Friday 13 September 2013

SOLLI CONCEPTS - Handmade Contemporary Furniture in Mumbai

I recently had the pleasure of meeting a very friendly duo - Lynden and Sohel - who are launching a new furniture brand called Solli Concepts.  In fact they have been working together for a while now, creating contemporary designs and building up a collection of high quality pieces made out of solid wood.   When I told them that I like to write about furniture and local craftsmanship, they allowed me special access to their workshop so that I could see where the magic is created. You know how much I like a bit of solid wood furniture!

Sohel is the design genius behind the brand (I am calling him that - he is quite self-deprecating in person). He actually has an engineering background and this is very evident in his work. Sohel's formal training has been subtly translated into structured pieces that have a Scandinavian style and simplicity. For example the teak dining table with its large piece of shaped glass atop a 'structural' pedestal.  And the precision engineered rocking chair which would look good in any traditional or contemporary setting.

Sohel with his gorgeous writing table design.
The level of workmanship and attention to detail is quite unlike that of traditional Indian carpentry that you might see at Chor Bazaar and Jogeshwari workshops.  Japanese and western joinery methods are widely used (for example joints will be dovetailed instead of being nailed together) and there is the combining of woods such as rosewood with teak.  And thought has actually gone into ergonomic and space-saving design. Take the specially commissioned teak bar cabinet for example.  To the naked eye, it appears to be a shelving unit - but open up cupboards concealed in the frame surrounding it - and you will see that it is actually a drinks cabinet! I also love the 'Ott'ee' table that is detailed on the Solli website - on one side it is an ottoman...but turn over the leather clad top and it then becomes a coffee table! 

All of the items are tested for comfort and durability and all pieces are varnished with several layers to prevent wear and tear.  Quality is key. Sohel and Lynden also go to great pains to make sure that all woods that are used are environmentally sustainable - such as the reclaimed teak widely used in their work.

A modern take on the traditional Indian rocking chair - used on verandahs everywhere.  This one is currently being tested for design ergonomics and finish.  Such an eye for detail!
Lynden is the business brains of the partnership - having worked abroad he also has an understanding of western aesthetics and brings direction to Sohel's work - work that definitely needs to be lauded and 'put out there'.  Lynden explained to me that they want their products to appeal to a clientele that has an appreciation of global design - moving away from the gold plated and wood veneered tastes of modern Indian society. Tastes that have no lasting impact and are easily peeled away.  Solli's products - whilst being mostly contemporary - still have a timeless, heirloom quality. For anyone wanting to work with them as a design team (and that includes clients around the globe), it is also possible to commission one off bespoke pieces that fit the scale and style of your home.

A bespoke sideboard made for a client in Italy - with a modern, slightly Ercol feel to the design
(photo provided by Solli)
When I visited the workshop, they were also working on a few smaller items - such as the chopping board chequered with contrasting teak and rosewood - and a really cute Scandinavian style dolls house. On the website, you will also find an elegant art deco influenced cigar case and a beautiful jewellery box (hint hint Mr Jules!).  These items would all make wonderful gifts.

 This dollshouse is simplicity itself

I have to tell you - after writing for the last year about colonial or art deco antiques (my particular passion), I found Solli's style completely refreshing.  I have not seen anything else like it in Mumbai. What's more the prices are very reasonable when you take into account the level of design and workmanship. The partners quoted in the region of 10,000-12,000 Rs for a teak side table that doubles as a lamp topped with handmade Goan tiles (dependent on size and finish of course).  Lynden and Sohel tell me that they intend to be more transparent by dealing from a fixed price list for their non-bespoke designs (great - then us expats will know we're not being ripped off!)

Solli also has a furniture restoration arm which helps to fund their R&D - when I visited the workshop, there were men busy restoring old pieces as well as making the new stuff.  Like me, they also have a passion for the Art Deco era (which is reflected in some of their designs).

Furniture restoration of more traditional colonial pieces

Please do get in touch with the guys to discuss your furniture and restoration requirements - details are at the bottom of this page.  Sohel and Lynden are bright, enthusiastic, innovative and flexible - I am 100% sure that you won't be disappointed by them! 

Some photos of their designs and the workshop:

Very cool bar stools.  Making me think that we really need a bar in our living room!
(Photo: Solli)
Even cooler bar stools...such a simple and efficient design (Photo: Solli)

I found this trainee carpenter at the workshop :)
I love the innovative floor lamps that double as side tables - topped with handcrafted tiles from Goa

This was made with a characterful piece of wood that was actually going to be disregarded - by a Japanese carpenter in Pondicherry that Sohel has been working with.  But Sohel cleverly turned it into a unique side table with tripod legs. Love it! 

This is a real head-turner - a solid teak washbasin.  I could see this in the washroom of many a trendy restaurant or boutique hotel.  Combining solid Indian woods with contemporary design is what these guys do best,

It it wasn't for the fact I have just bought a desk, I would have snapped this up!  I love it!
(Photo: Solli)


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  1. I love it. I love the sideboard, I'd like a dresser that looks like that, and the wash basin is amazing. Also, lamp/side tables, what a great idea!

    1. Yeah, this stuff is pretty special! Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Having known Sohel for a while, I can certainly say that his work is of a very high grade, and a lot of thought goes into the design - elegant, simple, functional and very contemporary. And his pricing is still surprisingly modest - more a reflection on his modest nature than his work.

  3. Having known Sohel for a while, I can certainly say that his work is of a very high grade, and a lot of thought goes into the design - elegant, simple, functional and very contemporary. And his pricing is still surprisingly modest - more a reflection on his modest nature than his work.

    1. Thanks for leaving such a lovely comment about your friend - I completely agree with you!



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