A vase that looks like a teapot, charming bird feeders, and the most adorable little upcycled coasters. All this and more from the team behind The Wishing Chair
Shahpur Jat is turning into one of our favourite parts of the city. In our younger days, we were willing to make the trek there for the beautiful (if unaffordable on college allowance) designs of Dastkar, but today the area is teeming with design and fashion stores that make it well worth the detour. It is the perfect corner of the world to find that one accent or accessory that makes your living room, or your graduation dress. And one of our favourite shops to stop in there is the wonderful Wishing Chair. This delightful little store is the kind of place where you can find a magical tea pot, and eat a delectable slice of cake at the same time. And while the brownies cannot be transported, you can now get some of the wonderful Wishing Chair designs in whatever part of the country you are in, thanks to their online presence!
We spoke to one the women behind it- the wonderful Avneet Mann- to find out more about the culture of the place, and about some of her own perfect designs.
Why did you start the Wishing Chair? What was the idea behind it initially, and how have you seen it evolve over time?
The Wishing Chair was conceptualized a little over 2 years ago, by Avneet Mann and Vivita Relan, on an entrepreneurial whim to create something that was beautiful and special to us. We were sure that we loved making our homes and other people’s homes beautiful, filled with character and joyful bric a brac, within a budget. When we began, home stores seemed to be designed for older women – with either a very formal, hotel-inspired aesthetic, or an overtly-stylized ethnic one. We wanted interiors to be accessible to anyone wanting to create a lovely home, with each piece bringing an element of whimsy, fun, color and an emotional charge, without being too intimidating, and we realized that for the 18-35 year old age group, there were very few stores that did that. And so the story of the Wishing Chair began. We set up in the now burgeoning hipster artisanal urban shopping village of Shahpur Jat in July 2012, and called our store The Wishing Chair. The name comes from a book by Enid Blyton that evoked the sense of nostalgia and magic we wanted to emulate for our space. Once you sit on the Wishing Chair, it takes you anywhere you want – we wanted to channelize the transportive nature of that chair to our store and products, where we help make your home a place where you can be carried away to anywhere you like.
Did you always know that an online component will be a part of your business, or is that something that’s grown organically? Today, how much of your business is online? What are some of the most unusual places you’ve ended up shipping products to?
The online store was an answer to our growing customer demand! A lot of our Delhi based customers would bring their friends & family from other cities who demanded access to our products when they were back home. So it just seemed the logical next step!.Our online store is only 2 months old having been launched in May 2014. We have received a tremendous response and about 10% of our business in the last 2 months has been from online sales.
Personally, my favorite Wishing Chair product is probably the Hard Wire Bent Cage. It is full of whimsy, looks like something that could belong to Red Riding Hood’s cottage, and is utterly unique. Could you tell us a little bit about how and where you source such products from?
We source our products from artisans and factories all across India: towns in UP, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh. Some products such as the ceramics and faux flowers, are from China.
Do you end up doing some amount of customization or custom designing for some of your products?
All products sold at The Wishing Chair have to fit the ethos of the brand. A considerable amount of time goes into customization of products, such as color palates, their themes, the stories behind them, so that the aesthetic is in line with the brand narrative.
Who are some of the other people in the Indian home decor space- designers/retailers or entrepreneurs whose work you enjoy and are inspired by?
There is a lot of good work happening in the Indian home decor space. The idea of design as an integral part of our lives, from home to work to self expression, is really taking off. People are more exposed to different ideas of beauty and design through travel and curated content on the internet, so the aesthetic is evolving. Nappa Dori is a great Delhi grown brand which does high quality leather and metal styling products. Happily Unmarried has done a great job with bringing humour and the unexpected into home accessory and design.
Have you noticed a difference in the “Delhi aesthetic” vs the Mumbai aesthetic when selling your products? How has Delhi been to a start up like yours?
Too early speak about this as we haven’t really sold to the Mumbai market in Mumbai itself, so we don’t have an understanding of the aesthetic. However, several Mumbaiites have visited the store and seem to really appreciate what we’re putting out, so at least we know some of them do have impeccable style
Delhi has been really good to us and shown us a lot of love. Our neighborhood of Shahpur Jat is exploding with so many designers in every space – art, fashion, graphic design, photography – trying to push the boundaries of design so it is a great place to be right now.
What’s next for The Wishing Chair? What are some of the challenges you’ve faced in the first couple of years?
Our biggest challenge is the over priced real estate in our metros. It makes it impossible to offer a great value proposition to our customer. The rent-seeking behavior does not allow for young entrepreneurs to launch and show-case their product.
Lastly, since we are interviewing you as part of our Ideas for Home Decor issue, we’d love to hear about the 4-5 decor items that you are obsessed with right now (yours, or anyone elses!)
We love working with recycled and upcycled products – coasters, trays, lamps, tables, stools and photos frames made with keys, bicycle wire, bicycle wheels, old computer motherboards and wires, phone dial keys and old milk cans.
You will find a few such up cycled items in our online store, and those are our current favourites. These include:
The reclaimed wood ellie on wheels,
The wall hook with reclaimed hose regulators,
Bicycle chain book ends
You can see some of our favourite The Wishing Chair products in the featured image above. Do share in the comments what some of your favourite stores of home decor and itty-bitty things are. We can’t wait to exchange notes! For some more great design ideas, and home decor inspirations, don’t forget to bookmark our Decor Happy issue!