At the Ministry of New, it’s all about contrast. How things work together, balance. The contemporary set against the past, Dutch against Indian, wood against metal. Step off the hustling streets of Mumbai and into the Ministry and you find an oasis that is calm, serene, and professional. The contrast can be striking, but founders Marlies Bloemendaal and Natascha Chadha make it work.
The Ministry was founded as a co-working space for those with work to do, but nowhere to do it. Rather than stick to the well-worn template of co-working spaces, of dusty tables and drab offices, Marlies and Natascha completely revolutionized the game- creating a space that’ll have you going back to it, over and over. Set in Kitab Mahal, a recently renovated blue-hued colonial-era heritage building, the Ministry already stands out in Mumbai’s Fort area, arguably the city’s cultural and creative hub.
What differentiates the Ministry from your run-of-the-mill standard co-working space? You see it as soon as you walk in; there is daylight, and lots of it, reflecting off vaulted high ceilings and onto minimalist white furniture with warm wooden accents. Marlies and Natascha designed the space themselves, and you can see that Dutch design sensibility everywhere, in pared-back and refined elements that are paired with essentially Indian elements (read Indian materials, workmen, artists, brands, everything). “It always comes back to really warm, hand-sanded wood, like beautiful Acacia wood, or I soft velvet or cotton Khadi; contrasts I love”, Marlies says.
The resultant space is one that allows members to make their own-Marlies has her own corner overlooking the entire space, while Natascha says her favourite spot is a “toss up between the swing in the Library and the Ghadda Day Bed in the Gallery. It's super comfortable and there's a window there that allows you to look at the bustling street below. A great contrast which makes me feel happy every time I sit there.”
Marlies was previously a graphic designer and art director, and her touch is evident in this eclectic space, almost exclusively Indian in its origin. The light installation and moonchair are Lekha Washington, the artwork Chatterjee and Lal, and the furniture Bombay Atelier. On the rugs that lend warmth and charm to the space (also Marlies’ favourite), she says that ‘it’s not made at factories or anything, it’s all very fair trade, and I was fascinated by their story and their beautiful work’. She stumbled on to Jaipur Rugs during a short stint in Jaipur, where she happened to connect with friends.