Gauri Khan: I've always had my identity

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Back in the early 2000s, when Shah Rukh Khan bought a sea-facing bungalow in Bandra West (now known as Mannat), his wife Gauri Khan had her first real tryst with interior designing. 
Years later, as she becomes a much-sought-after celebrity interior designer, HT chats with the media-shy Gauri about her aesthetic sense, family, her latest project (a restaurant, Arth, in Bandra) and more.
You have often been called the ‘First Lady of Bollywood’. You must be happy that you have created an identity for yourself as a successful professional?
I’ve always had my identity, even if you didn’t see it (smiles). There is a time for everything in life. Earlier, the kids needed more attention, and that’s where I wanted to put my energy. But now, with the two of them having grown up, there’s more time, so I am enjoying the more structured focus on work.
With all the responsibilities at home — three kids and a superstar husband — how do you make time for your designing projects?
Actually, I’m selective about the projects that I take on, so there is that balance anyway. Also, Aryan and Suhana are both in boarding [schools] now and Shah Rukh is quite busy. So, it’s just AbRam [with me].
You said in an interview that Shah Rukh spotted the property for your new store in Juhu…
I must say that he’s been a great support.
You’ve also mentioned that Shah Rukh himself has a great aesthetic sense in terms of design…
Shah Rukh is very talented with design and he is extremely creative. In fact, I discuss work with him off and on, and our conversations are always fruitful (smiles).
What’s your process of designing a place?
It starts with a client brief. It’s essential to understand the intended use and the vision for the space you are designing. For instance, my latest project, Arth is all about gas-free cooking that blends traditional and new techniques as well as ingredients. The ambience must support the culinary experience. Then, there are other aspects such as translating those ideas into technical drawings, the actual construction and finishing it.
Recently, you also designed Ranbir Kapoor’s house and a nursery for Karan Johar’s children…
You know, it’s always special to do things for people who are close to you.
Do you feel you have come a long way since you worked on your own home (Mannat in Bandra)?
I have always enjoyed the creative process of design. So, this has been a fulfilling journey (smiles).
As a creative person, is interior designing more of a technical process or is it a creative one?
I would say that it’s both. Of course, you need a creative aesthetic, but it needs to be supported by technical excellence.
Any plans to expand your chain of stores to other Indian cities and possibly outside India?
There are no such plans at this point.
Tell us something about your new store, which will apparently have two parts…
The store opens on July 1. And yes, it’s in two parts — one part is the furniture, which is crafted and designed in India, and the other part will have the international brands such as Roberto Cavalli and Ralph Lauren that I collaborate with. I am really looking forward to it.
We’ve heard that you just got done with a new project…
It’s true. Arth is my first design project for a restaurant. When I was approached for the same, they wanted to create a space that was inviting, and one that would enhance one’s dining experience. So, the ambience is rustic-chic. We’ve used beautiful light installations ranging from gorgeous old world chandeliers to phylum pendants and even a gorgeous rex mirror to create a feeling of warmth and intimacy.