Thinking outside the box

By Wallia Khairi
Tue, 01, 23

This week, You! is in conversation with interior designer Marvi Imran Khan who talks about her journey and starting her own design studio…

Thinking outside the box

interior designing

Art can either make or break a room, so it is important to understand the role art plays in any space, whether it be your living room or a work office. Many designers use art to help achieve a variety of things such as, to tell a story, add life to a space or to create a focal point.

One of the most effective ways to elevate the quality of your everyday life is to incorporate art into your home or workspace. The size of an artwork is also very important to consider, as art that is too small could be overwhelmed by the room, and art that is too big could overwhelm the room. It needs to stand out.

This week, You! is in conversation with Marvi Imran Khan, a Karachi based interior designer. “I graduated in 2016 from NED. I started off with a tunnel vision of just being a good architect, but time, exposure and the opportunities broadened my horizon,” says Marvi, who not only practices architecture but has also been working as an interior architect and a furniture designer for the last 6 years. “As fancy as it sounds, it is one heck of a job,” shares Marvi. Read on as she talks about her journey and starting her own design studio...

You! What made you pursue art, specifically interior designing?

Marvi Khan: I have always been surrounded by people who love art in one way or the other. My mother is an artist, I grew up looking at her paint and sketch. My father is an urban designer so, I always had plans and elevations coming to life around me. My late uncle, who I considered my best friend, inspired me to read about literature and art from a very young age. Going through encyclopaedias about the world’s oldest to newest buildings, hence, it just stayed with me and I love what I do. Interior designing came in after a few years of getting into the field when I discovered my love for details.

You! What has your journey been like?

MK: I prefer calling myself pretty privileged by the fact that I didn’t face life crushing challenges as par, but being a woman in a man’s profession is tough in itself. Having opinions and not scared of putting them out there has caused me a lot of trouble throughout my job phase, but then again it taught me a lot too.

You! Can you tell us about the inspiration behind your work?

MK: To be very honest, my inspiration comes from what the client wants. I just observe them, their likes and dislikes, little aspects of their personality and lifestyle, attributes of their brand identity and just evolve those observations into the design. It could be a wall, a furniture piece or something as small as a decor accessory.

You! Is there an element in your work, you enjoy more than others?

MK: I get this question a lot, and I never have a standard answer for it (laughs). I mean I love my work and as cliché as it may sound, I absolutely love everything I do. It can be nerve wrecking at times but even then I find solace in it. So, I can’t like pick and choose a particular aspect of it. From designing to execution...I am all in!

Thinking outside the box

You! What is the most challenging part of your work?

MK: Well, the most challenging part is to make a client put their trust in you, and you wouldn’t believe that being a woman can hamper that process. I have faced a lot of sexism for as long as I have stepped into the professional field. Initially, directions coming from me, were hard to accept by a contractor if there was no male authority figure present there. I have been asked why I came alone to attend the meeting. I had to grow a thick skin to work through that. I long to see a day of equal privilege in this and every other industry.

You! Is there any work of yours which you are most proud of?

MK: As much as I love the final by-product of my design, I still think I have a lot to explore. I have yet to design that one project which I will be proud of.

You! What do you dislike about the architecture industry?

MK: God, there is so much. For starters, how exploitative it is. Endless work hours, below average pay, the lack of unity between designers in this industry. The council of architects don’t do much for this ever-growing industry. There is no work being done on evolving the syllabus for architects. And not to forget, the pay scale is a joke! Having no other option, new graduates are expected to work for long hours for a pay scale as low as 15 thousand rupees. It’s just unfair.

You! How do people receive your work?

MK: I really don’t know how to answer this one without sounding biased (laughs). I am extremely critical of my work...I don’t present or show it to anyone till I know this is it. Till I know the space reflects whatever I want it to reflect and people can see it. But usually, I am very open to constructive criticism, it has helped me grow and generally my friends and clients get pretty excited when mood boards start turning into reality.

You! Who is your favourite artist/designer?

MK: Tadao Ando, a Japanese autodidact architect. No other architect has ever been able to inspire me as much as he has.

Thinking outside the box

You! Do you travel in order to gain knowledge or get inspired for your work?

MK: I do try a lot to save up and travel, because it really does help you with inspiration. It clears my mind and ideas evolve. But when I can’t travel, I love going around Karachi. Visiting art galleries, furniture showrooms or just wandering around to absorb design energy from our heritage.

You! Which place inspires you the most?

MK: Art galleries inspire me a lot. In terms of architecture, interior, installations and lighting - the whole experiential design aspect plays with creative strings.

You! What is your artistic outlook on life?

MK: My artistic outlook is very humble and modest. As an artist, I want to leave something behind, a mark on the world. It can be a legacy, a designed space, a piece of furniture or a good deed. Though, I pray I can make all of those things happen one at a time.

You! What is the most important advice you can give to young artists/designers?

MK: Initially, it’s all about hard work and learning. Absorb as much knowledge as you can from senior designers, contractors, carpenters, electricians, masons, cad operator, etc.

Learn as much as you can, and don’t say NO to design even if it’s as small as a bathroom stall. Money comes later, and once you have all the knowledge, you’ll start making money too.

Thinking outside the box

You! They say that the best artist surfs up after pain. Was there any of that in your life?

MK: My uncle who was everything to me, my best friend, and my father figure who I lost when I was in my fourth year. That took a toll on me and to distract myself from that, I started concentrating on my studies and my profession. And here I am!

You! Are there any particular artists/designers that you look up to? And how does that translate into your work?

MK: No one in particular but my favourite pass time is design research. Research for new architecture and structural technology, new techniques, new trends, colours, shapes or anything that is linked to design. There are times when I look into fashion shows or movie show sets for inspirations. The options are endless.

You! What’s next for you?

MK: Ah, the big question. Well, next for me is the transition from a freelancer to a full-time designer. I am working on my design studio so that’s in work. And hopefully, a home store brand curated by me. Fingers crossed.