“Are you guys taking about home makeovers?” quips Jim Sarbh breaking the friendly banter between Diva (Dhawan) who is known to have burnt ramps for some very popular brands across the world, and Ritika (Kothari) who wears the laurels of her start-up, Casa Quirky, with sass and style galore. Before the amused ladies could reply in the affirmative, he quickly follows-up, “You see, I am moving into a new place soon too.” “Wowee”, the ladies hooted in unison before the trio collapsed in a nirvana of vintage textures, luxury cushions, friendly high-fives and soul stirring pots of green teas in every flavour you could imagine.
What happened in the next few hours between the three friends at the very eclectic SOHO House in Mumbai is what dreams are made of. Let’s jog back a little; Ritika had been assisting Diva as an interior styling consultant for a few months. Diva, who recently moved into her own place, needed some professional help in styling her abode, the details of which the pair were charting out before Jim joined the party.
As the teas worked their magic, ideas exploded in a veritable of inspirations, capabilities and life journeys sprinkled with just the right amount of imagination. By the end of the evening, Diva, Ritika and Jim had all come up with a plan to seamlessly sync it all together to curate something that would, in the months to come, be one of its kind in India. Thus, was born, The Design Diva Show.
Created by Diva Dhawan and produced by House of Ritika, The Design Diva Show is essentially a Space Makeover show which focuses on taking its viewers through the story of how a beautiful home comes into being. With a penchant for extreme home makeovers, the team strongly believes in the process of using their flair for design to make things just right, in turn shaping homes into what their clients need.
How is it different from the other home makeover videos that YouTube is flooded with, you may ask? Currently catering to celebrity homes, unlike others, The Design Diva Show not only takes you on a walk through of the home after it is done, but covers the journey ground up. This means that as a viewer, you get to see the home in its most abraded form and then undertake the wonderful journey with brands and various teams along with The Design Diva Show as they embark on a mission which in process becomes your passion too.
“With The Design Diva Show we want to focus on covering space makeover journeys of individuals who have flexible schedules, are easy to mobilize with and those who can give us the creative freedom that our combined experiences can rightfully demand”, says Diva.
An architect and urban planner by profession and a serial entrepreneur by choice, Ritika started Casa Quirky (CQ) as an aspirational lifestyle destination where décor meets culture meets conversations. With CQ, she welcomes individuals and brands to join her on a journey of curated lifestyle conversations, unique experiences, digital thought making and more. Equal parts funny and somber, Ritika brings the much-required chirpiness to otherwise long drawn business conversations and hopes to inspire people to find and love their own sense of style, just like she did with her production house (HOR).
Fast forward to a few weeks – with the details for Jim Sarbh’s home makeover gradually closing loops, Diva and Ritika (of The Design Diva Show) were now officially on board to shoot their first episode of the series with Jim’s indoor jungle paradise. Goa-based designer.
Anjali Mody was roped in as the design lead while the very prestigious Istituto Marangoni Mumbai (counterpart of the distinguished Italian school of fashion, arts and design) stepped in as a talent supporting partner. News 18 were onboarded media partners and in collaboration with a few other brands like Ode and Cleo, Portico, DecorKart & more, the team finally set into motion.
What would your first thoughts be if someone sent you a painting of a woman with two jaguars as his inspiration? If you’re a car lover, you might end up designing an automobile themed home or if you are a lover of the Columbian culture, you might sense it as a Godly intervention; but when Mody received the same from Jim, she knew exactly what to make of the cryptic message. Having been friends with Jim for a very long time, Mody was well aware of Jim’s love for open, natural spaces and affinity for plants. “I’ve always wanted to have kind of a wild, indoor jungle vibe,” Jim had repeatedly mentioned to her in their conversations. Mody quickly figured that she had to design a place where the lady and the two jaguars would feel comfortable.
The challenge however was bigger, and it was for the entire team. If designing a space is challenging, attempting the same while shooting the journey is the ultimate confrontation. Whilst Mody took care of the visualization to make Jim’s dream come true, it was HOR’s detail-obsessed team that was running the show behind the curtains.
