Women of Brummell: Charu Gandhi

The founder and director of Elicyon, a luxury interior design and architecture studio, on her experiences in the industry and evoking emotional design

People 30 May 2024

Charu Gandhi

Can you tell me about your background and how you got into interior design and architecture?

I was born in Delhi, where from an early age I was surrounded by and exposed to a rich tapestry of colour, culture and craft, particularly from my mother who always had a passion for craftsmanship and trained as a silversmith.

I was first initiated into the world of architecture and interior design by a female architect who had been hired to undertake the design and construction of our family home. I couldn’t help but be in awe of her work.

I moved to London in 1997, where I studied at the Architectural Association. My passion for architecture soon expanded upon studying the discipline, leading me to teach at the institution before joining the teams of notable design firms Allies and Morrison in 2006 and Candy & Candy [now Candy London] in 2011.

You are the founder and director of the global design studio Elicyon. What inspired you to start this venture?

Elicyon was conceptualised while I was working on a refurbishment project at One Hyde Park during my time at Candy & Candy. The client was really trusting of my design vision and encouraged me to take the initial steps to creating my own studio.

Westminster Penthouse Terrace
Westminster Penthouse Terrace

What is the meaning behind the name? 

‘Elicyon’ comes from a portmanteau, derived from the phrase ‘elysian fields’, which describes a place of bliss; and ‘halcyon’, referring to a time when things are wonderful. It perfectly encapsulates the Elicyon ethos: to evoke a feeling – which is something we have continued to do from our first project to our latest.

You’re coming up to 10 years of Elicyon, what have been some of the highlights?

I am most proud of the amazing team that we have built, alongside a group of loyal clients who return to us for their wonderful projects. We have the most talented, dynamic and dedicated group of people in the studio. And our clients are among some of the most successful, fascinating individuals and companies that we have the honour to work with.

Interior designer and architect, Charu Gandhi
Interior designer and architect, Charu Gandhi

What have you learned about design after two decades in the industry? 

Embrace the decorative – don’t let a need for post-rationalisation stop you from doing what feels right for the project. I studied at the Architectural Association, and gaining my degree in such an environment and institution has shaped a lot of how I approach design, problems and challenges. Almost all my design work is firmly rooted in my architectural training but then wrapped in my love of interiors, the decorative and the joyful.

At Elicyon, we particularly enjoy and focus on considered details, refined processes that improve how we design and deliver our projects.

How would you describe your dream client?

Someone that wants to go on a creative journey, inspired by design, who will support an endeavour that promotes and supports craftsmanship and celebrates innovation.

Living room designed by Elicyon
Living room designed by Elicyon

Has being a woman affected your career?

It has helped me understand and build empathy with my clients and their domestic lives. I have certainly had the challenges of balancing my own family life and having two babies while running a business.

In terms of diversity and inclusion, do you think the design industry offers equal opportunities to all?

I do think that the design industry is among the more inclusive. Personally, as a woman of colour in the industry, I have never felt that any doors are closed to me. The one area where our industry could do better is social mobility, due to the length of the courses (especially architecture) and the typical salaries, the industry tends to attract those from a particular financial background, and I feel we would do well to expand the diversity in that aspect.

We proactively employ a growing, diverse team of inspiring, accomplished and driven individuals from a range of backgrounds and countries all committed to creating exquisite interior couture for our clients.

Dining room designed by Elicyon
Dining room designed by Elicyon

What advice would you give specifically to women in leadership roles?

Own the role, don’t let impostor syndrome rear its ugly head too often. Remind yourself of why you deserve the role.

Appreciate that you can’t have everything – there are only so many hours in the day and you will make a series of choices between varying options of how to spend your time.

And one that I am still working on – guilt is no fun and doesn’t bring any value to your day.

What is your proudest achievement to date?

The next one! I have a forward-looking approach and an ambition to constantly move onto the next challenge.

Having said that, I am proud of the team, the projects and the incredible network of artisans and craftspeople who are a part of the Elicyon ecosystem.

What’s next for Charu Gandhi?

To keep going, keep growing and enjoying the incredible opportunities that I am blessed with. We have some very exciting things coming for Elicyon the next 12-18 months – watch this space!