by Devanshi ShahSep 02, 2021
Mumbai city's Colaba Causeway is a bustling sector of the metropolis. From art galleries to high-end retail spaces and street shopping, one can easily spend the entire day exploring the neighbourhood. With architecture that consists of restored colonial buildings and a few newer additions, the district is home to some of the most interesting adaptive reuse projects in the city. Nestled within the busy by-lanes is Indian architect and interior designer Ashiesh Shah's latest restaurant design, ‘Neuma’, which also marks Indian filmmaker Karan Johar's entry into the hospitality world.
Located in what was previously Mumbai’s first fine-dining restaurant Indigo, Neuma retains the restaurant's architectural elements while completely transforming the interiors. Shah’s new design scheme reveals an innate knowledge of the bungalow’s architecture. One could, in part, associate this with Shah’s 2021 solo presentation OTLO. The solo exhibition saw the landmark Indigo restaurant stripped off all its adornments, revealing its essential structure. In the hallow of the bungalow, Shah carefully placed sculptural objects that had form and function. While the interior design of Neuma is not directly influenced by OTLO, the presentation perhaps gave Shah a volumetric and spatial understanding of the restaurant that is reflected in this transformation.
Speaking on the inspiration of the interior design, Shah in a comment to STIR said, "The idea of Neuma draws parallels with filmmaking and storytelling - much like creating a world within a world. Concocting multiple experiences within one environment, the diner can experience a change in the pace of time through space. As one traverses from one room to another, they are offered to experience the joy of slow living and a contrasting fast-paced high energy environment under the same roof."
The idea of transporting one to a different time and space is illustrated through the varying colour pallets of each dining space. Retaining the bungalow in a room-like spatial division, Shah presents each space with a new avatar, infusing it with colour and art. Adding to the character of each room is the presence of custom handmade pieces commissioned from craft communities across different parts of India. In addition to taking inspiration from his travels, the spatial design of Neuma is also reminiscent of a collector’s home, with art pieces and collectables sourced and carefully placed within the restaurant.
Every room has a distinct character. In the outdoor area, in hues of white with detailed carvings and stone pebbles, Shah recreates the architectural language around the existing greenery, seamlessly merging with the aesthetic of the bungalow. Bathed in natural light, the oakwood sun porch area with its skylight opens up to the trees and sky. The strategic positioning of the seating and décor skilfully distracts from the fact that the bungalow is located amidst a dense metropolis.
The courtyard space features black and white cement tiles that are complemented by the detailed moulding panels on either side. This combines the old world charm with contemporary craft. The bar is characterised by a sculptural light fixture inspired by Anish Kapoor. Finished in red and clad in wood, the bar has a similar atmosphere to a cigar lounge room. The private dining area, also referred to as the corset room, features chairs and curtains with Channapatna bead tassels in tones of yellow. The detailed corset panels paired with Shah’s signature Guccha light create an interesting duality.
The staircase leading to the first floor features a rope-detailed handrail inspired by Shah’s Sri Lanka sojourn. The outdoor bar on the second storey is in black and is coupled with foliage and water features contrasted by its adjacent indoor dining area which has a nautical theme, composed of blue and white swatches. With each room highlighting a different theme, the restaurant in essence, spatial at least, allows visitors a different experience each time.