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Designing for God

Interior designer and altar restorer Lenny Baretto from Cansaulim believes that altar designs take one closer to God. In conversation with NT BUZZ he speaks about his affinity towards rare and period furniture and old styles of baroque altars done in churches.
The detailing and complexity of the architecture in churches often leaves devotees and visitors wondering and in awe of the intricacy of the works with thoughts of what hardships and adversity the artist must have gone through to create something so splendid. Passion and intricacy are the key pillars, accompanied by traits of hard work, patience and dedication that give an artist the support to perfect his art. Little did interior designer Lenny Baretto know that living in a house nearly 100 years old with lot of antics around him, would prompt him to take up the art of altar restoration as a career. Having graduated from the Sir JJ School of Art, Mumbai, Lenny took up designing and restoring in 1988.
For Lenny an interior designer’s job involves aspects of the entire architectural structure from flooring to colouring to space planning. Speaking about how he developed an interest for altar restoration and designing for churches and chapels, he says: “Over the years working with the church I took a liking to restoration and thus realised the value of period furniture and old styles of baroque done in churches.”Besides restoration he has also provided additional furniture for the sanctuaries of the church which blend into the old style. “I try to design each altar differently with Eucharistic symbol in the centre. My work of restoration most of the times calls for enhancing of the degenerated ‘Retablos’, main altars are constructed of wood, embellished with the gilding done by Agnelo Fernandes and his sons Nixon and Glen. If the altar is finished in the old baroque style, we take a design from there and incorporate it in ours so that the work resembles the art of that century,” says Lenny. He has restored altars at various churches and chapels across Goa, including Arambol, Canacona to even areas in Sindhudurg. Besides churches, he also does exquisite house altars depending on the requirement of the clients.
Although passion is important Lenny talks about how his aunt played an important role in shaping his career choice: “I had an aunt who would always look after things and value them, whenever anything would break we were taught to repair and restore it instead of disposing it.” This pushed him to restoring and repairing things. Having a workshop of his own Lenny has showcased his expertise in different aspects of his house too. He says: “We have also got chairs that are 100 years old.
The liking for laying out, making changes prompted me to go deeper into the art.”
In his art, Lenny believes that the altar designs should take you closer to God which is why he works enthusiastically. Although there is not much research work required Lenny speaks about the standard procedure that he follows before he begins his restoration work on any church. “Firstly I study the condition of the church altar, followed by a report and quotation which specifies the estimate cost which can increase. Suggestions are proposed accordingly on whether repairs/replacements are required to enhance the beauty,” he says. Interestingly Lenny attaches hand drawn sketches of the to-be repaired/restored area which can be later approved or disapproved by the Diocesan Commissions for Sacred Art and Architecture, Goa. “I attribute my knowledge and skills in sacred art to late Fr Olav Velho Pereira who always helped me out with biblical references,” reveals Lenny.
Till date, Lenny has 100 works to his credits including restoration, repairing or providing additional furniture to the sanctuary of the churches and chapels – Blessed Joseph Vaz Sanctuary at Sancoale being one of his best works. “The work at the sanctuary was done with lot of passion and hardwork,” he says. At this sanctuary he showcased some of his rare works of sacred furniture, altar, lectern, presidential chair, paschal candle stand, baptismal font, reliquary for the mantle of St Joseph Vaz with many other enhancements. To improve the beauty of his work he intelligently uses light to give a special effect to his creation as he says that light plays and integral role in his art work.
Back when Lenny initially took up the art he cites a few problems he faced: “A main problem back then was finding the right workers and then keeping them to work for you. But now I have people coming to work for me. I have learnt to overlook these problems. It has never happened that any client is disappointed.” Lenny believes that it is passion which drives you to do what you like: “If you like something you put your heart and soul into it and you can overcome all difficulties and do it. The sophistication and detailing can be done only if you like it. The end result gives you the success and satisfaction that you have achieved something.”

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