Shalini Misra has spent almost three decades seeking out talented craftspeople for her interior design projects around the world, driven by a belief that handmade objects and finishes can enrich people’s lives. ‘Every space I design has a narrative and, to me, craft is about storytelling,’ she says.
Curio is the culmination of this ongoing quest, bringing together the work of over 60 makers, designers and artists from across the globe who share a restless urge to experiment with materiality, technique, shape and form. Over the coming months, Curio’s stable of creatives will grow.
The seeds for Curio were sewn in Misra’s childhood in India, where she lived until the age of 24. ‘The country is so rich in colour, culture and tradition,’ says the award-winning designer. ‘Craftsmanship is visible everywhere – in the religious festivals, which I enjoyed immersing myself in when I was young, and on city streets. The person selling you baskets or metal utensils in Delhi, for example, will also be the maker, and if you want a slightly different design, they will create it in front of you.’ This fuelled Misra’s desire to champion craftsmanship in her work, and reinvigorate traditional practices for new generations.
Misra qualified as an architect at the Delhi School of Architect and Planning before studying Urban Planning at the University of Columbia in New York, then moving to London for a postgraduate course in Virtual Reality in Architecture at the Bartlett School of Architecture. She founded her architectural interior design practice, Shalini Misra Limited, in London in 1996, which works on high-end residential, hospitality and commercial projects around the world.
Art, craft and design are at the core of Misra’s projects. ‘I usually start the conceptual stage by looking for local artisans and artists I can work with. Sometimes they are easy to find but at other times they are more hidden. I founded Curio to unearth beautiful furniture, lighting accessories and art for those who – like me – seek the out-of-the-ordinary and want to celebrate human creativity.’
Curio’s mission is to spotlight both emerging talent and established masters, while giving traditional skills contemporary relevance. Misra’s own home in Delhi tells a story about Indian craftsmanship in a contemporary context. A bespoke cabinet at the entrance, for example, is decked in the thikri mirrored tiles that typically adorn centuries-old Indian palaces. By contrast, her London home is a celebration of British craftsmanship, featuring custom-made pieces by makers including Rupert Bevan, who gave chinoiserie a fresh spin for Misra.
Some of the makers Misra has commissioned for her own interior design projects will be available on the Curio platform, along with unique pieces by designers, makers and artists from different corners of the world, discovered by the wider team. ‘Curio’s pieces are an antidote to today’s throwaway culture,’ says Misra. ‘They are objects to pass down the generations, which will give new layers to their story.’ In the near future, the team hopes to offer bespoke pieces for collectors, to make these narratives even more personal.