Home is where your heart is. A place where you feel the most comfortable and at peace. Amrita Shrestha (Amreen Faisal) has been designing for the past 8 years and in a short span she has racked up quite a reputation in the Interior Design scene in Nepal. From homes to corporate houses to commercial businesses, her portfolio boasts a variety of designs. It was an honor to interview someone of her calibre and dive deep into her life.
Did you always want to become an interior designer?
Even before I took up interior designing, as far as I can remember my whole life has been revolving around it. Whatever decisions I took for my studies, I based it on what I wanted to be in the future which was to become a successful interior designer.
Being a regular kid with big future plans, I did not want to spend my time doing the 9 to 5 job schedule. I saw the potential of interior designing when it was just starting to bloom in Nepal so it was a bit hard for me to convince my parents about my career plans.
How did you get into interior designing? Where did you study? Internships?
Interior Designing has always been a part of me. I have wanted to become an interior designer from a very young age. When I was in the 9th or 10th grade there was a channel called "Travel & Living" which basically used to showcase lifestyle, travel and food and I used to get inspired by those projects they featured. So I’d say interior designing is my "dream career" and I'm lucky enough to love my work.
I studied in Holyland International School (now Rosebud) and did my +2 from United Academy. I graduated from Kantipur International College (Purbanchal University) with a Bachelors degree in Interior Designing. WE were the third batch there and I also completed a 14 month professional Interior Designing course from IEC.
I completed my internship from D'Architects & Associates Pvt. Ltd. I was recruited by Mr. Shagun Sthapit who happened to be my teacher at KIC and the Co-Owner of the organization. He was my favorite teacher and a major source of inspiration.
How has designing changed from when you started?
When I started interior designing, the concept was limited to decorating the property. Educating people about how vast and technical interior designing is, was an uphill battle. But now most people know how it works and thanks to social media most of the people actually have a basic concept of what they want and how to work on it.
How hectic can designing be? How busy are you?
Well, I'm a wife, a mom and an entrepreneur, so managing time is hard sometimes.
When you design you have to put yourself in your client's shoes and create what will make them comfortable and what highlights their personality. So it's kind of time consuming and tough at times but fun. I feel "the more challenging the project, the more satisfaction I get from seeing it succeed”. The biggest satisfaction is when your clients are satisfied with your work. Since I don’t like the 9 to 5 schedule, my time is quite flexible and hectic at the same time.
Who has been your biggest client and what is the toughest challenge you have faced as a designer?
Every project has taught me something new and every client holds a special place in my heart. Commercially, I think doing projects for ZTE and Bliss by Sakil Kunwar has been the toughest since they are perfectionists. Every residential design is tough and tricky. You have to turn a house into a home. It’s the place where the clients can unwind and relax, therefore every household is different. As mentioned before, you need to create what comforts them. In the context of Nepal, I would say the toughest challenge would be "time". Since we import most of the things, the minimum time frame for ordered goods is 21 to 45 days.
Who do you look up to in terms of inspiration?
Life - family, art, music, nature, travelling and other designers are all inspirations. Anything and everything really can inspire me depending on the time and day. Social media is a key tool now. With websites and apps constantly feeding you new ideas and inspiration, it’s such a nice quick way to be inspired. I follow countless designers and product lines on Instagram, Houzz and Pinterest. I enjoy browsing through a magazine or going on a home tour to see what is trending and incorporate what I learned in my designs.
What is your personal preference when it comes to interior designing?
I'm a minimalist, I feel "Less is More". I would say you would find a similar thread of casual elegance woven through my designs. I’m a sucker for creating comfortable and cozy spaces, where clients would feel at home anytime of the day. I love to use a surprising pop of color. I love livable luxury— rooms that can be dressed up or dressed down depending on the occasion, like that perfect black dress in every women’s closet. It is different for commercial areas. It has to be effective and efficient which is why I approach commercial areas differently. I prefer a more functional and practical approach. It is because it has to be convenient for everyone.
How do you handle clients? Do you prefer clients who are more involved or do you prefer them to be hands off?
I love working with my clients, and figuring out their unique style and bringing that to life; I love seeing my client’s get excited about their home or work place. I let my client’s know up front that we are a team. Projects work best when the team is united, including the architect, general contractor, client and designer. I won’t take on a project if I feel the energy isn’t right. The best designs come into fruition when the team has a positive chemistry. This way everyone will feel comfortable and can freely express their ideas and designs; collaboration is key.
How do you manage the budget when it comes to designing? Some have more to spend and some have less?
People feel interior designing is only done by and for the upper classes. This misconception is what we want to change. The main objective of our company is to promote designing among the middle class as well. There are various ways to cut costs and there are ways to make the space look luxurious by investing in certain things. So interior designing is affordable for all levels of people and I manage the budget accordingly.
How do you handle mistakes? How do you overcome that and what have you learned?
Sometimes projects tend to go over budget due to various unforeseen reasons. We have to prepare for everything. Also, there needs to be a proper contract drawn for each project and I didn’t have proper contracts made. Those were some mistakes I made in the beginning. Some of my clients were surprisingly understanding, when they realized that they had chosen materials of a higher range which is why the project went over budget. But some clients were not so sympathetic, so we made a loss. I can safely say that I learned to make proper contracts. (Laughs)
What message do you have for young upcoming interior designers?
My message for young designers is, in order to be successful in this business you need to have the drive, determination and discipline! Be curios to learn more and more every day and try to always be present in the field.
Where do you see interior designing in Nepal in the next 10 years?
There has been advancement in the field of interior designing but people still do not have proper knowledge about it. It has also not been properly recognized by the Nepal Government and VAT offices don't have any specific directions as to where we should register as an "Interior Designer". Hopefully, in 10 years there will be more growth and people will be more knowledgeable. I also see a concept of professionally licensed interior designers in the near future.
Lastly, where do you see yourself in ten years time?
I have been in this field for almost eight years now. Well in ten years, I would like to be known as one of the proficient and influential interior designers.