When interior architects Phirosa Neterwala and Sunu Aibara were invited to work on Glamis Villa, a Mumbai property that was once owned by the last ruling Maharajah of Jammu & Kashmir and mentioned in Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children, it was an opportunity not to be passed up. “We were immediately struck by its architectural charm,” says Sunu. “We wanted to maintain its heritage and appeal while bringing in a freshness and a contemporary twist.”
Neterwala & Aibara Interior Architects specializes in what it calls “intuitive” design, creating beautiful, sophisticated homes that prioritize the sensibilities of their owners. “For residential spaces, we believe that versatility in design is key,” says Sunu. “This allows us to showcase unique spaces that are representations of our design ethos. But the project we’re most proud of is always the one we’ve most recently completed.”
Phirosa and Sunu’s highly customized solutions have created some of the most inspiring and innovative living spaces across India and the UAE, from heritage properties to urban farm houses. They were recently approached by art enthusiast Shyamal Bodani to design his home in Mumbai (pictured, opposite and below). “We were immediately connected to his personal art collection,” says Phirosa, “and were determined to create a portrayal of Shyamal’s character through a careful interpretation of interior design and art.” Works by artists Zarina Hashmi, Aldo Chapparo, Muzzamil Ruheel and Raja Ravi Varma are some of the few that sit comfortably amid a refreshing, easy-going selection.
The pair’s creative partnership began 33 years ago, when their sons attended the same kindergarten. “We ran into each other and just clicked,” says Sunu. “We have equal strengths, but we don’t think identically. We have our own distinct design ideologies.” They’ve been featured in Architectural Digest India’s “Most Influential” list for the past six years, receiving acclaim for the way they distil the best in international design. “We’re inspired by travel and discovery,” says Phirosa. “I love Barcelona. Not just for the Casa Milà or La Sagrada Familia, but for the whole ambience of the city. I also love Sante Fe’s Pueblo-style architecture, which motivated my design intent for our family beach house.” Sunu concurs. “If you’re interested in design, you see it everywhere,” she says. “From the intricacy of jewellery to the raw, unpredictable beauty of nature.”
Their firm has 40 employees, including Phirosa and Sunu’s respective children Freeyan Neterwala and Zarir Aibara. The studio offers a holistic design service from the ground up, and integrates architectural aesthetic with interior design consolidation, decor and art consultancy. “Given that residential design in India is fairly disorganized, we also get involved with services design, as well as a fair amount of project supervision,” says Phirosa. “This in turn allows us to maintain control and quality for our projects.”
The partners are personally involved in every project, supported by a team of talented design associates. “We also collaborate with designers, artists, artisans, consultants and vendors from across the globe to achieve the very best for our projects,” says Sunu. Their dream project would be to put together an association of like-minded architects and designers to address the conservation and preservation of historical and heritage properties across India. As Sunu says, “It would be a shame to see India’s cultural and historical architectural identity be swept away by urban development.”