain design aspects and material availability and its suitability pertaining to that particular space and region are taken into consideration.

“Who” explores the cultural background of the user, his/her economic status, literacy level and sense of style.

“Why” gives a complete checklist of both the physiological and psychological need of the space and the user. It involves methodology to convert all the needs into various design elements with an open mind, and logical sequence of the development of design in the given space is what a designer brings in, says Vivekananadan.

In the coming weeks, this column will traverse varied interior spaces and take you through the finer aspects of design with a range of interior designers who will speak about their own creations - residential spaces, commercial establishments, showrooms and even restaurants will be covered.