A self-made entrepreneur, Masooma Rizvi has years of experience in interior design, museology and art curation that earned her “Young Achiever of the Year” award in 2002. She established her own firm — Belita Design Solutions where she currently holds the position of managing director and creative head.
This firm caters to a niche market in India and abroad through their unique expertise. Some of their most prestigious projects include working on the décor of Rashtrapati Bhavan, interior design for Manekshaw Center and creating and designing sculptures for The Diaspora Gallery. Rizvi shares how old heritage buildings can be conserved. Excerpts from an interview:
Q. How has building your own firm helped you in terms of creativity and choice of work?
I have always worked independently. I genuinely believe that the creative process is different for everyone and I am fearless whenever I create. I push all the boundaries of creativity to challenge myself and improve my work. Even though I’ve been in this field since I was 24 years old, I still keep on challenging myself to do better and create different art forms.
Having my own firm enables this process. I do not have to limit my creativity to company targets, profit margins, or another person’s idea of creativity or profitability. Building my own firm from scratch gave me keen insights into the hurdles and difficulties that budding artists and women entrepreneurs face. In my firm, I make it a point to hire maximum women artists without going to any middlemen.
I travel across the country to meet these artists and employ them directly so that their work gets due credit. In fact recently, I had a Women Empowerment Exhibition in collaboration with The American Centre, New Delhi, showcasing the works of 10 budding women artists. I am really selective about the projects I accept. I have the liberty to pick projects that excite me and push me out of my comfort zone.
With each space, I spend countless hours perfecting every last detail. All my projects are unique, one-of-a-kind designs that reflect the owner’s personality. While the design is mine, I make it a point to liven the space which I have to design in a manner that accentuates and emphasises the distinguished personalities and characteristics of those who will inhibit the space.
Q.What things do you keep in mind when you look at a space that you have to work your magic on?
We live in a world of clutter. Every building — commercial or residential — is full of pieces and art works that are kept there just because they haven’t been thrown out yet. My mantra has always been “form must follow function.” Whenever I walk into a space, my first thoughts are regarding how we can make the space user friendly and beautiful. I like spaces that breathe.
Regardless of the actual carpet area, if done right, every space can breathe, look unique and have a soul. Every piece of furniture and art must be curated or made to fit in so well that when you walk in, it looks as though the space was built around its décor and not the other way round.
All my work is designed keeping just that particular space in mind. I look into the flow of natural light, cross ventilation, the colour palette best suited for the space.
Q. In today’s world where the new is replacing the old, how important is conservation of heritage, monuments and architecturally important buildings?
Our cultural heritage is the only treasure that is handed down through generations. While the world continues to move forward with massive technological advances, the architectural feats achieved in India centuries ago are unparalleled. It is extremely important to conserve our heritage sites. Not only are these sites aesthetically stunning, they all contribute to India’s cultural and traditional legacy.
Q. How do you balance the new and old aspects when working on conservation and redesigning heritage projects?
A heritage site is like a precious gem that needs the perfect foil. The essence is its architectural features and its scale. These must be echoed and replicated when designing the new. A balance of the two will sustain and conserve a heritage building in the long run.
Q. You have experience in interior design, museology and art curation. How do you mix the elements of these separate fields to create something that sets you apart from the rest?
I don’t. I just follow my heart. Every project is unique. There is no one glove that fits all solutions, neither is there a guidebook that goes with interiors. You have to do what feels right. Having worked in this field for more than 25 years, I have of course found patterns, colours and quick-fixes that always work.
It’s true that all three elements require different skill sets and are demanding fields in themselves. Yet, they are so different that they rarely ever overlap and I enjoy that. I can recall few projects that have required all three skill sets. One project that comes to mind is the Pravasi Bharatiya Kendra in New Delhi which is also India’s first living Museum!
Q. Is the study of numerology and Vashtushastra related to helping you widen your horizons?
Vastushastra helps me in understanding a space better and tapping in to the positive energies of that space. This is important as the right orientation of the décor and layouts of the interiors helps bring out the positive vibes in the space. I got into numerology as a hobby because I loved the idea behind it and was curious to see if it really worked.
It so happened that during that phase, a certain number kept popping up in my life for all important events, so I jumped right in and took up numerology for fun. As I became more tuned to the process and saw its wonderful manifestations over the years, I have developed a healthy respect for the occult sciences. However, I have never used numerology in my work as a designer.