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Decoding interior designer Punam Kalra’s romance with stylised design

PUNAM KALRA, founder of I’m The Centre for Applied Arts, is known for creating outstanding interiors that combine aesthetic design and purpose. She tells SHASHI SUNNY how she is marrying the latest cutting edge technology with traditional handicraft to make her work fresh yet timeless

Punam Kalra

Punam Kalra at her studio at the I’m, The Centre for Applied Arts/IMAGE: Shazid Chauhan

For Punam Kalra, who started out as an engineer, turning designer in 1994 with her path-breaking “I’m, The Centre for Applied Arts” was a natural progression of her vibrant growing up years that were steeped in creative pursuits, music and art. And then marriage to an out of the box thinking architect Deepak Kalra further honed her sensitivity towards spaces, shapes, textures, mediums and colours. Naturally it was long before she decided to give up her nine to five job and take an entrepreneurial plunge into a world where design combined functionality to give birth to an entirely new aesthetics in interiors.

Punam says, “By the time I opened I’m, I had developed a strong sense of scale, balance and colour. My aesthetics developed and I started integrating a bit of art into whatever I design. The response was fantastic. It was as if people had never seen anything like this. Appreciation poured in from visitors and media alike. Sales took a little longer but we took the city by storm. It was a great feeling when qualified professionals in Interiors, Design and Architecture began consulting me for a particular job. Slowly from being a product design centre and art collective we began moving into customised interiors, and today our business is totally that.”

Now, I’m, The Centre for Applied Arts is known for creating outstanding interiors that unite aesthetic design and purpose that are both artful and functional. Punam’s uber luxurious lifestyle solutions are recognised for making a bold signature statement that is made unique with a few fine details. Her unusual perspective to decorate one’s house drew accolades and applauds for its superior designs and intricate finishing. Often she is inspired by the clean cuts of industrial design and uses the available space in a minimalist fashion. She adds a subdued elegance through fine detailing to contemporary living spaces to give it a signature elan. Punam explains, “I try for a look that makes its own statement. I like to keep it simple detailing out a few pieces in my own way that is in sync with the brand’s style statement. We use the finest materials and expert craftsmanship to add colour and style to any space. These days my biggest challenge is to fuse the latest cutting edge technology with traditional handicraft. I find technology is moving at too fast a pace, but our next generation is more equipped to handle tech and they now lead wherever they want!”

Punam Kalra

IMAGE: Shazid Chauhan

I’m, The Centre for Applied Arts was launched in 1994 initially as a Product Design Centre and was a first for the interiors, design and architecture industry in the country. A well-known engineer moved from her comfort zone and decided to explore new horizons in design in 1994. Two decades later, Punam’s landmark store at Feroze Gandhi road, Lajpat Nagar, continues to attract discerning clients from all over. Her style and expertise embraces a wide variety of interior environments from traditional to contemporary. As she says she always believes in innovation and for her “innovation is an ability to see change as an opportunity”.

Punam affirms, “At I’m, we strive to imbibe interior spaces with an ambience which outlasts the passage of time and outlives any design trends. I love using a variety of mediums and colours and textures in unusual ways. I am particularly fond of metals in their pure form like copper, brass, steel, silver and gold. I try combining these with oxidation and antiquing techniques to make results stand out. And though it’s been many years since I started out, these are always exciting opportunities, and I am constantly learning on the job. I find my creativity is up even more today because of technology and the number of materials available.”

Punam Kalra

IMAGE: Shazid Chauhan

Punam’s future plans include a dedicated I’m Design line that will truly and exclusively reflect her own personal design philosophy without any compromise. She wishes to make it available to anyone who fancies it and will be in addition to her customised work which is done in synergy with clients.

Head to her workshop at the Centre to catch a glimpse of her work!

The Centre for Applied arts
A-15, Lajpat Nagar-II
New Delhi-110024

Check out Punam Kalra’s work on Facebook & Instagram!


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Written by

Shashi Sunny has been a writer and journalist working in a senior capacity in many leading publications such as People, Society, Savvy and Stardust. She has interviewed a wide range of celebrities, achievers and newsmakers for these publications. She has over 25 years proven expertise in writing and communications and organizing hi profile events. She has a background in a wide range of fields such as glamour industry, fashion, politics, films, publishing She is personally known to many well known personalities in the political lifestyle and business fields. A post graduate in English Literature from Lady Shri Ram College New Delhi, Shashi has also taught English Literature at Delhi University and has done a study on women's Journals for the Press Commission of India. She has been a guest lecturer at media institutes and has been on the student selection panel for Fashion Designing NIFT and on the panel of judges for various personality and contests and beauty pageants. She is currently freelancing for several publications and is also writing a book on the fashion industry in India. In her sparetime she enjoys reading, travelling and meeting people.

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