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!

Just wanted to say, 
"be merry, be well 
and more importantly 
be fabulous, productive and prosperous for 2013!!"
photo by Niya Bascom.


Seeking Marketing Intern for our Design Studio!

Our new studio look!
It's growth time again and we are looking for an amazing intern to round out the Ishka Designs team.  We have a very laid back spirit at IDI, but don't let that fool you.  We work hard and are results-oriented.  In addition, our newly revamped studio boasts of flexibility and efficiency, which means we have got to fill it with a hard working, creative minded and independent spirit.  Our major need right now is for an intern who will handle most of our day to day marketing and communication efforts with the potential for design assisting at all levels...yep, we may need you to lift a hammer or two.  We have several clearly defined goals that need tackling and we need just the right person to make this happen.  The position is perfect for the following:

1. A final year student or recent graduate with a concentration in marketing and/or communications and a strong interest in interior design.
2. A final year design student or recent graduate with great inter-personal skills, an outgoing nature and a "go get 'em" attitude.  Experience in sales, excellent writing skills and ability to communicate effectively through various media is a huge plus.
3. If you have a background in business development, marketing and sales and have a passion for interior design, we would love to hear from you.

Two days a week with flexible schedule to start.  Commuting costs and lunch provided.  This is an unpaid internship, however, if the fit is right we will consider employment beyond 6 months.

If you meet the above criteria, and would like to immerse yourself in a creative environment with two talented and driven designers with an exciting future ahead, we would love to hear from you.  Send your resume and cover letter "here".
We love green :) A close-up of the color section.
Ishka Designs is a 5 year old Brooklyn-based interior design firm that creates efficiently beautiful interiors for residential and commercial clients.  Our team consists of Anishka Clarke, lead designer and Niya Bascom, creative photographer.  We were recently put on the 2012 Top 20 African-American Interior Designers' list and our work has been published in various print and online magazines in the US.  Visit our website and blog for more details. 


Paris Project Progress!

Salut!  For those who may not know, we've been travelling to France over the past 6 months to work on a residential project in the heart of Paris.  Steps from the Eiffel tower, we really could not have chosen a more beautiful city to add a bit of our own touch of style.
Copyright Niya Bascom Photography.
Reposted from www.niyabascom.blogspot.com
Our first visit to the project site was an eye opener.  It took us a minute to "see" the beauty of what lay before us.  Once we started looking, however, all that was visible were the awesome pieces of art, an amazingly eclectic furniture selection and volumes upon volumes of books.  The interesting history of this duplex apartment will be shared in a future post but I will at least mention the beautiful moldings, two-story windows, curvy iron staircase and the double height living area.  Here is a teaser of the progress thus far:
Photo credit: Ishka Designs Inc.
Don't know what your thoughts are, but we are absolutely in love with this project!  Language barriers, serious jetlag issues, sprained ankles and the flu has not hindered its progress much, if any at all.  And now, the rich history of the clients and their love for the arts shines through all the rooms and we cannot wait to share the home with you once its completed.

a bientôt,


We are featured in NY Spaces Magazine's Oct 2012 Issue!

NY Space Magazine Oct 2012 Issue.  We are featured on page 136!  Go get your copy.
Pop the bottle, sprinkle the confetti!  We are celebrating the fact that one of our most recent projects is currently featured in a four page spread in the awesome NY Spaces magazine's October 2012 issue.  It is their popular Art Issue.  And all the photos were taken by our Niya Bascom.  AND they used our client's dining area close up for the opening of the well section!  So if you have a moment, go get your copy and help us celebrate.

One of our favourite photos of our project.  Artwork by Jamal Ince. Photo by Niya Bascom
Special shout out to all the amazing folks who worked with us on this project, including Nick Knacks Creative (contractor), Khem Brady (painter), 33 Woodwork (master carpenter), From The Source (custom furnishings), Jamal Ince (dope artist) and Sana Keefer (stylist).