Since assembling could have happened only after the team could capture the unbaked version of the house, there was practically no proof of concept to convince collaborators with. With the purse strings drawn ever so tightly, HOR was working on a markedly low budget too. Along with this, they wore capes for pre and post-production activities, show marketing, show packaging, brand partnerships and for coordination and distribution too.
“Even before I launched my own business, through my education and early life experiences, I had realized that networking is not about collecting contacts. Networking is about planting relations”, says Ritika when asked to elaborate further. It were these treasured connections and her ongoing engagements with various brands that allowed her to seal champion barter arrangements with various brands for Jim’s home too. By choosing mid-sized, up and coming brands who were known to deliver sensational work in their domain of expertise, Ritika and in turn HOR managed to bring down the up-shooting cost arrow by a big margin.
In line with the aesthetic, furniture and rugs were sourced from Josmo Studio whilst cushions and curtains came from Ode and Cleo Furnishings. Décor accessories came from DecorKart, and Portico India brought on board the linen. “We filled Jim’s home with close to a hundred plants! Can you even believe it?”, Ritika laughs when we ask her about the craziest thing she’s had to do for this project. “Although Rising Gardens were great partners, there were moments when I knew I could not afford to run up my plant bill in lakhs but also knew that I had to!”, she adds.
“Large windows with natural light streaming in throughout the day was such a blessing”, quips Diva. “We managed to get the raw footage of the before version of the home on Day 1 of the shoot, just as planned!”, adds Ritika.
The Day 2 of the shoot was reserved for the actual assembling and the team’s nightmare was about to begin. We earlier mentioned how visualization, instinct and trust were the three strengths that this primarily woman-led team were working on; but what happens when geography gets in the way?
“The furniture delivery was supposed to arrive from Goa, the curtains from Delhi, a couple of things from Mumbai itself and DecorKart was sending things via an online shipment – all on the same day. Phew! I could not have done it without my team and an occasional glass on on-
set wine!”, shares Ritika. “Unpacking the treasure and finally setting everything up while the cameras were rolling was exhausting. Team HOR had been working overtime for weeks and we could finally see our (and Jim’s) dream building right in front of our very tired yet extremely thrilled eyes. We wouldn’t have had it any other way”, she adds.
Convincing their passion to rule over their tired bones for just one more day, the entire team was finally ready for the big reveal day with Jim. He’d been away on professional commitments for a little more than a week and had absolutely no clue that a green paradise awaited him in the bustling city of Bombay. Mody and her team along with Diva, Ritika and team The Design Diva Show camped at Sarbh’s home getting the final details in place on Day 3 of the shoot. “You could feel the magic of a spine-tingling energy envelope you in that room”, shares Ritika. “Everything was so elegantly structured together; it was almost magical.”
As cameras kept rolling and nerves got jittery, a faint thud of the elevator outside the door announced Jim’s arrival. “Questions ran through our minds like fireworks chasing each other”, says Ritika. “Will he or will he not be pleased with the urban jungle he was about to call his home?”. “Will he appreciate the designer’s vision – that of combining an old story with a new one?” “Will he still want to be friends with us?”, she adds as an afterthought. (laughs)
“Holy Shit” was all Jim managed to say. The smile didn’t leave his face for hours.
Jim Sarbh’s newly redesigned home featured in the pilot episode of the Design Diva Show
You can watch it here
Watch all behind the scenes glimpse of Jim’s home makeover on Instagram
Written by – Nikita M.
“Hi! My name is Nikita and I am a Mumbai (and alternatively Toronto) based writer. Armed with an MBA, I am just a curious soul who believes in the old school magic of words. I moonlight as a designer and am proud book sniffer. When not dabbling in one of my creative pursuits, you can find me star gazing, thinking about a parallel universe where Steve Jobs, Harry Potter and I are the new Charlies Angels!”