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Ashiesh Shah On Why He Is Drawn To The Imperfect

From the chevron wallpaper in Jacqueline Fernandez’s walk-in shoe closet to the beautiful piano in Aditya Roy Kapoor’s bachelor pad, architect Ashiesh Shah knows how to convince his clients into adding design elements to their homes that they didn’t approve of earlier. He is the man behind Hrithik’s Roshan’s heavenly abode and Ranbir Kapoor’s breezy sea-facing penthouse.

His principle is rooted in the Japanese philosophy of Wabi Sabi, which means the beauty in the incomplete, imperfect, and impermanent. Shah’s designs are leaned towards clean lines, simple textures, and spaces.

We talked to the award-winning architect and interior designer about his inspiration, aesthetic sensibility, and why we should embrace the concept of imperfect beauty now, more than ever. 

Image Credits: Ashiesh Shah
Image Credits: Ashiesh Shah

Luxeva: What is the essence of the Wabi Sabi philosophy?

Ashiesh Shah: “My work has evolved over the years and with it, my philosophy on aesthetics. My approach draws inspiration from my belief in the aesthetic philosophy of Wabi-Sabi. The Japanese concept is derived from Buddhist teachings. Thus, asymmetry and asperity play a major role in my practice. I appreciate spaces that incorporate natural objects and processes and I try to maintain this principle in my own practice. Nothing is permanent, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect. The aesthetic is described as beauty that is imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete. I don’t make a special effort to bring it to my practice, but if you look at my spaces, you see that element of finished and unfinished.”

 

Luxeva: How does one embrace the imperfect?

Ashiesh Shah: I've always been drawn to traditional Indian handicrafts and handmade processes that embrace the imperfect in their works itself. Anything that is hand done or handmade by itself has a tactile quality that is unparalleled. Knowing how to play with the imperfect is where the challenge lies. It's essential for form, geometry, texture, and function to be in synthesis to embrace the unfinished.”

 

Luxeva: How do you incorporate it in real life in architecture and interiors?

Ashiesh Shah: “I marry contemporary design elements with a wabi-sabi aesthetic through colour, texture, form and the like. The aesthetic comes into play beautifully through iconic furniture pieces and wall finishes that bring balance within the interior space. Balance is key in such design processes where tipping towards either side of the scale gives you a result that is unsatisfactory.”

 

Luxeva: Are there certain elements, brands, pieces that one should focus on as per the Wabi-Sabi philosophy?

Ashiesh Shah: “I tend to lean towards using works of designers such as Faye Toogood, Rick Owens, Christian Liaigre, and the like. They come with form-focused functional products with a keen balance of materiality and texture. Incorporating Indian tribal art and handicrafts is yet another way of bringing a Wabi-Sabi philosophy into the interior space. And that's a challenge I have personally taken up through my Atelier, a creative space debouching with a fusion of craftsmanship and a contemporary aesthetic.” 

Image Credits: Ashiesh Shah
Image Credits: Ashiesh Shah

Luxeva: Why is the Wabi Sabi way of designing a home better than any other way?

Ashiesh Shah: “It's a personal preference. There's no best way to design. I too don't force it within my spaces but it's a part of my overarching aesthetic and finds a way into my spaces.”

 

Luxeva: In this age of constant competition, clutter, and ideals of perfection, do you think we need to imbibe this philosophy in our life now, more than ever?

Ashiesh Shah: Definitely! I think imbibing Wabi-Sabi brings forth an appreciation for vision and texture. How a space feels instead of just how it appears. Wabi-Sabi couples beautifully with 'less is more,' a philosophy of decluttering spaces that, in my perspective, is crucial.

 

Luxeva: Any tips for people who'd like to refurbish their own homes according to this philosophy?

Ashiesh Shah: “Open spaces and natural light are key. Be open to incorporating art, contemporary as well as Indian tribal.”

 

Luxeva: Are there any tangible benefits of incorporating Wabi-Sabi in your home?

Ashiesh Shah:Wabi-Sabi plays with finished and unfinished spaces, surfaces and textures. It primarily focuses on how things feel, synthesising rough surfaces with smooth, warm with cold, where balance is key. Incorporating Wabi-Sabi is truly a complete sensory experience!”

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