As the daughter of immigrant parents, Swathi Kappagantula grew up visiting India in the summers with her family, and this began her globally-inspired life that ultimately led to her founding Studio Kahaani, a home and lifestyle brand.
Swathi has lived in Washington, Boston, London, Paris, Geneva, and New Delhi as a diplomat and has travelled and worked in over 20 countries. “These were enriching professional and cultural experiences for me, where alongside my work, I always sought out galleries and artists in each new place, collecting and curating art and a network of sources along the way,” she offers.
With each move, Swathi took pleasure in starting fresh with her décor and began to explore what it meant to create a unique place in the world through home. As a passionate storyteller, she believes good design should tell your story. “I want people to understand who I am when they are in my home, what I value and cherish, and I like to feel the same sense of connection in other people’s homes,” she states.
In her current home in The Glebe, she incorporates cultural elements such as carved antiques, artisanal textiles, brass heirloom pieces, and original wall art and sculpture.
Working as a designer, she hopes to bring this to her clients, too, so that their home reflects their style and tells visitors who they are and where they’ve come from.
Swathi, her husband, and their two children live next door to the home Swathi and her family moved into in 1979. Her parents still live in the house. The backyards have been joined to allow for easy flow back and forth between the two homes. When she was growing up, Swathi would often visit Max, the next-door neighbour who was born in the house and lived there until he passed away in his 90s, and then Swathi and her husband purchased Max’s home.
“The Glebe as a neighbourhood means a lot to me, especially the historic streetscapes and architectural heritage,” explains Swathi. And while some might have considered the home a tear-down, Swathi tackled a gut renovation that preserved the brick and some of the home's precious details. “For me, juxtaposing the modern interiors with the historic exterior is a reflection of our lives as they’ve evolved in the Glebe over the decades.”
At the front of the home, a study area has been converted into a showroom where her textiles and accessories, like natural incense, are displayed. The carefully curated shelves are lined with cushions, textiles, handmade soaps, and one-of-kind woven rugs, all curated objects that reflect global inspiration. “All our products are sourced from fair trade and equitable partners who share our commitment to uplift artisan communities in India,” Swathi ensures.
Her ultimate goal is that the business brings more cultural awareness into Canadian homes. Her own home is a clear example of this. While it speaks to her heritage, the look is universally inviting, and many of the items would easily transition to a variety of design styles. She suggests that when incorporating globally inspired décor, the pieces shouldn’t be grouped but allowed to stand on their own as more of a statement rather than a collection of goods.
“My hope is that Studio Kahaani becomes a source of inspiration and resource to create more diversity in design, interiors, or people’s approach to daily life – a reflection of Canada’s cultural tapestry,” Swathi states.
Find Studio Kahaani products at: Bloomfields Flowers and OAG shop at The Ottawa Art Gallery
Swathi’s tips for showcasing global collections:
- Textiles carry stories about culture and craft traditions and easily add colour and texture to a space. Pillows, table linens, and rugs are all opportunities to incorporate pieces that can personalize a space – or try draping textiles on the back of a sofa or chair for a simple and impactful statement.
- Vintage and flea markets in other cities and countries can yield amazing treasures. While it may be hard to bring back larger pieces such as furniture, small and unique vintage objects can travel back with you as reminders and inspiration to add character to the home.
- Support local businesses that do the job for you through thoughtfully sourced and authentic handmade goods. Purpose-driven small businesses can have a tremendous positive impact on artisan communities worldwide.
- Incorporate cultural items into a home that are also functional so that they can be interacted with and part of a daily routine. Pull out heirloom brass and silver pieces to use instead of keeping them tucked away.
- Cultural appreciation comes with the need for cultural understanding. When incorporating cultural artifacts into your home, be sure to respect the meaning and significance behind the pieces while celebrating their beauty.