At home with Malika Kashyap of Border and Fall

Malika V Kashyap is the founder of Border&Fall, a relevant and community-centric platform for design talent in India that aims to showcase and connect the most creative minds in Indian fashion. Quite naturally, Malika’s love for and thoughtfulness with regard to design have made their presence felt in her own home. We sat down in her and her husband’s open, personal and beautifully restrained space to talk about what design means to her as an individual, and as an Indian…

MK: When I was younger I’d dream about this place I was going to live in, and it was informed by references around me and things that I liked. But when it came down to it, I’m glad we realized we wanted less to begin with, instead of having too much all at once. When we first moved we only bought one chair, which we loved. Later we learned about a godown in Calcutta, which had all these family pieces – mostly left behind by my husband’s uncle, who passed away some years ago. We weren’t sure what it held – it sounded like a treasure box. His uncle was such an important part of his life, the sort of enigmatic person that everyone gravitated towards, so it’s nice to have pieces of his in our home now.

Old jewellery chest

Old jewellery chest

Much of it was of a particular colonial style, so it became important to then start developing our own design identity as we refurbished the pieces. So many of these things just came into our lives – for example, the charpoy is on ‘permanent’ loan from a friend, the chest of glass drawers is from another friend. I’ve waited for so long to have this chest in the house – it didn’t fit in our last apartment…

NR: Where did it come from?

MK: This came from a friend’s boutique that was closing. She found it in an antique shop, it’s an old jewellery display case.

NR: Right! When I look at it now it makes so much sense…

Detail

Detail

MK: Things that have a history or that grow with you are lovely – for instance, I already have such a strong history with this piece just because I’ve worked with it. I’ve sanded it down and polished it.  I like that sense of ownership. You forge an intimate bond with something.  I don’t necessarily remember sanding it down every time I pass it by, but it’s evocative.

NR: It’s funny to think about how much love we actually put into furniture – inanimate objects – and how much they end up meaning to us…

MK: Yes, take the antique charpoy, for example, I don’t know who has slept on it. But I know the love that we’ve put into it. It broke when we moved – the whole thing collapsed.  It was so hard to find someone who could weave it back together. But that became an opportunity to polish all the beams and learn how the weaving was done. So now I know how to do it– it takes two people…

charpoy and low table

MK: I feel like we take so much of this stuff for granted. I look around now and I realize I really haven’t taken stock till this very moment. So much has come our way through hands of other people and we don’t always know who they are. I think that sense of mystery can be really nice though, that sense of transient ownership.  Heirloom jewellery or things that are passed down are very much about that – sort of a collective narrative – and you can pick and choose what is most exciting for you to remember.

NR: Tell me about this low table, with the cushions. Why did you choose to have floor seating?

MK: The idea of this kind of intimate seating is something that I saw in my maami’s (aunt’s) house. It’s also very functional. These cushions are actually the ones that end up getting used the most around here. We all sit around the table, and it just changes the dynamic in our home. Sitting on the floor makes a lot of people uncomfortable – like, ‘why are you sitting on the floor, don’t sit on the floor, I’ll sit on the floor’, as if it’s a lesser place to sit. But then it’s amazing how people just open up. The attitude changes, the body language changes, and then the 2 cushions become six – so you can imagine six people sitting around here, with their backs against the sofa – it totally changes a space. I like the idea of things that are convertible, that you can move around. That’s why I like less furniture as well – just that idea of lightness, because things can become quite oppressive at times. There’s no need to have so much. I already feel like we live in a society that’s so crowded and excessive, and it’s nice to be in a space that feels a little calmer…

NR: I feel like we all take different things from India, and it’s about finding space within it and making it your own. But that can take a while, right? And that’s not necessarily a bad thing…

MK: Exactly. Trying to make it my own, and being okay with how long that’s taking. The bolsters on the charpoy still need to be properly covered – but we’re okay with just draping textile over them for now. It’s nice to just experiment with things, and not have everything be too permanent. The permanence of things isn’t so important. It’s okay to let things go, I think.  As I grow older I realize it’s okay – things need to break, things need to be lost.

NR: Sometimes to even realize what they meant to you…

MK: Exactly, and it’s okay to just value them and realize that that value remains within you, so it doesn’t matter whether you actually have it or not.

the only chair

the only chair

Writing desk

Writing desk

NR: India right now is in a very exciting time because our modern design identity has not been set, the rules have not been established. So people are trying to push the boundaries, play around…

MK: That’s right, and I’m trying to figure out what that means too, this ‘modern Indian design’ identity. I think that’s what’s really exciting about it. And of course, there are challenges there. A lot of people have done it in the past – for example, kitsch has been modern. But the way that they express that identity – with the tiffin carriers and all that kind of stuff – I think that’s been done to death and we’re tired of it at this point. Or the use of too much colour. So it’ll be exciting to see that grow. The challenge will be to have excellence on every level. And for design to be something that is thoughtful in terms of process, product, result and the popular use that it finds. I don’t feel like we have that yet, very few people are thinking along those lines. That’ll be hard, because we’re known for craft, but the finishing of things has always been one of our biggest challenges. We don’t finish things well.  Something that’s cobbled together can bring joy, but the joy of something that’s perfectly executed – that has just ‘enough’ and is done right, is totally different. It will be nice to see that develop. Hopefully it will, sooner rather than later.

 

 

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