Home Decor India: Amalgam Design Studio
Founded in 2010, by Tanya Khanna and Anika Mittal, Amalgam is a design studio that provides custom design services in architecture and interior design, in addition to a unique home decor and furniture collection.
Working with local artisans, the design studio reinvents traditional techniques and crafts to incorporate a more modern and innovative design terminology, thereby creating a range of accessories and furniture underlining contemporary definitions. With workshops in New Delhi and Agra, where craftsmen work with new age materials and use their skills to blend tradition and technology, this design studio is poised to change the way crafts are defined in modern India. Home Decor India
“Amalgam uses the craft of inlay in coloured and composite stone, precious/semi-precious stone and wood to create a blend of traditional and modernity. Using craft as a means to achieve unison of function and aesthetic, amalgam has redefined the blend of colour and pattern in the contemporary Indian modern aesthetic to produce furniture and accessories. Combining the tactility of precious, semi-precious and composite stones with the waning craft of inlay, Amalgam emphasises design as a customised craft.”
The principal designers have a background in architecture, having studied at the Sushant School of Architecture and subsequently at Bartlett University College in London. This training enables them to bring their design capabilities into the realm of furniture and accessories, thereby creating a range of products that appeal to a more contemporary mindset.
Their design philosophy is to ‘reinterpret design as an amalgam of India’s rich cultural heritage and the new modern.’
Here, they share with us their vision and perspectives.
Could you tell us how you both met and what early experiences led to the two of you working together and setting up Amalgam?
For both of us, we knew our calling for design even when we were in school. We met while studying architecture and also did our respective postgraduate degrees in London at the same time.
The shift from architecture to home décor is an unusual one—what motivated you to consider this venture?
As architects, we are constantly designing things, whether buildings or products. Design for us was never perceived as work but is a way of life. We felt that traditional craft was waning away in India. It is surprising that Indian artisans are recognised across the world, yet contemporary Indian design does not recognise and appreciate Indian craft and locally available materials. We figured that the only way for it to survive is by adapting it to modern times. With the intent to create a blend of convention and modernity, Amalgam was conceived in 2010.
A major focus at Amalgam is in defining ancient craft techniques in modern design vocabulary. Could you share with us some of the crafts that have been of particular interest to you?
Amalgam’s main focus is to reinterpret design as an amalgam of India’s rich cultural heritage and the new modern. Our intent is re-establish craft that is waning — craft that is not recognised. Inlay is one of them. Within the realm of craftsmen who work with stone, there are various techniques that have got lost over time with the inset of machine-made stone work.
Amalgam intends to overcome this challenge and bring these techniques and products to contemporary design.
How has your background in architecture influenced your approach to designing and fabricating home décor accessories?
Design, and particularly architecture, is one of the few professions, that provides all-round exposure to the various aspects of design through its education. Which is why often designers don’t hesitate to work across other diverse, allied disciplines. Since design education develops an attitude/approach to a product/building, even a page of a book , it isn’t hard for people to adapt themselves and find interests in various other fields such as web, media and film. Also, the way education trends are evolving globally, various news tools and media technologies are aiding in expanding the horizons even more.
Design is a way of life; everything around us influences us and the way we think. Having a background in architecture has shaped the way we approach any design project, where the focus is not on the final product but on the thought and process behind it. From a small object to a large building, the approach is always to produce well-detailed, sustainable design that is in line with cultural context and adds value to contemporary life. Amalgam tries to use as much scrap materials (both in stones/wood) that is a by-product/waste from construction and building sites. Usually, this scrap has no utility, and hence we try and use it to create lifestyle products.
Share with us the design development and manufacturing process of Amalgam products?
