Srila Chatterjee fell into the décor space somewhat unexpectedly and is now part of the duo that owns Baro. We caught up with Srila at her beautiful store to discuss the idea, the furniture, the aesthetic and the brand.
“I ran Highlight Films for over 25 years and got to a point in the business where I really disliked it. The one part of the business that I continued to be completely hands-on with was servicing, specifically production servicing for other brands. On one such visit to a set, I met Siddharth Sirohi, our production designer who I kind of knew but not very well, and during those six weeks we found out we shared a common interest in art, furniture and design.”
Srila began by curating furniture pop-ups at Blue Frog and moved on to setting up a pseudo furniture store at the Highlight Office, where every piece of furniture was for sale.
“In my conversations with Siddharth, we came up with this plan to make furniture and actually do it. It began as an experiment in the Highlight office since we had a lot of space. We converted it into a living store so you could still have meetings and lunch there but every piece was for sale. We called that Highlight Living,” she says.
The duo found that friends and family gravitated toward their aesthetic. Their feedback was the positive affirmation they needed to confirm to themselves that there was indeed a gap in the market for the kind of products they were designing, one which they could now look to fill with even greater gusto.
“Through this experiment, I discovered that there was a space for our kind of language and our kind of presentation in terms of really unique fabrics, a particular aesthetic and the use of folk and tribal art. It was an experiment that worked and we concluded that we had now reached the point where we needed to grow and take our brand to the next level.”
Baro, which means ‘12’ in Bengali and sits at 12 Sun Mill Compound, is unlike any space we’ve seen before. It brings together Art Déco vibes, mid-century modern furniture, and traditional Indian folk art with handmade textiles.
“We started talking about this in July of this year, it moved quickly and we found this space and made it happen. What I was very clear on was that I wanted a place which had other things as well, not just the furniture. I wanted to include ideas that complemented each other and created a complete look. Through my life, working on things like curating the Kala Ghoda Festival, I have met so many amazing artisans and crafts people, so I had access to a lot of cool products. This made it very easy to find things that I liked and thought would work.” Srila is very passionate about all the partners she works with, the camaraderie with whom makes the store more than just another furniture store. Russell Street provides linens and textiles and is part of the Anokhi family from Calcutta, Anek makes carpets for Baro, India Circus does homeware…and the list goes on.
“Folk art has often been viewed in a very derogatory, ‘cottage industry’ kind of way. If you can change the context and you put the same traditional item in the context of a contemporary, modern look, these pieces take on a whole new persona. I believe this art can really transform homes and I hope that people start to respect the craft because we deal directly with the artists who’ve put all their trust in us.”
Affordability is something Srila is very conscious of. She is aware that people are used to (and sometimes expect to) spending lakhs on brand name furniture and interior decorators, but she wants Baro to be a place that is welcoming, comfortable and not intimidating.
“I want people to be honest with themselvesand with the space. It’s about exploring and discovering your style, maybe a style you didn’t know you had. I don’t want anyone to feel intimidated or overwhelmed by design, and hopefully, that comes through in the space.”
The furniture is designed by her partner Siddharth and is heavily influenced by the mid-century modern movement. Every piece is locally manufactured, using only reclaimed, weathered teak and treated with natural oils and polishes.
“The furniture is very versatile and it’s all about the treatment and how you use the piece. The furniture that Siddharth designs allow for any kind of interpretation, depending on how you use it. You could change the fabric, and the entire piece changes. I think people with imagination find ways to use these pieces in interesting ways. You can dress the pieces up or down and you can customise the furniture to what you want. We add in Art Deco here and there, but sparingly, as it was a beautiful period, but also very heavy in terms of design elements. I think you need to choose little bits and use them intelligently.”
This celebration of balance, form, function and colour is only one reason why we recommend you visit Baro today.
“With mid-century design, nothing is over the top because it’s so simple. We’ve had chairs in the past that have really wild pulkari textiles on them but they look great because the heaviness of the fabric is balanced out by the clean lines of the chair.”
Baro aims to be a space where like-minded people can find individual expression, using pieces as much or as little as they wish. The idea is not to create one design aesthetic but to use each item in a different way, creating new spaces and even more ideas. Srila curates the best of what she finds in India and offers the pieces up to Mumbai with no assumptions and no pretense.
Devika Pathak is a Mumbai-based freelance writer who enjoys the cinema, yoga and chocolate chip cookies. She's secretly a Panda, too. To learn more about her and her work, please visit: www.devikapathak.com. Discern Living makes designer homes accessible to you. Whether you're looking to design your new home, or need a makeover, our panel of well-known designers is here to understand your style and help you create your dream space at a price within your reach. Get started here.