Aakriti Kumar, Founder, Differniture shares her passion for designing and throws light on her inspiration, design philosophy and latest collection inspired by earth’s topography
What compelled you to enter the design world?
My mother is an artist as well as a designer. Being brought up in a family where art was actually given importance played an important role in my decision to pursue design as a career.
The idea of creating practical things rather than just aesthetically pleasing ones that hung on wall is what drew me closer to this particular branch of design. After my formal education of product design form Parsons School of Design NY, I came back determined to incorporate all that I had learnt creating practical, functional pieces and bringing out tangible products from mere ideas. All this with a sustainable approach to design.
What is your design philosophy?
I want the sculptural depiction of art to have an equally important function: to be able to be used and admired at the same time. I want to challenge the typical styles of furniture that people are used to seeing and put our own alternative spin on it.
A sustainable design process is an integral part of my design philosophy. As a designer I believe it is our duty to create environmentally conscious products and that can only be done with a sustainable design process. The acquirement of the raw material is important—sourcing reclaimed and salvaged wood, creating zero waste designs and using non-toxic oils and waxes are a few ways in which we can create a lesser impact on our environment at the production phase of the products.
Tell us about your latest collection and its inspiration
I am inspired primarily by nature. I like the fluidity in nature and I try to translate that into my designs. Curves and layers are a major part of most of the products in this collection. A lot of pieces have been translated from the earth’s contours; the undulations on the earth’s surface inspired Differniture’s recent Topography collection. The reclaimed and salvaged woods have transformed into interesting pieces. I am currently working on some outdoor furniture from trees that have fallen in storms. Differniture lighting collection is also evolving with a wide variety of table lamps as well as floor lamps and wooden chandeliers.
Any Indian/ international designer who inspires you
I appreciate the works of Charles and Ray Eames for their timelessness and the way their furniture effortlessly integrated form and function in a harmonious blend. Their pieces seem to effortlessly fit today’s contemporary context but it was actually designed much ahead of their time. The new-age material, at that time, plastic was taken to another dimension with their designs, which is also worth mentioning.
Droog Design, a design firm with an alternative take on furniture, has been my inspiration. They work with a number of well-known designers from across the globe to create quirky yet functional pieces of furniture and products. They have found a niche for themselves in the alternative, sculptural, design world, something I hope Differniture will be able to achieve for itself in the future.
Mention any product which is very close to your heart.
My most recent product is the wooden upholstery chaise. I created an innovative movable wooden skin that drapes onto the chaise for an added comfort much like an upholstered pieces but with teak pieces. It was an interesting and challenging piece all the way from its ideation phase to prototyping. I look forward to including this detail in upcoming pieces as well.
What is your favourite material to work with?
So far I have worked with a variety of wood and metal. Different materials speak out for different tasks. I have used a lot of plywood in the layered series and it is such a versatile material for almost any product. Being a sheet material it can translate into so many possibilities in design. I also love the look of end-grain specifically from reclaimed and salvaged woods I find. It is great to embellish the tops of certain pieces, the pop of a dramatic grain along with the imperfections of its previous life can create a different dimension to the products.
Is there any signature to your designs?
I believe my signature for my designs is creating a sculptural approach to my design aesthetic. I do a lot of layering in my wood and translating everyday material into something unique is what I strive to create in my collection.
Any suggestion for the aspiring designers
India is a land of opportunity; there are so many ways of pushing the envelope when it comes to design. Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone for that is where the excitement and challenges lie. Designing speciality products does not work in a sterile vacuum, you have to get inspired. Get our hands dirty and invigorate and challenge your mind and the outcomes will be extraordinary.