Among the many things the coronavirus pandemic changed in Gauri Khan's life was turning the celebrity interior designer into a "ravenous learner".
"It really opened up my curiosity," she tells The National. "While sitting at home, I went through countless digital courses, books and more, and loved every second of it."
Khan, a self-taught designer who's been doing up the homes of Bollywood stars for years, will hope to share some of that knowledge, as well as her own journey in the industry, when her online masterclass launches on Thursday, on the new digital educational platform The Designer's Class.
Fundamentals of Interior Design is meant for designers of all levels and will take students through the foundations of interiors, best practices in the industry and tips on how to elevate spaces using design, guided at every step by Khan.
"Going in, I never wanted the course to be made of abstract information and ideas. It prioritises topical, practical information that will help any designer truly understand the interior design landscape," she says. "Students can look forward to learning about powerful lighting techniques, designing for spaces both commercial and intimate, the interplay of colour, texture and material, and much more."
Khan, 51, the wife of Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan, says The Designer's Class' mission to make design learning accessible to all and aligned perfectly with her own philosophy.
"I’ve always been an advocate for continuous learning, being self-taught myself, and so when this opportunity presented itself, I had to take it on. The fact that they’ve got such a great pedigree of mentors on board already illustrates how important this cause is to others as well," she says.
Khan's masterclass is one of a growing list of courses by top names in the field, now available on The Designer's Class. The platform already offers workshops hosted by top Indian fashion designers Masaba Gupta, Rhea Kapoor and the duo Abu Jani and Sandeep Khosla, among others. More courses are set to be launched in June, including one on make-up by ace artist Mickey Contractor, a photography course by Rohan Shrestha and Joseph Radhik, wedding decor by Devika Narain and a jewellery design course.
Individual courses on the platform start at 2,499 rupees (D118), with bundle courses starting at 15,000 rupees (Dh710).
Samarth Bajaj, founder of The Designer's Class, says Khan didn't need any convincing to sign up as instructor.
"She is actually very passionate about learning herself. She’s constantly working on growing her own knowledge and believes that it’s the key to being successful," he tells The National. "She was very excited about the prospect of teaching and giving back to the design society.
"There is no name more aspirational than Gauri Khan in interior design amongst South Asians across the world. They’ve rarely ever got an opportunity to hear from her and she has a vast amount of experience that actually spans decades. We approached her with the idea of teaching on our platform and were ecstatic when she displayed the same amount of enthusiasm as us."
Bajaj refers to Khan as "our dream interior design faculty member".
"I think it’s an unprecedented opportunity for anyone interested in interior design to learn from her and hear from her," he says. "I also think that hearing from her and learning from her will give people the courage to take a leap of faith in themselves and their dreams."
Khan, who launched Gauri Khan Designs, a "one-stop destination for everything in interiors" in Mumbai in 2017, is also a film producer and distributor, having founded Red Chillies Entertainment with her superstar husband in 2002.
She says her approach to design is constantly evolving, but world events, such as the pandemic, has drastically shifted her perception.
"I’m slowly migrating away from opulent, uber lux designs into a more muted, sophisticated style... dropping sequins for neutrals and crafting spaces that not only appeal to people visually, but evoke a feeling of comfort and safety as well," she says.
Living through the pandemic has also emphasised how important it is for our homes to be seen as consistent spaces for comfort, function and safety, she says.
"Because the home has once again become a refuge, people have become so much more invested in building, beautifying and taking a personal interest in learning about interior design themselves," she says. "Moreover, commercially, I think it taught us how to design with constraints and limited resources in mind, which is a fantastic lesson for all designers to learn."
Sometimes, it's the small changes that make the big difference, Khan points out.
"I believe one of the most important things about designing a space is that it should be inviting, and with more and more people working from home, your home truly needs to act as an escape," she says. "This can be done by simply incorporating more plants, decluttering your space, and to go more minimal rather than maximal, and making conscious, sustainable purchases rather than impulsive ones."
Gauri Khan's top interior design philosophies
- Always keep your end-user in mind. At the end of the day, it’s great to have your signature stamp but your client needs to walk away happy, otherwise the project was a bust. Therefore, I always encourage designers to ask as many questions, actively listen, and truly get a grasp on their client's wants before they even put pen to paper.
- Lighting is an indispensable tool in any designer's arsenal and should be used creatively, always. Lighting and colour directly affects the way we feel when we walk into a space and so a good designer needs to also be a great guide too, who masterfully directs someone’s experience.
- Never stop learning. There’s no excuse not to any more. Everything you can possibly imagine is accessible in the palm of your hand now. The more you absorb, the more your work will evolve and become more sophisticated too. Swallow coffee table books, experience workshops of all varieties, because you never know what transferable advice lies there.
Fundamentals of Interior Design by Gauri Khan starts on May 26 on thedesignersclass.com