We draw inspirations from patterns and culture around us and our products are a modern reference to contemporary life. The studio workshops are based in New Delhi and Agra, where we work directly with the craftsmen, innovating with materials and adding to their competencies through the implication of technology. There are different craftsmen who we work with, depending on the product, materials and technique. We usually source the material ourselves, but on many occasions, our skilled craftsmen suggest materials and techniques, and then we work together to innovate with design and techniques. We provide the design to the artisan, but we also take their feedback/viewpoint about the workability/craftsmanship of each design and sometimes, even the design gets modified in the process.
Some of our best selling products are customised tables, The Sushi Paten, Architecture-holic, The Virtuous Lotus, The No-smoking Coasters, The Sommelier’s Collection and The Stilettos collection. We also customise walls and facades. The Amalgam intent is to customise products; we are happy to experiment and innovate. Apart from lifestyle accessories, we also design feature walls, furniture and customise for clients. The timeline for this depends on the type of product and the design complexity. Some of our new designs are for traditional products like floor vases, the Traditional Indian Chakla, and other daily use mundane accessories.
What would you say are some of the most significant achievements of Amalgam and what have been some of the challenges?
Amalgam started out as a passion and a hobby —nevertheless, always a full-time commitment. The fact that we have managed to sustain Amalgam over the last 4 years despite our other professional engagements and that we are still enthused by it is an achievement for us. We have also got great recognition in established design media and publications as well as a recent exhibition in Design X Design, New Delhi — an exhibition that showcases the work of 20 designers under the age of 35 in India. This was also a great opportunity, where we setup an installation that took Amalgam products to the next level of a visual showcase.
Innovation is crucial — in today’s global era of constant dialogue and exchange of ideas, we need to continuously innovate and use Traditional Indian art and craft as a means to represent the Indian design ethos. This is a challenge that we consistently strive to overcome.
How would you describe your experience in the online e-commerce dimension?
Our experience has been good so far and we continue to explore more. But there is no dearth of online portals anymore — which becomes a challenge to deal with to maintain costs, inventory and of course, quality to be eventually delivered to the customer. Social media and online platforms are great marketing tools that we have been using so far and our intent is to take Amalgam to the next level of propagating this craft of inlay not only in India, but globally as well.
We are taking these products on an international platform. We have been selling some products on Etsy already, and have always received a great response from the international market. We are open to opportunities of export and retail as well.
Tanya also runs a parallel venture at Epistle. Could you tell us something about this company?
I founded Epistle with the intent of broadening the horizons of Communications in the design domain in India. As architects, graphic designers, product designers or even artists, we are all inherently trained to let our work speak for itself.
While image is probably the most vital component for the success of a design business, stuck in the everyday rut of work, meetings, deadlines and ensuring the deliverance of good design, often we do not tap into our strengths and how that can be a path to growth.
Traditionally, most Indian designers and design practices steer away from communication activities. In fact, we do not recognise that in this world of increasing competition, the success of a design firm can simply be hinged on design communication and the portfolio becomes the most critical component.
This is where Epistle comes in—bringing together technical know-how, innovative insight and a pragmatic approach founded on industry experience, offering strategic communications expertise in line with business aspirations for design firms.
Anika heads Mold design studio—what is the main focus of this creative enterprise?
With a diverse experience of architecture and urban design spanning over 9 years in India and the UK, I Founded Mold design studio, a multidisciplinary design practice based out of New Delhi, providing solutions across Architecture, Urban Design, Interiors and Product Design.
Driven by the philosophy that any design solution — city, building, space or product must be sculpted to conform and address all requirements from the specified to the unstated — Mold approaches each project as a unique challenge. Mold works on the principle of the user being the most significant aspect of any design exercise.
At Mold, we understand the needs and requirements of our clients, their aspirations, to produce design-led solutions that are specifically personalised to individual needs. Through our projects, we explore and innovate with traditional prototypes, blending them with contemporary techniques and technology to conceive pragmatic design that fits well within the global, multi-cultural design agenda, with sustainability as a core, inherent value.
Current projects include residences and offices across NCR and Kumaon, where Mold is providing comprehensive services across all stages of design and construction.