Raro London an internationally renowned Atelier creating unique, sculptural furniture
March 28, 2019
Founded by sisters Rajeeta and Rolly Gupta in 1997, Raro is an internationally renowned Atelier that creates unique, sculptural furniture using the finest rare materials. Celebrating its one-year anniversary in London this April, the design house is bringing the exoticism and drama of the east to the western palette.
The Raro namesake, although eponymous, was chosen by the pair to highlight not only the sisters’ intrinsic links with each piece of furniture, Ra for Rajeeta and Ro for Rolly, but to signify the rarity of the pieces themselves and the materials from which they are made.
Raro translates as rare in Italian, denoting the borrowed heritage of great Italian design seen in the style of the collections. Rajeeta and Rolly specify rare materials such as antique jewellery-grade coral, African ebony and Afghanistan Jade, each of which is seldom used in the creation of bespoke furniture. One requires patience and passion when working with such materials due to their scarcity or notorious complexities in the workshop. The rarity of the materials is distilled in the exclusivity of the furniture, in turn owing to the remarkable skills of the Raro craftspeople.
Excellence at every stage
The sisters share a love of excellence in design that extends beyond conventional notions of furniture. Rajeeta and Rolly consider their work within a more artistic realm, marrying materials and stylistic references together for impactful, elegant pieces for the home.
The Raro design process is, at its essence, collaborative. Rajeeta and Rolly have a dynamic and prosperous creative relationship, deliberating ideas in a shared intellectual space laden with an inimitable level of sisterly understanding. They believe that creativity is often latent but can be conjured up from the depths of the creative mind through conversation and excogitation. Rolly’s often nocturnal design prescience is bought to Rajeeta to sketch, should the vision disappear with first light. Such is the conception of a timeless Raro piece.
With only a year between them, Rajeeta and Rolly have formed an inseparable force for design and business alike, having unified the skills learned throughout their formative years. Both sisters cite their father as a mentor who instilled in them the principles upon which Raro was founded: excellence at every stage. Rajeeta and Rolly have a firm belief in the importance of excellence in design, enterprise and professional companionship. Their father taught them that no one sister should be relied upon for her excellence in one area exclusively, but that both should master all areas of business within the bespoke furniture industry.
The History of Raro
The conception and initial launch of Raro was organic, developing naturally from the sisters’ creative disciplines and qualifications. Rajeeta was studying interior design in London while Rolly specialised in couture fashion when their father invited them to take creative roles in the construction of the Gupta family home in India. The sisters worked closely with architects and skilled craftspeople to create bespoke cabinetry and furniture, recognising in themselves an artistry that far exceeded that of the pre-existing bespoke furniture offering in India. Rajeeta and Rolly began to notice that their own pieces demonstrated a thoughtfulness and a certain level of quality that could not be found in the work of their contemporaries. They had discovered a niche for a new breed of furniture designers in India, and so Raro was founded.
The sisters launched their first furniture collection at the Hyatt Hotel in Delhi, consisting of twenty pieces designed with the discerning market in mind. Rajeeta and Rolly, only just approaching their 20s, received unprecedented praise from those at first unable to comprehend the capacity for excellent design in these two young women.
Soon after, the first Raro flagship was opened. Set in a restored heritage property, the meticulously designed furniture could be seen in a new light, framed within corniced walls, tall windows and marbled mantelpieces. The flagship was the manifestation of the sisters’ “gallery concept,” comprising individual pieces of furniture linked only by materials and colours. The sisters designed the pieces to be viewed as art; masterpieces to be interpreted and understood on an individual level. Instead of designing furniture suites, Rajeeta and Rolly curated a series of majestic, stand-alone pieces, each a masterpiece in its own right. The sisters wanted to encourage a sense of refined eclecticism in the luxury furniture market, giving clients a taste of the travel-inspired collectible. This style proved a welcome alternative to the mainstream matching culture.
The individuality of each Raro piece is held paramount by Rajeeta and Rolly. The sisters poured themselves into the collection, their infinite attention to detail and dedication tangible in every join, finish and seam.
Family, friends and dignitaries alike were immediately taken by Raro, igniting in the sisters an unquenchable desire to show the world how far they could push the boundaries of bespoke furniture design as tastemakers in the industry.
At the turn of the century, Rajeeta and Rolly had focussed their attention on the western market. Establishing a European presence became a primary objective for the sisters, creating a platform for further artistic expression in an unexplored network. By 2013, Rajeeta and Rolly had taken Raro to London, excited by the prospect of unveiling their designs never before seen by the British eye. Establishing the St James’s Square Atelier as an experiential asset allowed the UK market to encounter luxury Indian design for the first time in this way.
