Minnie Bhatt’s foray into design began in the late ’90s when she was assigned to oversee a residential project on her first day at work as an intern. Dealing with contractors and understanding functionality of materials, the stint taught her the “practical side” of designing projects. She recalls, “I realised that designing wasn’t about sitting in front of a drawing board and letting your imagination flow. Designing has to be about practicality and comfort.”
These aspects form an important part in her projects too. Kick-starting her independent practice, Minnie Bhatt Designs, in 2008, her portfolio now includes popular hospitality spaces like Silver Beach Café, Radio Bar, Burma Burma, Mirchi and Mime and Ghas Poos besides a couple of residential projects.
The restaurant Radio Bar, in Mumbai, remains one of her most-talked-about projects in recent times.
A retro-style casual bar that pays a tribute to the radio, Minnie set the tone with vintage radio sets, a jukebox, boom boxes, microphone lights and a black and white floor inspired by the keys of a piano. She says, “Before the television age, it was the radio that connected millions of people across the world. Radio Bar is an ode to that era.”
With Burma Burma, Minnie decided to present the “distinct” Buddhist culture using elements like prayer wheels, parasols and lacquerware across the minimalist walls. She further used materials like teak wood, natural cane to give it an authentic feel.
The late Mumbai-based architect, Charles Correa’s Kanchenjunga Apartments in Kemps Corner, Mumbai, remains Minnie’s favourite. The modern tower with its courtyard balconies and cubic forms makes a visual impact like no other. She recollects being overwhelmed by the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in Mumbai too. She observes, “The charming hotel lobby with its white marble fountains and wall carvings, the embroidered canopy at the Shamiana coffee shop and the pastel green walls of the sea lounge are all part of my design journey.”
Expectedly Charles, and design legend Antoni Gaudi feature in her list of designers who shaped her approach to design. She says, “Antoni Gaudi created organic, unusual and eclectic structures which are surreal. The Sagrada Familia church and the unique tile mosaic sculptures at the Guell Park are a few of my favourites. Then there is Charles Correa’s work that I greatly admire. The way his spaces breathe light without the absence of ornamentation, add to the purity of design of the buildings he has created.”
For Minnie, design is all about creating “tasteful, eclectic and timeless spaces”. She says, “I like using vintage and modern elements together. I don’t work with a repetitive design direction. For instance, I don’t use stone or
Minnie has a few words for those aspiring to become space designers. She says, “Each project has to have its own unique flavour. Residential projects must reflect the personality of the owner rather than the designer of the space. A hospitality project similarly, must be in sync with its cuisine, personality and positioning; a boutique or showroom must firmly adhere to its focus on the merchandise.”