Hi and welcome to the creative mind of Brooklyn-based interior design firm, Ishka Designs.
This blog allows you to peek behind the scenes of our design process; see the images, products, and events that inspire and motivate us. We are happily biased towards interior design topics with a sustainable undertone. With our international backgrounds, we definitely embrace a global perspective and influence. We hope you are inspired and sometimes provoked by our postings and we look forward to reading and responding to your comments!

One love, idi


Happy Holidays!

Bird of paradise flower (reminds me of Jamaica home); NiyaBas.com Photography
We would like to say many thanks to our clients, supporters, vendors, and friends who have continued to lift our spirits and make us feel happy to be doing what we love!  Best wishes and all the best for the new year.



A cozy corner

images by NiyaBas.com photography
It's really rainy today.  Misty, mysterious, and reflective.  The perfect day to find a cozy corner, snuggle up with a warm alpaca blanket from D. Bryant Archie Textiles and read a good book - maybe a well worn favorite by Paulo Coelho.  Yea, I realize it's Tuesday.  But for us in the freelance world, sometimes Tuesdays are our Sundays.  
blanket by dbryantarchie.com; The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho; hot chocolate by MarieBelle; chocolate tea by St. Mary's Cooperative 
So where better to snuggle up than in this charming corner vignette styled by IDI featuring this vintage bergère, re-upholstered in rich chocolate-y chenille from Kravet.
our favourite cozy corner
close-up of fab Kravet fabric
we refinished the wood with a glossy neutral to pick up the tiny dots in the chocolate fabric
images by NiyaBas.com Photography
Speaking of chocolate, maybe we should also cozy up with a pint sized steamy cup of thick hot chocolate from Mariebelle café in SoHo, or a cup made from scratch using only the best Jamaican chocolate from St. Mary Cooperative*.  Either way, add a touch of your favorite liqueur, and we are well on our way to dreaming of endless possibilities, successes, and perfect escapes.
*Sidenote: On my mission to find a fantastic image of Jamaican hot chocolate I came across this amazing post on St. Mary's Co-operative: sustainable tourism in Jamaica providing jobs for women. KUDOS!

Stay warm and cozy,


Before & After: Then & Now

Some time ago, we were asked by a client to recommend changing out the tiles in her master bathroom or keep as is.  There was white marble everywhere, floor to ceiling and all up in the tub, and while my conscience would kill me after, we decided to renovate.
before - floor to ceiling marble everywhere
Despite some major hiccups along the way (and I mean hiccups of the epic kind), we produced a very clean design that we think complimented the beautiful layout.  We are still very much agog over the separate shower, standalone tub, and the double vanities.  Love all the modern details.  Unfortunately, we didn't shoot this for portfolio purposes, though we really wish we had.
after...in addition to new tiles, we added a shelf in both tub and shower area
before view of vanity and light fixture
after...changed out light fixtures in vanity areas as well as shower head and tiles
photography by NiyaBas.com Photography
So why the guilty conscience?

1. Missed opportunity.  This project was one of the firsts for IDI.  As such proper documentation of in-progress work (photography) was not a priority for us, waiting instead for total completion.  As a result, we missed the boat when the client decided to shelve the project half way.  Though we have some bathroom images to show, there were a few more spaces throughout the home that were never photographed.
2. Totally environmentally "unconscious".  Our biggest issue lay in the fact that we agreed to renovate the bathroom.  Despite its unattractive appearance, there was nothing technically wrong with the bathroom.  It just was unattractive to both the client and us.  The client more so.  In retrospect, could we have waited for the first signs of deterioration to renovate? Yes.
3. Waste.  Where did all that marble go?  I'm not sure.  And did we really have to get rid of all of it? Could we have kept the existing tub cover, at a minimum? Yes.

Lessons learned from this project have been applied to all projects since then.  The biggest of all is we are being a lot more conscious of our carbon footprint now.

Side note: our current clients fell in love with the above accent tiles so we are working with them again.  But we paired it with a new combination of tiles for a totally different feel.  More anon.




