Interior designer, founder of ‘Chestnut Storeys’ Farah Agarwal believes in mixing subtlety with dram- The New Indian Express

“I like my design world to constantly be in a state of flow, without pausing in the confines of any city,” says Farah Agarwal, the Chennai-based founder and chief designer of the interior design company, Chestnut Storeys. From sprawling villas to compact apartments as well as vibrant work zones, her signature dynamism runs through the spaces that she so evocatively designs.

Replete with natural light, vivid shades and soft pastels in textured contrasts, there is in every project an edgy vivacity knitted to a sense of contained calm. “My travel powers me immensely,” says Farah, “directly influencing my creativity when I engage in different cultures to take back home anecdotes to weave into my projects.” 

Farah Agarwal

According to Farah, nature is a rich ensemble of colours, textures, smells, variations and sensations that collectively play a part in her designs. “It has a very soothing and calming effect, making me feel happier and more optimistic. I bring the outside inside in many ways  for nature to wield its positive effects on everyone,” she says.

Ushering in sunshine always visually opens up the spaces. Clever use of glass makes way for seamless views and engagement with the outside world. The strategic placement of mirrors also heightens the impact of available light and creates magic indoors, in addition to plants, wooden flooring, natural stones as ground work or wall cladding adding up to a natural, organic feel.

It is a pulsating mix of energies—from the modish yet breezy Beach House inspired by nautical elements to the 25-year-old Boat House, a treasured expanse of 7,000 sq ft in uptown Chennai that breathes global flavours, to the vibrant themes cupping the kidspace in PlaySchool. Farah describes her own sense of style as “classic yet edgy, soft yet dramatic. I feel my personal sense of style is eclectic, avant garde yet with a strong cosmopolitan stance. I possess the love for bold and challenging palettes built on the belief of quiet luxury.”  

Clearly, the innately refined perspectives have led to the remarkable growth of Chestnut Storeys since its inception six years ago. Challenges abound, of course. “On the work front, it is a constant challenge dealing with the lack of discipline in our labourers. It is a learning for me in many ways,” confesses Farah. “As a mother, it is often a big toss-up, balancing time between work and my family. Often, work calls elongate into hours and spill into family time, travel schedules thicken and get a little crazy, and procuring details for multiple projects becomes a bit sapping. But as I always believe, there is a lesson to learn from everything and over the years I have learnt to divide and manage my time more efficiently,” she says.

Up next is international turf. “We bagged our first global project at the beginning of the year and have netted in a second project as well,” she says, building further on the pan-Indian presence of Chestnut Storeys. Clearly, the sky is the limit for Farah’s

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His Whole House founder Molly McNamara shares her story of loss to build suicide awareness

Trying to navigate through a maze blind without legs — this is how Molly McNamara describes the feelings of pain and hopelessness accompanying the trauma of suicide.

McNamara is the founder and executive director of the Cypress-based nonprofit His Whole House, a ministry that uses a faith-based approach to help trauma survivors. The organization works to “break the cycle of trauma and shame” through training, mentoring and counseling. Among its clients are people whose loved ones have attempted or carried out suicide, as well as individuals who may themselves struggle with suicidal thoughts.

“We are not a crisis intervention ministry…however, what I’ve come to understand is there is a long-term recovery period for all of us — including myself,” said McNamara, who had herself overcome attempts of suicide as a teenager.

As a suicide survivor, McNamara will be sharing her story of loss and resilience during a live online talk Sept. 30 in observance of National Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month.

On March 31, 1998, McNamara said she received the most horrendous news of her life — her son, Adam Thomas, had died of suicide.

“It was in that moment that I became the most reluctant survivor of suicide and truly felt a very, very dark cloud come over,” she said. “It had been one of several traumas that had occurred within a short period of time. I’d lost both my parents just months before…and this was my only living child. It was something that took me to the bottom of my ability to function and I felt as if I was in a maze, blind without legs.”

She lived in the oppressive shadow of that dark cloud for 11 years. She finally came to recognize that what she’d experienced was trauma — the trauma of loss. She founded His Whole House in 2010.

“When I came out of the silence of my own pain and trauma and started the 501(c)3, my intention was

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