I stumbled across The Summer House a few years ago — a modern lifestyle brand with an emphasis on handicraft and responsible techniques. I was mesmerized by their tropical, Kinfolk-y aesthetic and felt a sense of nostalgia in their imagery, but I could not put my finger on why — until I discovered that they were based in Bangalore, the garden city of India. Their collection of homeware dotted with simple mango wood vessels, cool marble platters and feather-light garments with slick, modern silhouettes embody the essence of stillness and natural bounty of everyday life in India.
Founded by Shivangini Parihar and Rekha Datlav, The Summer House was born from the duo’s nostalgia for the simplicity and celebration of everyday life that they found lacking in big-city living, which had become a blur of activities. “From missing the purity in our food and the comfort in our clothes and the sturdiness in the wares we bought is when we started noticing that there are more people like us who crave for these little joys of simplicity and functionality,” Shivangini shares.
When the pair met, Shivangini had already quit advertising to fulfill her dream of starting a brand that believes in design that is beautiful, functional and sustainable. She had also been traveling across the country for over a year with her then-nine-month-old daughter, spending time with craftsmen and studying responsible making techniques. She even started supplying designs to companies like FabIndia and Toast, and online retailers like Jaypore. Rekha, at the time, had already set up a beautifully curated boutique store.
By pure chance, the duo met in 2014 for an unrelated project. But, as they say, some things are meant to be. They instantly trusted each other and became partners in work.
Neither of the pair claim to have a design background, but the way they grew up had a huge influence on their aesthetics. Rekha’s mother, an architect, had an exceptional eye for landscaping, so she grew up surrounded by the lovely family garden her mother nourished with creativity and talent. Shivangini spent her childhood in a boarding school in the hills and spent her holidays in her grandmother’s home by a lake or on family farms in the village. Both women grew up surrounded by nature, enjoying its bounty and purity.
Their studio in Jayanagar, an old residential area of Bangalore, is surrounded by old houses and lush, treelined streets, making a perfect creative spot for clearing their heads. Walking distance from Rekha’s home, the studio makes it possible to be close to her children while having an environment in which to work. Shivangini commutes between Bombay and Bangalore.
For these two, The Summer House is both a memory of how things were and a plan for how they want life to be. —Rohini