Leading by design

Leading by design


Leading by design

 Shalini Gehlot strives for work-life balance. Pic by Aruna Chandaraju

When she was a little girl, Shalini Gehlot loved to paint. She dreamt of becoming an artist. Today, she is an architect and interior designer. She is in the creative field — only her canvas is different.

Co-founder of ASA Design in Jaipur with husband Amit Gehlot, Shalini’s portfolio encompasses the architecture, interior design and lighting for a range of projects including some swank hotels like the Taj  Rambagh Palace, a chain of spas, and retail and office spaces. The Leading Hotels of the World Association, which runs a programme called Leading by Design, invited ASA to join the elite group in 2006. There are only 20 design companies worldwide which are part of this list and ASA is the only Indian firm to make it to the list.

Some of Shalini’s projects include an international management institute, a convention centre for the Rajasthan CM’s office, a chain of spas in Mumbai, Jaipur, and Jodhpur, and more. Her triumph, she says, is the Taj Rambagh Palace Hotel which took nine  years to create. 

Shalini and Amit redesigned and renovated the former residence of Maharani Gayatri Devi on invitation from the Jaipur royal family. Taj Rambagh was recently voted among the world’s best hotels by readers of Conde Nast Traveller. The Jiva spa, at the hotel, fetched the couple the Best Architect (2008) award.  

“I never really wanted to be an architect,” reveals Shalini. “It was my mother who urged me to get an architecture degree.” So she joined the B.Arch course at IIT, Roorkee, and graduated with a silver medal. There was no disappointment at not having bagged the the gold medal,  since the gold-medalist was, in fact, Amit Ghelot, her husband!

Partnership that pays

Theirs is a love marriage and a partnership that has extended to cover both family and work. For instance, with the Rambagh Palace project, it was Shalini’s idea to use exquisite meenakari (enamel) work and thekri (broken-glass) paintings, gold-leaf frescoes and antique furnishings to give the hotel a luxurious, opulent touch. 

Shalini and Amit have a six-year-old daughter. And like any career woman with kids, she juggles the demands of work and family. “Managing a family as well as a successful career is a challenge. What helps is the support I receive from my husband and my extended family, and clever time-management,” she says. “The fact that our office is in the same building as our home also makes a big difference as it saves us commute time. My in-laws and parents live in the same city, so there’s a wonderful support system in place,” she explains. However, there are days when she does feel drained. “Sometimes, I just want to give up all my ambitions, the work and the travel. I just want to go home and cuddle up with my daughter!”  Amit quips, “When Shalini stays home for three days at a stretch, she is itching to get back to the drawing board.”

“I agree. I love my work, and I also love my home and family. Isn’t making choices and sacrifices part of life?” she asks.