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Square Barrel. The very name steps out of the box into the quirky and offbeat. It makes one curious and think of different possibilities, removed from the staid and ordinary. Well, that is exactly what husband-wife duo Shikha and Pratik Barasia set out to do with Square Barrel – a brand of funky furniture.
(The colourful and delightful Square Barrel Store in Mumbai)
Shikha is the niece of Dr. Anurag Kanoria, owner of The Great Eastern Home (a well-known store for Fine Interiors in Mumbai), and is no stranger to the furniture trade and its nuances. Pratik is a businessman, who grew up surrounded by an entrepreneurial spirit.
Each creation at Square Barrel is unconventional, bold, and a take on the lighter side of life. You can’t possibly ignore their pieces – an armchair with a walking stick for an arm, a Rubik’s Cube side table vivid with pop art, and a cabinet with life-like hands extending as handles, amongst so many impressive pieces.
(The Rubik's Cube Side Table, which can be customized to client preferences)
We spoke to Shikha about her journey so far, her inspirations and plans for the future.
You grew up surrounded by antiques and period furniture. What inspired you to design funky furniture?
Growing up with my uncle and visiting The Great Eastern Home, which specializes in fine furniture, art and collectibles, I’ve always loved and appreciated period furniture. In contrast, my schooling was in modern design at the Raffles Design School. My design style developed as a combination of modern and futuristic aesthetics.
(The Modern 'Zig-Zag' Cabinet)
When I looked around me, I realized several established brands were already making regular, modern furniture as well as period furniture. There was nobody creating truly quirky furniture for the experimental client, and I saw an opportunity there. I wanted to create furniture that wasn’t just funky on the surface but had its whole design rooted in funkiness.
(A practical storage cabinet that looks like the famous London Telephone Booth)
Young people want something that makes a statement within their homes. At Square Barrel, we help them achieve this with our furniture pieces, that are conversation starters.
What are some of the advantages that you have, being part of a family of furniture connoisseurs?
There are so many! I have a strong design and technical sense as a result of growing up in an artistic environment. I have access to very skilled craftsmen, and a focus on quality is rooted in my conscious. It also helps to have an expert in the family! Whatever I design, I show it to my uncle, and he keeps pushing me to do better.
Are there any challenges while designing quirky furniture?
Some design concepts are so ‘off’ to begin with, that the journey from ideation to execution can be tricky. Plus, I want to ensure that each piece doesn’t just look good, but is completely functional. The challenges, however, make the process of creation more interesting. For instance, in our 'Hands Cabinet', we explored different ways in which to add real-looking hands to the design, and finally settled on 3-dimensional hand-like shapes encircling the knobs, which give the cabinet such a unique look!
(The Hands Cabinet)
Square Barrel is about “Art with Utility”. How do you bring this to life within each of your designs?
I can’t make a piece of furniture that has no practical use. Keeping this in mind, I always design our pieces by starting with an art form I love, and then trying to introduce it within a functional piece of furniture.
(Wooden Side Table with Aboriginal Art Patterns)
For example, I love Tribal Art, so we have tables printed with motifs from Gond and Aboriginal art. There’s also a cabinet where the design itself is inspired by Zulu art. Recently, I’ve created side tables in which we framed original Madhubani paintings of popular games such as Ludo and Snakes & Ladders, that come with a glass top, so they’re arty, yet functional.
(Side Tables with Madhubani Paintings Depicting Popular Games)
Where do you look for inspiration? Any places you like to visit to refresh your design palette?
I look at magazines and avidly browse online. I don’t look at other furniture for inspiration; instead I look at art forms. For me, the art form has to inspire, and then I decide how to incorporate it into a piece of furniture. As for places I like to visit, Florence and Rome are my favourite cities for art inspiration.
(The Mirrored Zulu Cabinet, inspired by the African tribal art of the Zulus)
How is it working as a husband-wife duo?
It is very convenient. I do the design and construction, while Pratik takes care of the business side of things. We discuss everything and really enjoy talking about work. We have clearly defined roles and don’t sit in the same office space, so any conflict is easily resolved.
Do the internet and online platforms play a major role for your brand?
Absolutely! We rely heavily on social media and select platforms such as Artisera, to market our furniture. Everyone is online today, and people are getting exposed to different styles and aesthetics through the internet. As a result, people are inspired to create beautiful homes, and willing to experiment with funky furniture like ours!
(The Signature Square Barrel Bar)
Any interesting projects or designs you are working on right now?
We are developing a range of smaller accessories as an extension to our furniture range. Also, currently, a lot of my designs feature tribal art, but in the future, I also want to incorporate other styles and forms, such as Modern Art. The central theme is to be funky in whatever we do.
You can explore an impressive range of Square Barrel's furniture pieces on Artisera.
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