From the Sand o& Snow Collection, niyabas.com photography
I haven't posted in a while and for my grand return, I had an interesting, possibly even controversial, post ready to pen.  But then in the middle of thinking it through, I ran out the studio to attend a beautiful event co-hosted by five amazing modern rug designers.  All women.  Judy Ross, Amy Helfand, Malene B, Tracey Sawyer, and Tania Johnson.  The exhibition entitled Mother Earth, aptly named for the nature inspired rugs as well as the obvious, was held in the newly opened, sparingly furnished modern showroom, Casa on Tuesday evening. The backdrop as well as the intriguing tree sculptures that dotted the showroom were perfectly in sync with the rugs on display.  Accordingly, original post has been shelved for sometime in the future.
Baobab by Malene B Custom Handmade Carpets was on display
  Apart from the drool-worthy rugs showcased, what really impressed me was the strength and power of the feminine ______...not sure what to call it yet.  Everything about the event was flawless: the designs were striking, the quality impeccable, the presentations via the iphone microphone were sleek as were the designers themselves, the light heartedness, the importance.  To me, this event was important.  I almost didn't make it as I was a bit torn between supporting my friend Malene or going to yet another "how to get published" event.  She won out and frankly, so did I.  Let me explain a bit more about myself...

Etu Liliacea by Tracey Sawyer, The Nought Collective was on display
Of the three kids in my family, I am the only girl.  Of the 19 or so kids in the neighbourhood, I was one of four girls, and really the only one if you count those who hung with the boys.  Choosing a career in finance, specifically equity research, my odds just got progressively worse.  When I crossed over into design, things began to look up. We completely outnumbered the men in the classroom.  Ridiculously so.  As I began to explore behind the scenes beyond the classroom, I saw women were everywhere, in the showrooms, at events, even in the media. It was as if they were making up for my childhood.
love this amazing forest abstraction by Amy Helfand on display
Yet, funnily enough, the males still seemed to dominate the top.  Maybe it was the architecture influence?  Or socialization?  Or maybe it's genetics?  Haven't quite found a rational explanation for it.
Tania Johnson Design, featured rug on display
Fast forward to the present.  Female designers are indeed everywhere and the numbers are amazing.  Maybe not as much in the limelight as those classroom numbers would suggest but we are definitely there and growing.  Maybe we weren't as aggressive about being in the limelight in the past, or maybe we weren't given the opportunity, or maybe because we do outnumber the men, the men seem to stand out more when it comes to the limelight.  Whatever the reason, don't fool yourself...us women are doing it big.
Judy Ross Textiles, featured rug on display
And that night's event underscored that much.  The room was filled with amazing female designers, some I had known a while, some I'd met in recent months, and some I just met that evening.  All in different stages of the cycle, some behind the scenes, others in the forefront.  The conversations were genuine and supportive and even inspiring.  As Judy Ross pointed out in her short presentation, it's great when your competition can come together to create an event like this:

Colourful.  Artistic.  Expressive.  Beautiful.  The strength and power of us females.
The designers: (L-R) Amy Helfand, Tracey Sawyer, Malene Barnett, Judy Ross, and Tania Johnson.  Photo courtesy of Malene B.
My iphone pic of the amazing female designers with Casa showroom team. See wonderful tree sculptures in back.
Former classmate Lily Yung, Anishka (Ishka Designs), the amazing rug designer Malene B, and Sarah Han.  Photo courtesy of Malene B.



Think Pink! Photo by NiyaBas.com Photography

We've been very busy of late juggling a few projects, working out some media strategies and specifying like crazy. To be honest, I haven't really been neglecting the blog - I do have many ideas swirling in my head that need to be penned - we just really haven't had the time to do it.  However, I felt it only appropriate to come up for air for a few moments before the month ends to focus on a very special topic: the fight against breast cancer.  "Hmmm," you say, "did Ishka Designs just hop on the pink bandwagon?".  "YES!", we say loud and proud.
Photo Source merchantcircle.com
I must admit that I did not have any real idea or really any intention of doing a blog on aiding this fight. But a few things happened recently that pushed me in this direction:

