Decorating Ideas from Ministry of New in Mumbai

by Rohini Wahi

The Ministry of The New

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.

The Ministry of The New

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.

The Ministry of The New

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.

Ministry of the New

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.

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  • Oh my! This is space, the ideas, the soothing yet bold colors!! Just the inspiration I needed to pick up my mood today. Well done!! Adding to my list of places to visit.

  • Surprised at the opulence when so much poverty and filth in Mumbai. This world is topsy people have no food no jobs. Oh yea the room is clean nice and…

  • Thanks so much Rohini and others for your beautiful words and to Design Sponge for featuring us. @FG I can sense your frustration and I think anyone who lives here, including us, share this disgruntlement. The great thing is that this space is actually giving new hope to people who are doing very good work for this city. People who care about preserving Bombay’s historical architecture, people who are working in cleantech, sex education, healthcare, journalism… They have found a community and a place to cross-pollinate ideas. We’ve also hosted public events where we’ve invited 15 female artists into our space to express themselves in a “Girls Only” exhibition that drew a crowd of 700 people, as well as the first ever Humans of Bombay LIVE event which highlighted issues like domestic abuse. People who are not members have thanked us for bringing a platform like this to the city to discuss new ideas, new concepts and share new learnings. The best part is that we’ve taken ordinary items from Chor Bazaar and Crawford Market and made them look opulent. Old filing boxes double up as plant pots, old trunks as side tables, we commissioned cane weavers to make our basket lights etc. We also purposely collaborated with sustainable businesses like Jaipur Rugs and Tiny Miracles who are doing amazing work with local communities. No situation ever improved by focusing on the negative. We must focus on people who are making a difference: by doing good work, by speaking about relevant topics, by sharing useful ideas. Our aim at the Ministry of New is to facilitate and inspire such work and offer a platform from which we can talk to each other and raise the bar for ourselves and for the city.

  • Absolutely head over heels in love with space. Ministry of New – how cool are you?! Wish this space had existed when I worked as a science journo in Mumbai in 2010. I may do again, in which case I’ll be knocking on your doors… (ps: Rohini – I really love your pieces in DesignSponge).

    Oh and to FG – yes, India’s poverty and “filth” are horrifying and depressing. But let’s not forget the equally horrifying poverty and deprivation in the US, the UK, and many other super rich places. It may be a little more hidden, but believe me, no place is immune from disenfranchisement. As long as businesses are sustainable and care about the communities they are in, let’s not give them a hard time for making a lovely space to be in.

    • Thanks Priya, I am so glad you are enjoying my pieces! I am enjoying showing off a side of India that is not often seen. Rohini

  • @Ministry of New A Bombayite or mumbaiker by birth, i have lived and worked in so many cities around the world, but this takes my breath away!!! I would love to see it in person when I am in town next!!! I am a writer and a yoga teacher and it would be such a great space to offer some workshops for all your coworking folks! Yes to positivity and change through beauty. Thank you for creating such an inspiring space.

    • @abhilasha come try us out anytime you would like! Please pass on your email address so we can share our brochure with you :)

  • Love this space! So happy to some of the old Indian classic with a modern twist! Like the wrap day beds!! Where can I purchase them?