A symphony in wood

by NICHOLE L REBER on Jan 31, 2011 in Products
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Mumbai-based Nitin Gupta could be considered India’s version of Finn Juhl or Arne Jacobsen, two Danish Modernist architectural furniture designers, thanks to his own designs which resonate with soulful musicality

Architect/furniture designer Nitin Gupta knows exactly how to reveal wood’s naturally lyrical grains and syncopated knots, be it in a table, a child’s chair, or household containers. By illuminating the ebbs and flows, the widths and lengths of the rings in this most natural of building products, he turns furniture into a concerto that we listen to with our eyes. “My early training came from my Dad, who gave me a lot of tools to play with as a kid. The later part of my training has happened in my workshop and on site. I’m still learning,” he says.

He eventually trained and became an architect, but wanted to keep his art accessible. Thus, he started Delhi-based NG’s Designs in 1998, where he designs and manufactures his work. Gupta’s work carries global aesthetic qualities and is produced efficiently and ecologically; to experience his designs might be to liken them to a Bauhaus concerto; to see his furniture is to see music materialised.

His skills yield multiple textures to his designs. For instance, one may first be struck by the purposeful slopes of his curved chair backs or by the graceful linearity achieved with what less talented designers could scarcely make of nebulous slabs of wood.

But upon closer inspection, it’s the attention Gupta gives to the wood’s natural characteristics that bring people closer to his work. Like anything one truly loves, it beckons to be touched. His occasional uses of leather and other natural materials to complement the wood ensure that. “I love all my pieces. Otherwise they don’t get made.”

NG’s Designs pieces are easily maintained. They present a much lighter weight than one would expect upon first sight, thanks to his eco-friendly production methods. “We value wood. So we have created many designs that look solid but are either hollow or have MDF as a core material, thus making more products with less amount of raw material,” he says.

Gupta actually hollows out his larger pieces such as cocktail tables and reuses the hollowed-out wood pieces to make decorative accessories. Other scraps might be used as screws, bolts or other connective instruments to simultaneously grant stability and lend aesthetic consistency. There are no tacky metal nails or screws blemishing NG’s Designs. There are no random or haphazardly placed details in his work. Every piece connects to another with an engineer’s precision.

Seeing and appreciating these details harkens back to Gupta’s Danish inspirations such as Juhl and Jacobsen. Like a Bauhaus puzzle, each piece bears a democratic role in the composition. And like the natural Indian inclination toward sustainable pragmatism, this very subtle yet important detail also exemplifies the designer’s concerns for making as much use of the wood as possible.

He also uses contrasting wood and/or other materials in his pieces, allowing for a diverse array of products. Some pieces, such as chairs, feature leather. It’s yet another of Gupta’s methods to generate texture and dimension with a range of woods that he specially ships from the world over: teak, cedar, oak, African wenge, Australian pine, American maple.

Beyond their inherent beauty, what’s surprising about Gupta’s designs is that they’re so affordable. It’s common for shoppers to experience sticker shock at exorbitant price tags,  in this case however, the surprise is the opposite: they’re affordable pieces of true art. Prices start at Rs 500, though of course more customised designs are more expensive, but still reasonable.

His prices and skill, in addition to his training as an architect, help him to interact comprehensively with interior designers and architects, a part of his job that won’t stop once his planned retail stores start thriving. Gupta has furnished entire residences, and his corpus includes accessories, such as vase-like vessels for display on tables or shelves, as well as murals. It’s this set of unique and varied talents that keep interior and architectural designers returning to work with him.

“They are not well trained to handle the furniture aspect. Furniture and accessories form a very important part of a built environment in terms of aesthetics and function. These days, more and more people are recognising that importance,” he says.