Incident No. 1. While taking my early morning 5 minutes to flip through the mounting pile of magazines laying about the apartment, I came across this project by french team, Gilles & Boissier.  It really didn't move me until my eyes fell upon the incredible glass walls lining the halls of french restaurant design renovation, (La Villa) all of which were...get this...PINK!  I blinked a couple of times, after all it was early morning, then read the print. Yes, the designers chose to use pink toned glass panels to create visual interest and direction throughout the space.  Brilliant! That's what I call taking a chance with color.  But was that really how they saw it? Is the use of pink in anywhere other than a little girl's bedroom, really taking a chance?  And did they really think that the color would attract enough attention as to lead people on a journey to discover the rest of the space? It got me intrigued...
gorgeous, I think
pink glass perfectly offsets the mouldings on the limed wood panels
Pink panels inviting us around the corner
Photos by Eric Laignel for Interior Design magazine
Incident No. 2. My second prod, came while shopping with my client this past Sunday.  Strolling through the streets of SoHo trying desperately to ignore all the clothing and shoe temptations, I came across this sign:
Whoa! Is the universe trying to tell me something?
...and finally, Incident No. 3. After having one of those really brief but impactful conversations on Twitter this morning with Marcy, owner of mid-century modern furniture retailer, Irwin Feld Designs, I misspoke, or rather, misspelled the word pink, inserting a 'U" for an "I". This got me all inspired and thinking, can't pink be strong and yes, punky? There is, after all, the hardcore pop star Pink and Jamaican dancehall artist, Tami Chin, doing just that.
tough Pink Photo by Dave Meyers
Tami Chin, photo by Mark Lidell
But do we have the equivalent of them in interiors?  So I went digging... and after much amusement online, it hit me! I didn't have to go very far or very deep into Google for my answer. I had the answer right here in my first major group project at FIT.  Our group consisting of Lily, Devette, JuYoung, and myself used pink (really fuschia) as the accent to our black & white corporate interior, the head office of a major imaginary magazine.  We wanted to show that pink could be tough, strong and edgy. Our concept? "Bond girl meets Rococo". Funny now, really.
The Editor-In-Chief office designed & drawn by yours truly, rendered by JuYoung and me. Pink accents inspired by Mark Rothko painting and drawings by Amelie Hegradt
Rothko painting
Amelie Hegardt drawing
Black, white & pink inspired the interiors
Shared Office Space, group design, drawing by me, rendered by JuYoung
Elevator bank, a subtle hint of what was to come, design & drawing by me, rendering by JuYoung and I. Remaining project images designed by team members intentionally omitted.
Note: The guest critic could not decide whether he hated or loved it.  Apparently, we disturbed him!!! 
In my effort to post about Breast Cancer Awareness, I really needed an angle.  Or colour as the case may be.  By the time I pulled the post together I realize my interest lay not in the obvious but in understanding the choice of Pink to represent this awareness.  But I think I get it now.  For all the reasons above starting with the restaurant, here's why Pink:
- it's taking a chance, a leap of faith. Maybe so that we'll be led in a direction to find a cure fast, not just for this type of cancer but every.
- it attracts attention (it got me to really wake up that morning and to mentally jar our student critic's thought process), enough so that people want to take notice and do battle with it...fight cancer
- it's femine...and tough ...like all the cancer survivors and non-survivors...and Pink the pop star.
- it stands out amongst the grit and even the glamour (see the sign in SoHo)
- and last but not least, it's strong and edgy - much like any kick-ass Bond Girl, Tami Chin, the flower photo by NiyaBas.com, and much like the ongoing fight against breast cancer.

As for breast cancer and any cancer for that matter, do what you can today. Visit www.nbcam.org to learn more. A lot more.



Welcoming Baby J!

All photos by NiyaBas.com Photography
The little munchkin decided to come a few weeks before we were ready with his room, but lucky for us we were just a few minor "hiccups" away from completing his vibrant and stimulating nursery.  This project definitely had a couple of firsts for us:
1. Our 1st nursery decor and
2. Our 1st serious exploration with colours and patterns. I mean we've experiemented with colour and we've tried on pattern, but never had the two collide at maximum velocity before.  At least that's how it felt to us as Baby J's room began to take shape!

