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Kayzad Shroff and Maria Leon: Designers of the week

JUN 5, 2017 | By Tasneem Merchant
L-R:The water body and the lighting sculpture over it frame the entrance of the house when you exit the elevator. The sound of the water is constant throughout the apartment ;The kids' room has a pink theme with a jungle gym like feel for the child to move around and play in. One wall is covered with a world map marking the places the family has visited;The family room is divided into several areas. The TV viewing space has a wooden latticed ceiling from which suspend edison bulbs;The head boards in both the boudoirs are elaborate and reflect Kayzad and Maria's penchant for experimenting with colours, materials, textures and patterns.
From being classmates at Cornell University and part of the same project groups to life partners and co-founders of ShroffLeon, Kayzad Shroff and Maria Leon’s journey has been an exciting one. “We started working together outside graduate school as well and participated in competitions. From then it was clear that we had a very good working dynamic. We both wanted to have our own practice and not work for anyone. As we saw an opportunity in India, we moved here and so far it has been good,” says Maria.
They believe in making projects that are timeless and hence, do not adhere to the concept of “trends”. For them, a project going out of style is not an option and so they build and design things that would appeal to the senses at all times. “We don’t want people to get tired of our spaces easily. There are certain design sensibilities that can be appreciated beyond time and trends and this is why we are partial towards straight lines,” she explains.
Their design philosophy
The duo do not subscribe to any particular design thought or school per se, but tend to gravitate towards certain aesthetics. “In general, we like to use a relatively minimalistic palette, and within that we experiment with different contrasting colours and textures,” avers Kayzad. “We use the constraints of a material or construction technique as a design element and highlight that through various applications. This is something we do in our architecture as well as our interior design.”
Their most recent project
Kayzad and Maria just finished Apartment 901 in Mumbai which reflects their combined design prowess. The family home reflects straight lines, bold use of colour and an unusual but fitting material palette. While the client already had some semblance of what he wanted to do with the flat in mind, Kayzad and Maria saw greater potential and encouraged the owner to reconsider the changes. “We ask a  lot of lifestyle related questions to the client like how they live,  how they interact with each other, the expectations of the house and quite often, based on this information, we reconfigure the house ourselves. At times we propose additional rooms or reverse the number of rooms, which happened in this case. We discuss a lot with our clients before we come down on a program with them,” explains Kayzad.
With the go ahead from the client, Kayzad and Maria converted the five bedroom home to a four bedroom with an enormous living area and terrace that serves several functions such as family room, entertainment space and even dining area.
“They had two bedrooms at extreme ends. What we did was coverted one bedroom into a master suite by combining it with the corridor and the other one was converted into a walk-in closet with a giant bathroom,” adds Kayzad. When asked about the elaborate headboards in the boudoirs, Maria replies “We see interiors as an opportunity to experiment with material, textures, finishes, colours, detailing etc. This headboard is one such example too. So one is a large marble tile which combines geometrical lines and the other room has leather with handmade patterns.”
The living room has its own distinct characteristics. The space, largely dominated by a bright orange wall, is neatly sectioned into the family room, TV viewing area and even the terrace. “Basically, it had to be a fluid area as it had to fulfil many requirements. On one side they have a glass door that opens up to the dining area, on the other is the terrace and one end is the designated TV room. All the doors are fully openable so that it can become a great big party room. More over, the ceiling has a wooden lattice work from which suspend Edison bulbs, lending a warm glow to the entire area,” expounds Maria.
The only exception the pair have made in the house is the kids’ room, which is in a blushing pink tone and reflects the idea of a jungle gym. “We did one wall with a map that shows the place the family has been to. It can be modified to add more places and can be outlined on the wall itself. It serves an album of their life,” says Kayzad.
To inject a more gentle, softer touch to the house, show pieces in organic, curved forms are peppered throughout, come in complementing shades while others induce contrast. This, as Maria concludes, was to “add some balance to the design and the house.”
Also read: Create a bedroom drenched in Madder Red