Nicknamed the “Maximum City,” those who know Mumbai, India will relate to its reputation as a hurtling metropolis, where noise, color and sensation can sometimes leave you struggling to catch your breath. I have often wondered what it would be like to be a professional working in the city with all the challenges the hugely populated urban sprawl throws at an average local. Dutch art director turned entrepreneur Marlies Bloemendaal and Natascha Chadha struggled with these very challenges, and as a result co-founded Ministry of New — an inspiring and collaborative work environment in the heart of Mumbai. A breath of fresh air away from the bustling road below, the 8000-square-foot workspace is housed inside a space once used for numerous wholesale book businesses. Intended to be an oasis in the Maximum City, the space is resplendent in sky blue and ocean hues, natural materials, playful working spaces, and plenty of textile and pattern play. Setting the tone for its place in the design industry, pieces from some of the most talked about players in contemporary Indian design are woven into the space. Modern India inspired furniture pieces by Bombay Atelier dot the interior, a collection of Studio Wrap’s daybeds made of layered monochrome mattresses creates a playful meeting spot, antique Jaipur Rugs adorn the floors, and ombre paper lamps by Pepe Heykoop liven up the boardroom. Out of the many inspiring ideas from this innovative workspace, here are five decorating considerations that would make me want to work hard (because they play harder)! —Rohini
History Up-cycled: Highlighting the history of a space can completely transform the ambiance of large office spaces. The name of the building which the Ministry is nestled into is called “Kitab Mahal,” which means Book Palace. The beautiful Victorian building used to be the main book market of the city, and there are still a few bookstores left in the building. The reception desk made completely out of books in the atrium is an ode to the history.
That Swing in the Library: A playful but practical piece of furniture like this is guaranteed to break the ice in a common area. The swing was in fact not in the original design for the library, but was left from a previous exhibition where the room was transformed into a secret garden with the swing serving as the only object in its center. A simple and striking piece, it was made by one of the founders using existing hooks in the ceiling, an enormous piece of a tree from one of the city’s old saw mills, and some beautiful cotton rope from a local bazaar. It’s the most popular Insta pic spot for members.
Large-scale Mural: A variation from the tried-and-tested vintage and industrial trend in cafes, Ministry’s Cafe Monday’s utilitarian space is softened by a glorious large-scale mural with coral stripes, overlaid with hand-drawn monochrome botanicals by French graphic designer Deborah Di Fiore. The matte black vintage light studding the wall just ties the whole thing together for me.
Rugs Underfoot: Nothing makes an office space feel more relaxed than home comforts. Big and brightly patterned area rugs can transform the simplest of spaces. All the rugs in Ministry of New are by Jaipur Rugs, a family-run business that believes in empowering women, true craftsmanship and sustainability.
Clever Nooks: The Ministry maximizes its space and creates more opportunity for collaboration with cleverly placed nooks for time away from your desk. I love this idea because it utilizes “dead space” and creates a much needed change of pace in your work day.