by Anmol AhujaAug 31, 2021
At first glance, Joshi House may seem like a sculptured marble space. Resembling the interiors that would be more appropriate in the Indian state of Rajasthan rather than the bohemian vicinity of Bandra in Mumbai, Joshi House is a restaurant that encapsulates the comfort of dining at home. That disjunct was the precise intent that Indian architect and designer, Ashiesh Shah, hoped to create in the busy metropolis of Mumbai. Envisioned as a hospitable oasis in a district usually overwhelmed by traffic and noise, the white marble interior exudes a material serenity that encapsulates the ideas and services of a Rajasthani homecoming.
The nuanced design elements of Joshi House are born out of a collaborative effort of restaurateur Suren Joshi’s desire to bring Rajasthani hospitality to a post-pandemic metropolis like Mumbai and Shah’s design philosophy. When asked about the initial spark that inspired the outcome, Shah elaborates in a comment to STIR saying, “From its inception, I was keen on offering people a novel experience, almost as if they have entered a completely new space. Having entered the site, the courtyard style corridors and outdoor areas instantaneously reminded me of a haveli [a housing typology that can be equated to a mansion]. I had the creative freedom to weave through the brief. ‘Joshi House’ pays homage to the client’s background reminiscent of his native place encapsulating the essence of artefacts and design objects from Rajasthan pushing the envelope with minimalism.”
The name and materiality of this new restaurant are meant to project a combination of warmth and luxury, as Joshi emphasises further in an official statement saying, "I want people to feel safe eating out, I want them to feel at ease at Joshi House as if they have come to my home.” Housed in a two-storeyed bungalow, the interiors certainly project a sense of home, an extravagant home but a home nonetheless. This is perhaps a post-lockdown trend we are sure to see repeatedly across the globe, in different spaces and various disciples of design. The home has been a refuge for many over the past 18 months. It has been our workspace, our rest, our relaxation and our entertainment. While Joshi House is not a direct reference to this, in some ways, it is a homage to the dwelling spaces.
The restaurant is visually divided into a few different areas. Referencing the old courtyards of Rajasthan, here the dining areas have been conceptualised as ‘private rooms’, the silver room and a black and white bar lounge. Each of these spaces is unique yet shares a common design language. When asked how he crafted the specific design language for this project, Shah says, “This modern cafe draws inspiration from the havelis of Rajasthan, serving as an oasis in the bustling streets of Bandra, the bohemian suburb of Mumbai. The overall experience of dining at the restaurant draws parallels from the customs and traditions of fine hospitality while serving a guest paired with the warmth lent by the intricacy of Rajasthani artisanship. Drawing from the charm of a Rajasthani haveli, the walls washed in white and paired with the skilfully handcrafted marble balustrades and arches reminiscent of Rajasthan help view this genre. Although traditional, the elements borrowed from Rajasthani architecture are steered towards a minimal lens with a modern flair celebrating Indian design.”
The private rooms celebrate craftsmanship through hand-carved columns, impeccably detailed railings and hand-cut mirrored ceilings; one can see Shah’s dedication to the philosophy of wabi-sabi present in every minute detail of the space. The outline of the table is attached to the walls and a perfectly synchronised niche on the wall. While this detail may be simple, it inherently ties the inner surfaces and the objects of the space together. These niches are further embellished with floor motifs that are directly inspired by the wall paintings of Rajasthani palaces and forts. While white marble is the primary material used, metal and colour inlays add an interesting layer to the restaurant's design.
The courtyard dining area is a mix between a sunroom and a traditional Indian domestic courtyard. Enclosed on three sides, one face of this area looks outside, with the wall beautifully proportioned to give an impression of a being in a luxurious manor. This is seen in the meticulously crafted railing details and the slender columns that support the glass roof. It also has a shallow water feature. The ripple sounds of the fountain add an auditory element to the restaurant to complement the visual and culinary experience.
When asked what were some of the key elements that reinforced Shah’s design language, he explains, “The space is infused with design objects and processes celebrating artisans and the notion of craftsmanship. Whether the monochromatic bar is characterised by its splendid ‘Tikri’ work or the finely painted murals and wall paintings across the interior, ‘Joshi House’ is a synchrony of artisanship from across the country. Custom-carved marble railings and columns are spread across the double heighted restaurant with intricate inlay work on its tables, a representation of impeccable handcrafted detail done by skilled artisans from Rajasthan.” The importance of an artisan and a craftsman continues to grow in the interior design community in the subcontinent; this is particularly evident in Ashiesh Shah’s urban oasis.