5 Years + Diversity

We have exciting news today.  First off, it's our 5 year anniversary!!! 5 YEARS...kinda incredible.  If we were not travelling for work these days we would've invested some time and effort in a big celebration party.  It's possibly not too late, so stay tuned :)
Niya and Anishka at the opening of Elberta Restaurant, our latest restaurant project!
Secondly, we are excited that Ishka Designs will be one of 5 featured panelists on the prestigious American Society of Interior Designer's "Diversity in Design" symposium right here in NYC.  We are definitely advocates for diversity and are honoured to be a part of this panel with other amazing designers.  If you are in NYC and have the time, we would love your support at the event.  Feel free to share the invite with others too, it will be an engaging evening. See flyer for details:

Last but not least, we have a few exciting updates coming soon.  Be on the look out!

idi team


Introducing Elberta Part 2

We completely redesigned and installed a new façade for the restaurant.  The header of the new skinny metal "barely-there" frame (built by Lennox Ironworks) provides a strong contrast to the new name and logo finished in stainless steel.  It also conceals the security gate which was a major eyesore before.
Design - Ishka Designs; Copyright of Niya Bascom Photography; Styling Assistance - Sana Keefer
The façade BEFORE.  The old wooden structure was taken off-site and upcycled by Eddie's Ft. Greene salvage company located at Greene and Grand Ave's. 
Although only a few days have passed since our first post on Elberta Restaurant, this project took about 4 months to complete counting from the day we signed the contract up until the last construction day.  For the clients, a bit longer on the back- and front-end.  Construction itself took 3 months, delayed by crazy spring weather (impacting façade and sidewalk installation), site issues, product delays, etc.  But nothing before it's time eh?  Seriously.  Elberta's very first up and running event (friends and family) was held on the owners' anniversary, which is very symbolic as their wedding reception was held in this very same space under the previous banner a few years ago.  How's that for timing?
The lighting design plays a very important role in setting the mood of Elberta particularly for the dinner crowd.  We aim to capture the essence of that beautiful time of day just leading into dusk by using a sprinkling of warm edison bulbs throughout.
Design - Ishka Designs; Copyright of Niya Bascom Photography; Styling Assistance - Sana Keefer
BEFORE.  The afternoon light was decent in the old café but there was a ridiculous glare at a certain hour that we mitigated by tinting the exterior glass on the new façade. 
So here we are.  A few days into the opening of Elberta Restaurant.  She has finally exposed her multi-layered personality.  From the strong-willed temperament that is reflected in the newly designed steely exterior to the soft feminine wiles that is the more intimate back section of the restaurant.  Since we laid the ground work on how we got here in PART 1 of this post, let's take a look at the embodiment of Elberta's physical persona:
Clockwise from Top Left: 1. Material palette; 2. Bathroom walls painted black (a very specific black to match the floor tile) and covered in various vintage frames; 3. Wallpaper being hung by our favourite hanger Chris; 4. We painted white the exposed brick, beams, etc in the dining area to match both wallpapers; 5. A tone on tone textured wallpaper goes up by the bar and 6. Up-close of installed bar top.
Design - Ishka Designs
The material selection came together beautifully once the main element was determined: the bar top.  Fated to be built out of a gorgeous green material made from sorghum stalks, this resilient and beautiful plant by-product became the starting point of the entire palette.  With a focus on the 1920's prohibition period, we felt it only right to bring in metals and brass metallics to complement the bar top and to reflect her tough exterior.  To speak to Elberta's sensuality we married these elements with black and white in various textural forms, from wallpaper to hard laminates to the now beautifully painted brick walls in the dining area and bathroom.  In addition, darkly stained bamboo floors were installed.  Once we peeled back the tough layers, her softer feminine side is reflected in the vibrant floral wallpaper as well as in the beautiful frame details in the more intimate areas of the restaurant.  Overall, we believe we've successfully created a sophisticated environment, from the completely open storefront re-design right through to the black bathroom in the back.  Whether from the images, or your own intimate experience with Elberta, we hope you share our sentiments too.

