We sit down with Charu Gandhi, founder and director of ultra-luxury architectural interior design firm, Elicyon
Words by Laura Cherrie Beaney in Design & Architecture · Sep 25th, 2023
The award-winning design studio, Elicyon, is best known for its ultra-luxury architecture and interior projects, including the transformation of the war cabinet rooms once occupied by Winston Churchill and the creation of a hospital suite fit for a future heir. Charu's inquisitive nature, fostered by a multicultural upbringing, and her deep appreciation for impeccable design, instilled by early exposure to a prominent female architect, have paved the way for her dynamic journey in the world of design. Her practice, while internationally oriented, effortlessly communicates a local aesthetic. Embracing handcraftsmanship and rarified pieces, from Persian rugs to artfully reupholstered antique chairs, distinguishes her approach and draws in clients keen to elevate their surroundings with both personality and ageless sophistication. Now, we sit down with Charu to delve into her design philosophy, early influences, and the myriad sources of inspiration that contribute to her remarkable output.
Charu: I was born in Delhi, India, and educated internationally. Growing up, I was surrounded by a rich culture of art and craft, which led to my love of design. My passion for the decorative stems from my love of art, ceramics and textiles, which I also enjoy collecting. My love for jewellery comes from my mother, who trained as a silversmith – the pieces she made for me are among my most cherished possessions.
One of my earliest memories that cemented my love for architecture was when I was nine years old, my parents were building our family home, and they hired a female architect who would bring over beautiful models and drawings for my parents to look at. Watching her work made me sure of what I wanted my future career path to be. I moved to London in 1997 and trained as an architect at the Architectural Association, where I subsequently taught as well. Whilst working at Candy and Candy, where I ran the international portfolio of commissions, I was inspired to establish my own interior design and architecture studio.
At Elicyon, we work with some of the world’s foremost craftspeople from glass and crystal makers to innovative producers of plasterwork, bespoke furniture and art. Understanding the enormous amounts of dexterity and skill that go into their work provides us with a huge source of inspiration and is often integral to our overall project design.
My architectural background has had a lasting impact on my design sensibilities, and I’m hugely inspired by the works of 20th-century architects such as Carlo Scarpa, Zaha Hadid, and Oscar Niemeyer.
I founded Elicyon in 2014, driven by a desire to combine the rigours of architectural practice with my passion for decorative craft and design – I had a vision of a design studio where creativity and luxury were at the heart of everything we do. In an industry known for its opacity, we offer honesty, transparency, and credibility, always acting in the best interests of our clients, while working alongside their vision every step of the way.
We consistently aim to create considered, curated spaces that speak to our clients’ aspirations and are full of personality.
I really enjoy sourcing one-of-a-kind pieces from fairs, galleries and markets. In the UK, some of my favourites include Lorfords Antiques, 8 Holland Street and the Ardingly Antiques Fair. As a team, we also travel to international fairs such as Salone del Mobile in Milan, Art Basel and the TEFAF events in Maastricht and New York to source pieces for projects.
A favourite piece that I remember is a beautiful Persian carpet from Gallery Yacou that I discovered at the LAPADA Art & Antiques Fair in 2019.
If I really like the look or the design of an antique piece, I will often purchase it, even if it needs restoration. In fact, I love adding new upholstery to pieces such as antique chairs, giving them a fresh look and a new lease of life. Reupholstering existing furniture can also be a great way to personalise a piece according to the client’s taste and the overall scheme.
Some of our major projects (and my personal favourites) include a recently completed apartment in the historic former cabinet war rooms - now known as The OWO – where Winston Churchill conducted operations during WWII. We have also recently completed a beautiful penthouse in the prestigious One Palm complex in Dubai and we’re currently working on an exciting waterfront mansion in Miami that we are designing from the ground up.
I absolutely love what I do; it allows me to combine my passion for design and architecture with the rewarding process of working directly with clients and bringing their subjective visions to life. An interesting commission that springs to mind is when we were asked to decorate the hospital suite for a client’s daughter. She was due to have a baby that would become the heir to the throne of a Middle Eastern country. We were honoured to be part of such a special and historic occasion and devised an exquisite design that included monogrammed linen and decorative items for the reception to be held there a day after the birth. The experience of being part of such a personal moment for a remarkable family has always stayed with me, and as a mother of two children, I personally appreciate what we were able to create for them.
A great piece of advice that I strongly believe in is to always keep learning, growing and evolving. I always say, “Our best project is our next one.” This way we keep pushing the boundaries and evolving with each new project we undertake.
Image credits: Elicyon