When Deena Rodrigues started up, she was a mother with 16 years of corporate experience. But her biggest asset was her passion for beautiful interiors. Her startup, Chairs & Company, is a quaint furniture store located in the heart of Bengaluru, in Indiranagar. The store itself, with homely furniture and books placed on coffee tables rather than shelves, looks and feels like a cosy home – exactly what Deena aims to offer to her clients.
In fact, Deena says that there have been quite a few instances when clients felt that their favourite books must be left at the store. One of her clients, who is an avid collector of pop-up books, left one by a Japanese illustrator at the store saying that it will be more at home there.
Career, Motherhood, Entrepreneurship
For more than a decade, Deena (now 41) was working as a communications and marketing professional at various corporates. However, she has always had an inclination towards interior design and redoing furniture. Before the possibility of becoming an entrepreneur struck her, it was just a hobby for Deena. But seeing her refurbishing four rosewood chairs to give a new look to her house, Deena’s friends noticed her talent and encouraged her to pursue this as a career. Her husband Arun Balan, who is an architect, was all for it too.
In 2017, Deena stepped away from her 16-year long career in the corporate world and started doing interior designing for free for her friends and husband’s clients. She is now a well-known designer and curator in the Garden city.
“From those four rosewood chairs, a lot of other things came, and led to this company. That experiment in my house just grew,” says Deena.
Deena was pregnant with her second child when she decided to officially launch Chairs &Company. In July 2018, she opened the store in Indiranagar, in the heart of Bengaluru.
She shares that the past year has been extremely challenging but equally rewarding. In fact, she does not recall having a good night’s sleep in the last two years.
Simultaneously tending to her baby boy and shaping her passion into a business, Deena says she is phenomenally organised “to get work done.” “I write down a to-do list every morning for home and work,” she smiles.
Deena, like most women, is a multi-tasker. Her day includes meetings with clients and accountant, and picking up her children from school, and spend time with them till they are tucked in bed. At home too, she discusses the trends in design with her husband.
Stating that an entrepreneur does not really retire from work, Deena says, “My hands are full at the moment. This is my first venture but I don’t think this is going to be my last.”
Making Homes Come Alive
Deena maintains that books and plants are the combination that make a space come alive, while things like mirrors give the decorative edge to the place. Great music adds to the vibe of the place. About Chairs &Company, she says,
“It is not just another store. Here, one should be able to understand the potential of furniture. At the end of the day, you want to stay at a place where you feel comfortable and alert,” she emphasised. Deena and her team want to show how each item could work at everybody’s home. The self-taught ‘interior stylist’ states that it is not a cold store where customers go and see a product on display.
Winning Team and Inspirations
The winning streak in her journey, Deena shares, has been a solid team where everyone is open to learn new skills. For around six years when she worked as freelancer, they experimented through trials and errors as a team, learning different techniques to build beautiful furniture.
“I have been fortunate enough to work with people who are doing a lot of export work for international brands. They know exactly the kind of leg I want for a table or the kind of silhouette that I need,” she says.
Deena has designed lots of houses, two cafes, reimagined and restored many individual pieces.
What really keeps her work interesting is the stories of people. Deena says that inspirations mostly come to her when she is designing the walls of homes. “We get talking with the client, the whole family, because when you are doing somebody’s houses, it is pretty intimate. You have to understand what their families are like- in order to put together a space they want to live in. We end up becoming friends with them.”
It is their stories, and the challenges faced by even those who seemingly have everything, and how they soldier on, that makes Deena’s canvas. She designs interiors for beautiful homes by keeping in mind not just the length and height of the rooms, but also the beautiful people living there.