And here she is, BEFORE & AFTER.  Interior and façade designed by Ishka Designs, captured by our Niya Bascom with styling assistance by Sana Keefer...
BEFORE.  Despite the yellow walls, the old café bar and cash-wrap felt heavy with the dark stained wood and wainscotting.  We kept the TV for the new bar patrons but neatly tucked it away so as to minimize the disturbance to dining patrons.
AFTER.  The brass faced cabinets help to create that early evening glow.  An aside: the bar-front material never turned up so we had to go with plan B, which worked out pretty well to say the least.  The white back wall here is the white textured wallpaper above.
Design - Ishka Designs; Copyright of Niya Bascom Photography; Styling Assistance - Sana Keefer
The daylighting in the restaurant is amazing thanks to the new façade.  To help reflect the light further, we used a subtly antiqued mirror for the bar back.  All told, we employed quite a bit of subtlety throughout this design.
Design - Ishka Designs; Copyright of Niya Bascom Photography; Styling Assistance - Sana Keefer
Thin metal shelves with cove lighting were installed in the bar area below the antique brass faced cabinets.  Subtle lighting under the bar picks up the glass details nicely.
Design - Ishka Designs; Copyright of Niya Bascom Photography; Styling Assistance - Sana Keefer
The kitchen walls when examined up close have a linear textured finish running in alternating directions.  When you visit her, be sure to check it out.  Btw, some of the black squares are actually cupboards.
Design - Ishka Designs; Copyright of Niya Bascom Photography; Styling Assistance - Sana Keefer
BEFORE.  While we have an eclectic sensibility, the mix and match furniture in the old café just didn't work. Not to mention the unflattering light fixtures.
AFTER. Elberta now feels open and bright.  The kitchen, partially exposed, has excellent ventilation.  You are not overwhelmed with cooking smells, though that couldn't hurt :)
Design - Ishka Designs; Copyright of Niya Bascom Photography; Styling Assistance - Sana Keefer
Though singularly subtle, we stocked up on these multiple light fixtures to create a romantic feel.  The tables were custom built using marine grade plywood topped with a black laminate surface.  Just love how the lines on the plywood play off the bar top.  Details can be seen on our website.
Design - Ishka Designs; Copyright of Niya Bascom Photography; Styling Assistance - Sana Keefer
As you can tell, we really love the light fixtures.  Could not be more happy with this made in the USA product. The brass and black housing with brass coloured cords were the right touches for the space.
Design - Ishka Designs; Copyright of Niya Bascom Photography; Styling Assistance - Sana Keefer
BEFORE.  The café was a haven for those who would rather work in a quiet environment away from home.  Fortunately for these folks a really cool looking café has opened up a few blocks down the road.
AFTER. It is the expectation that the restaurant's new found cohesiveness, once viewed from the street, will attract a wider audience for dinner and brunch.  This long view emphasizes the exposed beams and brick walls leading to the pretty focal wall at back.
Design - Ishka Designs; Copyright of Niya Bascom Photography; Styling Assistance - Sana Keefer
The detailing on the kitchen wall/storage unit is pretty cool.  Antique brass nailheads and laminates, black textures and the bar top material give it a nice depth.
Design - Ishka Designs; Copyright of Niya Bascom Photography; Styling Assistance - Sana Keefer
We can now see upclose the softer side of Elberta towards the back...
Design - Ishka Designs; Copyright of Niya Bascom Photography; Styling Assistance - Sana Keefer
One of our favourite perspectives in the space.  Very happy with how the textures, patterns and palette came together.
Design - Ishka Designs; Copyright of Niya Bascom Photography; Styling Assistance - Sana Keefer
Yes, there is a chimney and pseudo fireplace.  Very typical of Brooklyn brownstones.  And for those of you who were originally asking, you finally get to see what we did with those vintage frames.
Design - Ishka Designs; Copyright of Niya Bascom Photography; Styling Assistance - Sana Keefer
The remaining images can be found HERE on our website.  Feel free to leave comments below if you have any :)  And yes, Elberta is open to the public...go eat Southern cuisine and support this amazing couple!  Elberta restaurant is located at 335 Flatbush Ave, Brooklyn between Prosect Place and Park Place.



