Get floored with Art Deco

Mumbai boy Sameer Kulavoor has collaborated with a heritage tile company to give its designs an Art Deco twist. Giving him company are three other designers — Ayaz Basrai, Sian Pascale and Alice von Baum who add a dash of chutzpah to the company’s 92-year-old designs. The guide gauges how the city is set to get floored

These designs work well in a variety of interior styles. The resulting patterns are fresh and groovy. One can use the tiles alongside brighter pop-coloured walls and it will give a classic-modern vibe. If used sparingly in a small space, the tiles can add life and character. In larger spaces, the tiles create a great patterned texture for the flooring. Similarly, the tiles work well with a ‘metallic + industrial look’ or ‘classic + wood look’. They complement colourful or neutral surroundings, be it for a residence, restaurant, cafe, bar, office, studio or the outdoors. Kulavoor can develop any letter on request.

Bombay Duck Designs’ founder Sameer Kulavoor’s design for the Bharat Floorings & Tiles company. Inspired by the Art Deco architecture of the Fort precinct in the city, here is the design ‘A’ that can be arranged to create multiple designs.
Bombay Duck Designs’ founder Sameer Kulavoor’s design for the Bharat Floorings & Tiles company. Inspired by the Art Deco architecture of the Fort precinct in the city, here is the design ‘A’ that can be arranged to create multiple designs. 

Q. Mumbai/Bombay has always been a palpable source of influence in your work. How did the Art Deco inspiration emerge for this project?
A. One important facet of Bombay/Mumbai architecture is the Art Deco style of some of its buildings, which I have been lately fascinated with. Art Deco is not unique to our city — it was first seen in France and then travelled to the world — but Mumbai has the second largest number of Art Deco buildings in the world after Miami! For this project, I thought it might be a good starting point to look at Art Deco buildings, particularly around South Bombay for inspiration. I was inspired by the likes of the Eros cinema building and the buildings that line one side of Oval Maidan. I was working around ideas using Art Deco patterns and felt that combining typography with it might produce some unique results.

Q. Tiles unlike walls have strict uniform dimensions to them. Were there certain alphabets or ideas that you felt would not be manageable in the given context?
A. Well, it may be limiting for some. But I feel that the unique feature about tiles is that you can arrange them to produce some stunning patterns. As a graphic designer you can  take advantage of this unique characteristic of tiles when you design them — and that’s what I did.

Sameer Kulavoor
Sameer Kulavoor Designer

Q. How long did it take for you to work on this? How did the project originate? Did you bounce off your ideas with the rest of the designers?
A. I had been toying with the idea of working with Art Deco patterns for a while and when I connected with Bharat Floorings & Tiles (BFT), I thought it was a perfect outlet. We (Bombay Duck Designs) created tiny cardboard tile samples with our (Art Deco
+ type) design to explain the concept and the permutations/combinations to Bharat Tiles and...they were on board with the idea.

Q. What about challenges or euphoric moments?  
A. When we made the tiny sample tiles to try out the combinations of patterns, we were very excited to see the number of variations one could create using the same tile in different arrangements. The unique feature of our designs for BFT is that when you look at a single tile, you can read the letter. But when tiled together, some groovy new patterns are born! I guess the euphoric moment for me will be when I see these tiles bring life to a cosy corner of a tiny home or a sprawling industrial café/restaurant!

Available at: BFT outlets in Mumbai, Pune, Goa, and Bengaluru.
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The other collaborators for this tile range


Origametes (Origami inspired)
Origami and paper folding became springboards for ideation, and we used a few of these as part of the design process. Interestingly, the folded surfaces automatically tile regularly, and it’s a universe of explorations. We worked with a few paper Origami prototypes, to get a feel of what happens to surfaces when they’re folded. We selected the most promising four directions, named them such as  Metamorphosis and Giza, and proceeded to detail them out. We then applied these in various permutations and combinations, to create massive variety, for varied applications. We’ve currently worked on four families within the folding family, and there’s lots more to come. We’ve tried to create conceptually new directions for the tiles, like the Azul-Iket range, which is based on a simple assumption that you should be able to lay tiles randomly, and they should still line up and look good.
- Ayaz Basrai, The Busride Project

Japanese Lines

Japanese Lines
I drew upon on my meditation practice, and a book I was reading  then, called In Praise of Shadows by Junichiro Tanizaki, which was written in 1933. It’s an essay on Japanese aesthetics. The ideas in the book and my meditation and yoga had been feeding into my ceramic work and so they naturally also inspired the tile range. This appreciation for darkness, a rawness in materials and the aesthetic of a pre-technological world that Tanizaki talks about inspired the range. You can see this in the celebration of handmade and labour-intensive techniques, as well as the colour palette. With this range, I tried to build it into the design at an early stage — so that if you remove a line, or a dash, the tile can take on a whole new look when multiplied. I created all of the designs from scratch through my own paintings. I also drew a lot from my yoga asana, breathing and meditation practices; this is one of the reasons I lived in India! So, if that comes through for the Indians and if they find a resonance with it, then I am really happy. I painted the patterns using watercolours and watercolour paper. There are no symbols, just an expression of a meditative process, a wavering hand painted line that could mean anything to you.
- Sian Pascale, Young Citizens Design Company

AVB Bespoken

AVB Bespoken
I develop and create bespoke designs for flooring, furniture, textiles, and finishes. My signature collection for BFT is an amalgamation of  floor designs, patterns and tiles. I have worked out of Jaipur for 20 years, specialising in handblock prints, sophisticated clothes’ collections, which I sold through my own stores first in London on Portobello Road and later, at a new store in Munich under my own brand/name. I created the tiles out of my own blocks, comprehensive stories, which consisted of single motifs, background patterns, overprint designs and borders all in  multiple, off-colour ways. Nature is very important to me. I like animals and I combined this with a sense of graphic and a sense of humour as the base, for the fish and the rabbit collection. The fish design was first applied in a beach house in Maharashtra that I designed and a sea-facing apartment in Worli in one of the bedrooms.
- Alice von Baum, standalone designer

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