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An ‘Abode’ for creativity

DC | ROHINI NAIR
Published Dec 14, 2014, 5:58 am IST
Updated Mar 30, 2019, 7:12 am IST
Sian Pascale designer of distinctive interiors of a boutique hotel, tells us about the many influences on her work

On a narrow lane, off the busy Colaba Causeway in Mumbai, a stairway in a heritage building leads up to the boutique hotel Abode. Within the short time that it has been part of the cityscape, it’s already carved a niche for itself as an iconic location — due in no small part to the distinctive interiors designed by Melbourne-based Sian Pascale.

Sian, whose practice encompasses architecture, interiors and furniture and lighting design, was working in Mumbai when she happened to meet one of Abode’s founders, Abedin Sham, while on the dance floor at a wedding. “I suppose you could call it our initial meeting!” says Sian, talking about how she got involved with the Abode project. “I hadn’t expected anything to come of it, but once we met again — this time off the dance floor — I realised they were serious about the project.”

 

The building in which Abode is housed was built by David Sassoon in the late 1800s and had been converted into a hotel in the early 1980s. Unfortunately, many features of the building had been lost, so Sian began the conceptual design process by uncovering its history. “I realised the building could be seen as a microcosm of the city itself, representative of Bombay’s rich history and the concept behind the hotel became one of unravelling and overlapping this history to provide a story to the user,” she explains.

Sian “broke down” the city into four parts: “The coconut grove and fisherman’s village; the British Colony and the Raj; Art Deco Bombay and the Mumbai of today. For me, it was important to see the design as a way of learning more about the city,” Sian says. With that objective, all that was used within the Abode interiors was locally sourced; truck painters were brought in to paint the room numbers and signage. Vintage family photographs were hung on the walls.

While all of this makes evident why Abode is Sian’s most discussed work, she has other spaces too to her credit in Mumbai. There is The Art Loft & Kombava Café in Bandra and the Yoga 101 studio in the suburb of Andheri. For Sian, the latter project was a great fit as she is a yoga practitioner and her Melbourne studio works on yogic principles. “I am a yoga teacher now so this naturally flows into every aspect of my life, almost like a filter on a camera, changing the way I look at and do things,” Sian says. “In the yoga sutras, Patanjali talks about the yamas — outward observances such as honesty, non-harming and non-stealing — simple attitudes that are brought into everyday business and also help me to decide on the types of businesses and people I want to work with. Are they good people?

How do they treat their staff? Do they do work that I believe will have a positive impact on the world? I also ask myself these questions every day! Is what I am doing worthwhile? Am I supporting a craftsperson, keeping an idea alive, giving back to the world? If the answer is no — then I can’t continue with it.”

Apart from yoga, Sian has mentioned that she was fascinated with Indian culture and heritage and the work of architect Bijoy Jain as well. Other influences include the Melbourne architecture firm Six Degrees and Roterdam’s Doll Atelier Voor Bouwkunst. Several books have shaped Sian’s understanding of aesthetics, including Pet Architecture by Atelier Bowow; In Praise of Shadows by Junichiro Taniazaki; and the works of Haruki Murakami. “Murakami’s stories link very strongly to spaces and their mysteries — the potential for them to lead you to another dimension,” says Sian. The films of Wes Anderson (in terms of set design) and Woody Allen (“those cosy New York apartments are always at the back of my mind”) too have been influential.

India, however, is what has inspired Sian to do some of her best work. “There is so much that I am inspired by I was also pretty desperately poor in my first few months of living here and it drove me to produce a vast quantity of work, to survive. So it became one of the most productive times in my life, which I am grateful for — but also glad not to have to work with such intensity any more!” Sian says. “I do like to think though, that my best work is still ahead of me.”

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