Often called the ‘First Lady of Bollywood,’ Gauri Khan (née Chhibber) is known as the wife of actor Shah Rukh Khan, but is so much more than that! A celebrity interior designer in her own right, she was recently named one of India’s most powerful women by a reputed publication. Known for her work with high-profile individuals such as Mukesh Ambani, Roberto Cavalli and Ralph Lauren, for whom she has designed spaces in the past, Gauri recently collaborated with Bengaluru-based Bonito Designs — a bespoke interior design studio — as a strategic partner and a brand ambassador, with the aim of making designer homes more accessible to discerning consumers across the country.
Born and brought up in Delhi, Gauri began her foray into design when she took up a course in fashion design from the National Institute of Fashion Technology, Delhi. In 2002, she and her husband, Shah Rukh Khan, established a film production and distribution company, Red Chillies Entertainment, eleven years after they were married.
She first expressed interest in interior design, however, as a hobby, while renovating her Bandra bungalow, Mannat, in which she resides with her husband and three children. In 2010, she ventured into interior designing officially in partnership with Sussanne Khan (then married to actor Hrithik Roshan) and in the same year, they collaborated on their first commercial project together in Vadodara.
In 2014, Gauri launched her first concept store called The Design Cell in Worli, Mumbai; and was invited in 2016 to show her designs at the prestigious Maison et Objet show in Paris. In 2017, she then launched her own design studio, Gauri Khan Designs in Juhu, Mumbai; and has since collaborated with many brands across the globe on interior design and home décor projects.
Collaborating with Bonito Designs will now see Gauri (along with couturier Manish Malhotra) working on designer homes, pitching in with their expertise from the world of interior design, home décor and luxury lifestyle. Bonito Designs is now operational in Mumbai, Thane and Bengaluru and plans to launch in Pune, Hyderabad, Delhi and Chennai over the next 18 months. We catch up with Gauri for a conversation on the partnership, her take on design and a lot more…
What led you to choose this field as your career?
I have always been fascinated with design, and I feel it comes naturally to me. My background in graphic design and experimenting with charcoal and oil painting further helped me hone my aesthetic sense. The first time I realised that design would be my calling was when I designed our home Mannat, and everything came into place beautifully. I received a lot of praise and positive reviews from my friends and family. It gave me the confidence to get into the world of interior design.
Design can mean many things to many people; what does it mean personally to you?
I have always been captivated by design. It allows me to express myself and my creativity. Design is a significant part of my life and I felt like design and design curation came naturally to me while growing up. Design is a means of expression. You can let your imagination and creativity run wild when you brainstorm and conceptualise designs. However, when working on a client’s design, their inputs are the top priority. Club that with your expertise, and you’ll have the recipe for something that can easily be called an artwork.
As an interior designer, how does collaborating with a brand in a similar space work for you?
Collaborating with a brand in the same space will mean joining forces to create unique designs that customers can enjoy. For instance, this collaboration will bring my expertise and their strengths together to create dream homes. This is a first-of-its-kind collaboration where customers from Mumbai and Bengaluru will get to experience designs curated or created by me. I have travelled to several countries, where I developed a distinct taste in interior design. Having designed interiors for many friends, contemporaries, and distinguished clients, I have worked with many customers. This collaboration is my way of giving back all that I have learned.
Why did you choose to be a part of Bonito Designs and what expertise will you bring to the table?
As someone intrigued by design since a young age, I have always felt that design exudes a spiritual vibe and allows boundless creativity. When talks of the collaboration with Bonito Designs came up, I felt it would be an excellent opportunity to create bespoke homes and experiment by combining my design expertise with Bonito. I felt that Bonito Designs creates stellar works of art in the home interior space. I like to keep things simple and classy, and I am confident that my association with the brand will redefine the paradigms of elegance in home interiors. Another thing that attracted me was how Bonito Designs customises each home. Their team spends a substantial amount of time analysing and understanding the customer’s preferences before starting to work on the design; something that’s very necessary.
As a designer, what is the most important thing that crosses your mind when you start a project? What needs to be sorted or understood first and foremost?
Designing something requires a lot of prior brainstorming and conceptualisation. Before working on any project, I sit down and compile the customer’s requirements — the likes and dislikes, aspirations, and dreams. It helps gain an understanding of what the people living in the home will use the space for and what they would prefer. Visualising this goes a long way in giving ideas — this is what I do before working on any design.
If there could be a dream project for you, be honest, which one would that be or have been?
Designing a beach house would be an exciting project. If I get that chance, I will definitely work on it.
Your sense of style is great! How would you define style and fashion, personally?
Style and fashion is personal to me. I like to keep it simple and classic.
What do you do when you aren’t working? How do you relax? What keeps you passionately occupied during your free time?
Travelling and studying culture, art and architecture inspire me and keep my mind occupied. When my schedule is open, I am usually researching on my next projects.