Introducing Elberta Part 1

Elberta Restaurant sneak peak 1; Niya Bascom Photography
A few months ago, we were tapped by a progressive Brooklyn couple to transform their existing cafe on Flatbush Avenue into a restaurant and bar serving night-time eaters and the hipster brunch crowd.  Psyched, pumped, amped, we were at once excited and crazed, as we had just signed 2 other major contracts with similar timelines.  With serious confidence in our list making skills and a burning desire to accomplish anything, we jumped right in with both feet.  Reflecting back on the past few months of sleepless nights, constant sketching on the fly, a ridiculous number of on-site visits, a CAD crash, and sweating bullets we are pleased to have reached the point where 2 of the newly signed projects are complete and ready for their world debuts.
Many a late night...
So let's start with the unveiling of "Elberta", the newest Southern restaurant in Brooklyn, NY.  After our first couple of discovery meetings with the clients, we decided that for the kind of impactful change that they were seeking, everything had to go including the name/logo, color palette and the association with cafes and words like peach.  Wouldn't you agree?
Site exterior before.  Elberta was once Velvet Peach Cafe - a day time cafe catering primarily to an early morning crowd, work-from-"home" individuals and those waiting on the bus.
Site interior before.  The once happy yellow and pink interior was overwhelmed by heavy panelling, yucky floors and an uninspired mis-match of furnishings and ad-hoc displays.
Site interior before.  Another shot of the dining area,
With the greenlight for a complete identity overhaul we now had to build the "story".  After days of back and forth with client and The Blue Griffin, our graphics consultant, Elberta (named by the client and personified by IDI) became a realistic character inspiring the look and feel of the restaurant.  So who is she?
Sneak Peak 2; Niya Bascom Photography
- "It is the height of the prohibition period and Elberta, a beautiful blues singer from the south has arrived in New York making waves on the speakeasy circuit.  Her difficult passage north developed her forward thinking free-spirited ways which were only softly tempered by her very feminine and southern charm.  Preferring the hours of dusk through dawn, Elberta is a riveting sensual woman both on-stage and off" -  
Translating to...
Ishka Designs Programming - New Logo designed by our favourite graphics team, The Blue Griffin Inc.
Ishka Designs Programming - Inspiration Board (images taken from various sources on the web - Getty images, etc.)
Ishka Designs Programming - Inspiration board
The design program therefore became a modern mash-up of the South and our interpretation of a post-industrial New York.  What that simply means is that we would honor the existing exposed beams and brick wall with various metals, screws, etc., while layering in southern ideas and sophisticatedly soft elements.  While the design is quite layered, we needed it to appear simplistic and understated - to reflect a vibe that is uniquely Brooklyn.  With concept in place, we spent less than two very precious weeks working through a myriad of floor plans focused primarily on the kitchen layout.  We settled in on a slightly modified footprint with a high-efficiency kitchen and compact bar solution.  It was now time for the fun to begin with contractor, Unique 1 Construction:  