The inspiration for his room came from the idea of sports, but it is a far cry from sporty.  Taking the concept of "the net", we abstracted various diamond and square patterns to create an explosion of colour and an almost obnoxious experiment with pattern.
We were inspired by these beautiful quilts by Denise Schmidt Quilts. And its funny, our experiment definitely led us down an interesting path, moving from safe and neutral to zany and fun! Much like the order of the quilts on our inspiration board!
A few things we want to talk about with respect to this project that don't really get highlighted on our website. Firstly, the most beautiful feature of our client's home is its age (over 100 years) and the amazing woodwork that has been preserved.  However, with the exception of the fireplaces, we felt baby J's floor somehow got robbed of that artistry. In an effort to tie back to the rest of the house and add a bit more reference to our concept we added white mouldings to frame the custom wall hangings and to provide contrast.
Even the molding aids in the patterning.
For us, styling a kid's room who hasn't even reached 3 weeks old is a toughie. We didn't want to put "our" stamp on him, as we feel that's for the parents.  But if you've ever been a new parent, you know that with the first arrival your primary concern is the major items, breast feeding, and a good night's sleep. The seemingly small stuff is secondary.  So when it came time to shoot the room we realized we had to get a few of those "small" things to give it a personality. And apparently we hit that nail on the head.  Our vintage finds were a hit but our fave was this quirky hearth accessory.  In his unfinished state, we knew there was a fun character waiting to shine.  We brought him to life by removing his shovel and stoke, adding some paint and a tie, sitting him down and creating a real life stick figure.
(l) vintage blocks in a vintage miracle whip jar; (r) our real life stick figure is also a Yankees fan
Pattern and colour ended up everywhere balanced by strong furniture pieces that will transition with baby J as he gets older.  Overall, exercising restraint enabled us to breathe a sigh of relief with our end result:
Baby J's room
Find the rest of the nursery "here", but be sure to come back to the post and tell us what you think.

We strongly believe baby J will be more than stimulated in his new room.  And we are very happy that our youngest client ever allowed us to play with colour and pattern in a way that is beyond our comfort level.  We really dig the end result...do you?



The Birth of a Competitive Spirit

Inspired by India
Today I take inspiration from the beautiful country of India. But before I discuss the how and the why, let me reminisce for a minute...

It seems like only yesterday I was roaming the halls of FIT, wondering if all my hardwork during the semester would result in one of my projects gracing the display cabinets along the corridors of the interior design department.  A project displayed not only meant a great sense of accomplishment but that others beyond your classmates and professor would get to experience your laborious efforts of the semester.  And while that was never a real motivation for me to work my ass off on all my assignments, it was definitely the icing on the cake flavoured A or A+.  So yea, I did pretty well at school and got my fair share of display time, but nothing compares to the real world or even a real design competition, where not only money or credit is involved but actual implementation, production, and PRESS - the holy grail of most deisgners!

I recently came across the Project U Design competition created by BIOH® Polyols.  The competition, open to furniture design students at the Savannah College of Art and Design, allows students to enter their own upholstered chair design, keeping in mind it may eventually be manufactured using the company's BIOH® product. In my opinion, the competition is excellent for three reasons:
1) the winning design will be chosen by us, john public. A great example of crowdsourcing at work in the furniture industry.  I suggest you get your vote heard by visiting here)
2) the winner will receive $1,000 plus royalties from sales, as the winning chair will be put into production by Century Furniture. Woohoo! The student gets PAID!
3) the chair will have internal components that are ECO-friendly: the BIOH® polyols and the suede upholstery. The use of BIOH® polyols soy-based ingredient in the foam component replaces some of the typical "not so friendly" oil-based polyols components often used in foam.  According to BIOH® Polyols, the suede is manufactured using recycled materials in a process that both reduces energy consumption and CO2 emissions substantially.  Now aint that special!?!
One of the entrants! Photo from www.experiencebioh.com
After careful scrutiny of the entrants' renderings, I would have to say the Alifair chair by Ryland Quillen featured above speaks to me the most.  It has a good sense of proportion and is substantial enough for a guy but with sensual lines that could appeal to a woman.  Which brings me back to where I started, India, and the inspiration piece for my vignette: the Janya pillow by Hammocks & High Tea:
Please be sure to check out all the gorgeous products by this in-demand design company: Hammocks & High Tea
The "Janya" print is inspired by henna artwork, an incredibly beautiful organic tattooing technique that's artistically and intricately applied to the hands and feet of brides during Indian wedding ceremonies:

