SEAD Consultants use fun and fantasy to animate Mumbai's Tipsy Gypsy
Inspired by the music-loving, nomadic gypsies, the gastropub aims to be whimsical in a subtle and thought-provoking way.
A mere 8ft high ceiling, no natural light, and three large columns hampering views. What could one do to make such a space more open and inviting? Ask Priyank Mehta, partner at SEAD Consultants, who manfully took up the challenge of making the space occupied by the old KFC outlet at Fun Republic suitable for a gastropub that would draw the young and the restless. “It was a challenge to translate all our conceptual ideas into built, especially with the many site restrictions,” admits the designer. “So, we decided to work organically on this project. It is our belief that only from chaos can there be order.”The mantra that SEAD Consultants followed while designing this project, was to not try too hard. “Letting the design be dictated by an emergent process, we conceptualised first and then took up the challenge of actualizing the abstract idea. We aimed to be whimsical and tipsy in a subtle and thought-provoking way.
Every time we visited the site, we just tried to have fun,” recalls Mehta. While the clients didn’t offer a concrete brief or vision for the interiors, the designers picked on the fact that “the attempt was to reinvent the pub culture of Mumbai, which had become hackneyed with undone grunge becoming a norm, an almost rebellious response to the finer things of city life.” Thus, the brief turned into a conversation about how one should design in order to create a space to dream in, to believe – a wonderland of sorts. “The important question today is, are we willing to dream? Thus, in its own way, the space aspires to be a respite from the city. We believe that the USP of the place lies in its motto: Exist or Live.
“Our early inspiration came from the gypsy culture which originated in the northern parts of the Indian sub-continent almost 1,000 years ago,” elaborates Mehta. “A music-loving, nomadic tribe which enjoyed everyday life, but not as a response of rebellion from existing cultures. We believe that the space had to allow for the freedom to dream and aspire and use music in an uplifting sense. The question being, is there a synonymous culture that exists today which recreates that feeling? Our research led us to ‘The Burning Man’ festival which takes place annually in the middle of the desert in Nevada, USA. Our design is a modern take on the gypsy life, hence we coined the name Tipsy Gypsy. The 16ft-long and 10ft-tall boombox which doubles up as a bar is the highlight. We played with the scale of a classic element and gave it a function, so that it does not remain a cosmetic gimmick. The boombox is designed to be synonymous with the brand Tipsy Gypsy, and we hope to redefine the way it materialises in each outlet."
A motley group of elements come together to create a refreshing and ‘alive’ environment. Material like pine wood is used to create different patterns on table tops in an attempt to reinvent the way materials are used. On the other hand, gestures which are meant to stand out – such as a larger-than-life boombox, which doubles up as a bar – serve to draw attention, and the colour changing lights lend a dreamy essence. Conical lights have been customized and handmade using crotchet threads of myriad colours to reinterpret the gypsy tradition of using lace and thread − but with a rather unusual pop twist. Smaller gestures in the form of artwork serve to under-line the whimsical quality of the space. At the entrance, on the soffit, you see what the designers like to call “Tipsy Feet” − which stands in contrast to the classic black-and-white striped walls. To add some more funk to the space, a Calendar wall is created using 24 rotating squares − each with fun artworks on one side and white board on the other − to announce upcoming events.
Even simple signage’s were rethought and conveyed using art, and larger strokes such as the funky bathroom doors add a great deal of colour and character to the interior space. Keeping in mind the function of the space, which is to celebrate live music and performance, the designers created island tables inspired from over-sized mushrooms to serve the standing and moving crowds. The space had to work in a three-fold manner. First to disconnect the visitor from the outside; second, the inner space had to feel warm and enigmatic; third, the guest had to enjoy the live performances. The solution arrived at was an interactive façade that speaks about the experience one is about to have. Stop Play and Pause buttons form the façade, which is an extension of the large boombox installed inside. One must push ‘play’ to enter. A 36ft-long ticker on the top constantly interacts with people outside – displaying the scheduled gigs, promotional offers or simply entertaining with graphics or live game scores. Black and white (granite and marble) from the floor wrap the façade in a candy-cane like manner.
The furniture was custom designed, governed by the need to orient guests towards the stage. A three-tiered seating was decided upon, in order to give optimum views of the stage. The tables closest to the stage are the lowest, and they get taller as one moves behind. The front row has low lounge-style seating and the last row has a community high table, while the peripheral seating is more suited to groups and traditional dining. The larger play was with the upholstery, which brings in bursts of colour and illustrations echoing the ideology of the gastropub. Beginning with the colour palette they wanted to follow, the designers found suitable materials that could be used in their natural form. Black granite and Statuario marble are used to create the black-and-white pattern of the floor, while teak and pine wood lend their warm browns to the walls and table tops. The cement is literally painted on the wall, while the crochet and upholstery lend abundant colour to the subtle backdrop of walls, ceiling and floor. Convincing the client was not difficult, as he believed in the vision of his designers.
“Tipsy Gypsy being Vishal’s first solo venture into hospitality, we almost worked like partners,” discloses Mehta. “It always takes a good client for an architect to deliver a good space.” The biggest challenge, of course, was the constrictive height, the lack of natural light and the three central large columns that made space planning difficult in terms of placing the stage. To start with, the designers got special permission from the mall owners to break open some border walls to let natural light flood the place. The ceiling was stripped open to its bare form to attain maximum height, AC ducts were strategically located over the passages to give maximum height over the seating tables, and the stage was made visible with the help of seating design that went from the tallest at the back to the lowest in the front.
Having worked on over 40 F&B outlets in the past six years, Mehta feels that a greater integration is required across fields of expertise. “I have worked on the design and, then, often found that the food does not match the identity of the place, or the music is not in tandem with the experi-ence one wishes to provide to the guests,” he observes. “One of the largest reasons for Tipsy Gypsy’s success was the fact that the client, designers, graphic team, chef and the marketing and business team sat together to chalk out a cohesive plan. As a designer, I had discussions about the plating and ingredient costing with the chef, about return on investments with the clients – which was not only enriching, but gave me an understanding of how the industry works. Indirectly, it makes me better equipped to provide design solutions which not only cater to aesthetics, but also provide a robust working environment.”While the gastropub has received rave reviews for decor as well as its fusion cuisine and funky cocktails, Mehta believes that design is a process that could lead to something better. “There is always room for improvement,” he insists. Since this is a ‘chain’ which is expected to extend across the city soon, the designer is not satisfied and declares that he has even more ideas up his sleeve for future outlets. All we can say to that is, welcome to funky town!