Simply defined, an interior designers function is to take the end product of an architect's design and render the space for its ultimate purpose, be it a residence, hotel or an office. Such a seemingly simple aim allows for a myriad possibilities partly depending on the designers skills and creativity and partly on the tastes and resources of the clients. The end product is analogous to high fashion, which either improves the wearers stature and allure or can have precisely the opposite effect. However, for Canna Patel executing an interior is more than just a matter of dressing up a building; her involvement is deeper and more extensive, ranging over many associated activities, such as contributing during the construction phase to help create entire ambiences, designing and executing pieces of furniture, planning garden layouts and executing landscaping details. This ties in with her aim and desire to create a living space - as opposed to merely designing an interior - that reflects, supports and enhances the lifestyle of occupants.
Canna Patel's overall approach to designing interiors is to `enhance the architectural form and space' rather than smother it out of existence. In this as in much else she finds herself in a minority in a profession teeming with designers who seem unable to justify their fees unless the end product is a firm impression of a style or theme splashed with scant regard for the architects aims and motivations. Though given the increasingly disjointed approach in the post-modernist form that passes for architecture nowadays perhaps such treatment is to be expected and may even redeem the aimlessness of architectural structures usually freed of any guiding principle to determine overall form. Understanding and developing what the architect had in mind perhaps comes more easily for her than most since she is herself an architect by training and by profession. Also, Canna Patel has had the good fortune to have thus far dealt with far superior buildings.
Over the past couple of years Canna Patel has concentrated on interiors as it provides a much wider scope for working on projects while maintaining a lifestyle which involves spending part of the year in Europe. The resulting exposure to `contemporary European furniture', textile designs and interiors, together with a `heightened awareness of current trends and styles' has inspired many of her designs and resolutions. But this, as is more than clearly evident, has not resulted in indiscriminate borrowing or "cultural shoplifting". Further, the experience of living in alien cultures has resulted in a more focused attention on socio-cultural determinants of interiors. Canna tries to ensure that the form of the interiors is a faithful reflection of the occupants lifestyles and expectations. For example, `furniture designs are adapted and developed to function in an Indian context', which include considerations about long term maintenance and upkeep.
Her overall perspective remains irresolutely Indian and yet innovative; conventional or traditional aesthetics, ideas and norms, are reinterpreted to incorporate different or more contemporary influences. The outcome is a distinctive and well conceived interior that combine austere lines and forms harmonised with just the right touch of colourful exuberance. The aesthetic goal is to delight the eye, make it flit around a room, taking in the "tone" or feel of the space, while providing specific points of attraction on which the eye could rest and ponder. Whilst the overall coherence of designs and interiors is maintained by an overriding emphasis on the functional and practical. Yet, unlike interiors `per se' the final product is not regarded as complete; as living spaces she expects and allows for the occupants to add their own touches over the years.
Given such a comprehensive articulation of Canna's perspective on creating living spaces, her `meticulous attention to execution combined with knowledge of technical aspects' is only to be expected. Most items of furnishing are designed and constructed under her guidance and, often personal supervision which becomes critically necessary when traditional arts and crafts techniques are exploited in order to develop a more contemporary feel - boldly designed hand crafted rugs and carpets are a good example of this. Equally, innovative combinations of materials - such as the metal support for the wood framed marble top dinning table - demand a close involvement with, and co-ordination of, craftsmen (often based in different parts of India).
Canna enjoys the challenge of exploring various possibilities and dealing with practicalities of development, construction and installation at every scale - ranging from designing a hinge to stain glass atrium domes. The successful fruition of such experiments is in a large measure due to a `good grasp of the nature of the material and techniques involved'. This is combined with provision of detailed instructions, samples, and even patterns for cutting materials. Not surprisingly this takes a lot of time and energy of a small but dedicated team, but for Canna an innovative, well crafted, and functional end product makes the effort worthwhile.
As would be expected the interiors are enlivened and enriched by art work from India and abroad. However, Canna is particularly averse to the all too common practice of cramming interiors with expensive junk. The overall aim is to ensure value for money for clients as well as expose them to fine art and craftswork that they would otherwise not encounter in their daily life. Free of the herd instinct she seeks out original works of relatively unknown artists and where appropriate commissions work. For craftswork this often requires an active involvement in the conceptual development and execution stages. The space, materials, colours, textures and works of art are skillfully blended to provide a balance that is aesthetically pleasing, as well as to serve the purpose of its intended function. Her designs are a good illustration of how the creative challenge of progressing beyond the architectural space is resolved.
An essential aspect of Canna's design philosophy; though functionally driven and sensitive to the qualitative differences between materials, the global aim is to effect interiors that are constant source of wonder, delight and discovery for visual and tactile senses. A good interior is like a piece of sculpture for Canna.