With Hammock's & High Tea's simplified version in mind, I considered the following pieces beautiful compliments to the Alifair and my Indian inspired vignette theme.
1. Metal drum side table from Weylandtz 2. San Miguel Lantern from Serena & Lily 3. Toss up between lamb hair pillow from West Elm or sheep skin throw  4. Hammocks & High Tea Janya pillow and 5. the San Diego footstool, also from Weylandtz 
So go team Ryland! Let's get this baby into production so I can develop this vignette further and build a complete living space around this theme :)

To wrap up though, I want to jump back to competitions as incentive.  Considering the potential of winning a competition myself, I did contemplate staying on another 2 years beyond an Associate's to get a Bachelor's degree in interior design (in addition to the 50 million degrees I already have).  Of note, you are only eligible for the interior design competitions at FIT in your 3rd and 4th year.  In the end I decided that competitions were less important to me than getting my shingle hung, projects really implemented, and the euphoric satisfaction of design actualization and completion.  Three years later, that feeling of accomplishment has not diminished, it's still there at the end of each project.  The difference is that the feeling has become a bit more elusive as I now continually seek the "ultimate wow"...when that feeling of "I cannot top that!" floats in mind...the feeling I once felt in school at the end of each semester as I passed my project in the hallway.  I am my own competition.

anishka for idi


Why remember...

photo by NiyaBas.com photography

Hmmm, I was about to start off this post in typical Ishka Designs style when it hit me: should I be posting about design when I should instead be remembering that terrible day back in 2001?  Do we dwell on form or function on the anniversary of a day when I watched solid design, form and function collapse to the ground? Or as I remember how friends struggled to escape the insanity of downtown Manhattan, witnessing things one hopes never to see in their lifetime or hear things they hope to desperately unhear.
photo by NiyaBas.com photography
Funnily enough, I think the answer is yes.  To remember the past, no matter the circumstance, is but the only way to create a brighter future and within architecture and design, its taking the lessons of how designers before us have best utilized space and how we can build upon that foundation. Our history and experiences allow us to better focus our design efforts: redefining and efficiently maximizing space for a better tomorrow.
Photo by NiyaBas.com photography
So let me return to the original intent of this post.  The featured spaces on our post are unrelated to 9/11 and New York, but my appreciation for them have definitely been inspired by all my experiences in urban dwelling in NYC, including that day. I've lived in and around NYC for the past 10 years, during which time I have developed a pretty good knack for efficiently utilizing small spaces.  I'm sure most urban dwellers can seriously relate to this.  But every now and again I am blown away by architects who take on the challenge purposefully, with flair and consciousness.

First up: I came across the work of Japanese architect, Yuusuke Karasawa, in the July edition of Interior Design magazine.  He turned a 900sf cube of a house into a dynamic, visually tricky space, that in my opinion is nothing short of amazing.  He utilized algorithms, light, and I guess a bit of fun house magic, to create a livable jigsaw puzzle inside an ordinary unassuming looking box.  My thoughts: genius! Yours? Read more here.
the exterior
angles - view of living area
angled kitchen
beautiful thin tread staircase
serene bathroom
Project Photography by Sergio Pirrone for Interior Design Magazine
Our second feature was posted on the incredible eco-conscious design blog Inhabitat.  This odd slice of land in Islington, London got transformed by Amenity Space.  An intriguing urban infill project that is only made better by the eco-conscious decisions that went into its creation.  Decisions such as a solar passive design (read more here) , a living sedum roof (green roof, read more here), recycled materials, an air-source heat pump, and sheep's wool insulation. Read more here.
intriguing interruption in the street façade
windows help with solar passive energy
efficiently beautiful kitchen/dining area
while not a fan of the bathroom colours I do appreciate the use of space
a slice of the neighbourhood.
Project images sourced from: www.inhabitat.com
I wonder what the neighbours think!?!

But back to remembering that day.  One of the lessons learned from our 9/11 experience is definitely one of appreciation and gratitude for what was once, what is now, and what will be.  Use your experiences to create beauty from nothing, find beauty in something, and definitely see beauty in everything. It's there.
Thanks to NiyaBas.com photography for "loaning" us these beautiful Brooklyn Bridge photos.