Raro is a celebration of Made in India and the way furniture has developed throughout the country’s history. This can be traced from what the sisters describe as Yogic, floor-based living to the high art of bespoke furniture design. To see the pieces curated in a space, be it in the Delhi flagship or the St James’s Atelier, is to witness an exhibition of timeless style and to honour Indian craftsmanship.
Craftsmanship is a red thread woven through the Raro collections. Rajeeta and Rolly feel its importance keenly, with a personal vigour. Each piece of Raro furniture is made under one roof by craftspeople working exclusively with the Gupta family. The skilled artisans are like family to the sisters, and share a highly protective, encouraging and creative relationship. The sisters find themselves enamoured by the finalised Raro pieces, not least because of their intrinsic beauty, but because they know and remember the craftspeople who helped to create them.
To ensure the discretion surrounding the manufacturing techniques and design concepts, there are only a select number of individuals authorised to enter the Raro workshop. Rajeeta and Rolly believe that the creation of Raro furniture is akin to the process of nurturing a baby and is deserving of the same level of privacy and respect.
Just as the sisters are guardians of the craftspeople, the craftspeople are guardians of the rare skills necessary for the creation of Raro masterpieces. Together, Raro and its craftspeople design for longevity, achieving heirloom quality across their collections.
With an international outlook and a culturally diverse background, Rajeeta and Rolly believe that travel is essential for their work. The pair aid each other in the realisation of one another’s visions through extensive exploration, and discovery of materials and manufacturing methods.
Everywhere the sisters visit yields new inspirations which influence the direction of the Raro aesthetic. The concepts that the Rajeeta and Rolly collect on their travels are imbued into the furniture, from the sweeping curves of Italian Regency to the modeish angularity of American Art Deco; hints of decadent Egyptian embellishment to quintessentially English reserve. This kaleidoscopic array of global influences results in a celebration of Indian craft, through the preservation of traditional eastern manufacturing.
Just as a great artist produces her sculptures or paintings, Rajeeta and Rolly believe that you cannot rush quality. The sisters invest themselves into the conception and creation of each new masterpiece, thriving in a more artistic design process. Raro creates exclusive pieces to be curated as one might an art collection. The exclusivity of the furniture defines its rarity, giving each piece a throne-like sense of significance.
The research and development of globally sourced materials forms the basis for the Raro design process. These materials, each sourced sensitively and ethically, are brought into conversation with one another via an experimental phase of pairing and contrasting. Rajeeta and Rolly have an innate understanding of both the physical and aesthetic tendencies of the materials in the Raro portfolio, concerning matters of manufacture and design respectively.
This phase of the Raro design process involves the marrying together of materials that are harmonious yet complimentary in texture and colour, often using a fusion of mathematics and intuition. The Holy Trinity, as Rajeeta and Rolly describe it, is an adage that ensures the timeless, refined look of the finalised pieces in their portfolio.
Raro seldom demonstrates the use of more than three materials within a design, and this imposes a framework within which the sisters can explore the relationships between the materials they use. Bright silvers offset the depth of rich ebony which in turn emphasises the texture of sumptuous suede, while black snakeskin provides a textural foil for golden detailing, adding a regal edge to a red drawer box, for example. The tendencies of each material contrast and enhance one another to achieve a striking yet liveable piece for the home.
Raro furniture is highly decorative at its core, adorning homes across the globe. It is these aesthetic allusions to jewellery within the portfolio that define the look and feel of Rajeeta and Rolly’s designs. From the use of jewellery-grade materials to the conception of furniture as jewellery in a literal sense, the embellishment of the home is fundamental for Raro. Bejewelled handles of ebony bar cabinets are set as a necklace might fall just below the clavicle, and Zambian emeralds are inlaid in console tables, glinting like earrings.
The distinctive style of Raro’s masterpieces transcends fleeting trends. It appeals instead to timelessness, the capacity for heirloom use and the universal respect for furniture of excellent quality. Clients of all ages and tastes appreciate the inherent beauty of the raw materials, the refined designs and the exclusivity surrounding the pieces.
So too does Raro transcend geography. The masterpieces are designed for stylistic flexibility, working perfectly in a palace or a penthouse, from the east to the west. The designs do not demand attention, but command it. Even though each piece of Raro furniture is unique, they are created to introduce a sense of balance, assimilating seamlessly into different living environments.
Investing in a Raro masterpiece means investing in the future of your home and the homes of your descendents. Rajeeta and Rolly believe that one must feel an emotional commitment to the pieces they choose. The sisters advise that clients should specify furniture that they will continue to appreciate practically as well as aesthetically, never tiring of the design. Raro pieces are dynamic. When viewed from different perspectives, the silhouettes appear to warp and twist to create points of intrigue throughout the room in which they are styled, encouraging varied interpretations. For example, the Swahili collection features a sleek dining table with an elliptical surface, foreshortening at different angles and appearing to oscillate with every step.
By Appointment Only