Clockwise from top left: 1. Wainscot removed to reveal floor to ceiling brick wall - 2. Displays, etc pulled down and sold - 3. Kitchen area gutted and 4. Dining area emptied
Starting at top: 1. Construction begins and the new kitchen walls get framed out by Darrin and his team;  2. Our featured kitchen wall got taller to hide mechanicals and deeper to act as a wait station; 3 and 4. Another HVAC was added by the time we got back from overseas. Instead of having yet another ceiling fixture on display we chose to tuck it behind a soffit; and 5.  A few days in, the space begins to take shape.
The beauty about commercial design is the need to get the job done in as short a time as possible with pretty tight budgets.  While this can create limitations, it forces decisions to be made and triggers to be pulled quickly.  The team has to know how to be pro-active as well as reactive.  Like any project, unforeseen site conditions always impact the final design.  This project definitely had it's fair share.  Fortunately, the results worked very much in our favor.  In our next POST we will reveal Elberta.  In the meantime, we leave you with this last sneak peak:
Adding the final touches.  Niya Bascom Photography


Top 20 African American Interior Designers

The night's brochure and poster with Ishka Design's work on it (bottom right)!
This past weekend was a bit surreal for us.  Actually, the past two weeks really.  Since receiving the call with the amazing news that Ishka Designs was put on a list of Top 20 African-American Interior Designers, we've been walking around in a state of mixed emotions.  Last year's list read like a who's who of leading and up-and-coming stars, so to think that we are a part of this year's list was amazing and worthy of a let's hold my breath til they actually announce the list out loud and on paper.  And that they did.  This past Sunday, interior designer Kimberley Ward of the Pinkegshell blog unveiled her 2012 African-American Top 20 list of Interior Designers and yes, she said the list out loud and published it on paper. Yay!

13 of the 20 Interior Designers on the 2012 list that were in attendance.  
Ishka Designs made it unto a list with such amazing designers as Sheila Bridges, Joy Moyler, Daryl Carter and Roderick Shade, to name just a few.  The wealth of experience and accomplishments on the list has Niya and I truly humbled and honoured.  With just shy of 5 years of real world experience in interior design, this recognition gives us more motivation, commitment and excitement to fuel the passion.

Do what you love.

(See full list here: Pinkegshell and images from the event here: Images)



On being Patient.

Photo credit: Niya Bascom Photography | Food Styling: Ishka Designs | Delightful Flavor photoshoot

"Patience is a most necessary qualification for business; many a man would rather you heard his story than granted his request." ~ Lord Chesterfield

If you've sat in front of us of late and had a discussion about business, or life for that matter, one word may likely have come up.  Patience.  Or more like the practice of it.  The "take deep breaths", "all will be well", "nothing before its time" kind of patience that every business owner must possess.  And that has been our month in general.  Uhmmmm, probably more like the past few months.  Though we were wrapped up in a flurry of execution towards the end of 2011, we hardly noticed until now just how much of that time was spent being patient.

"Patience is also a form of action" ~Auguste Rodin

And what else we've noticed Mr. Rodin, is that  STRATEGY goes hand in hand with PATIENCE.  This is not the "sit back and wait" kind of patience.  Nope.  It's more like "the goals have been set", "the strategy is evolving" and "the tireless bleed us til we dry execution is ongoing" that leads to the kind of patience we are exercising.  That said, this month has sounded a bit like this: proposal after proposal writing, conversation after conversation over drinks and/or brunch, scheduling this call and that meeting, and just a whole lot of extra efforts and new business tactics designed to get us closer to our long-term goals.  And all this while still working on existing projects...deep breath in and slowly exhale out...

"Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience." ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

And the mental exercise is paying off.  While it comes with even more sacrifice, the rewards continue to prove that the wait is SOOOOO worth it.  We are choosing not to divulge most of what's on our plate, being superstitious that way, but we can say that we see travel and more potential for exposure in our future.  As things become a foregone conclusion, we promise to keep you in the loop on the blog.  Your turn to be patient :)

Speaking of patien(ts), we were not without progress on all projects including the start of the transformation of the exterior of that medical facility.  Saying bye to that wonderful beer wholesale "art".  In the meantime, we had some fun with cupcakes this month (see first image above).  A nice reprieve from interior design.
Job site as it was at the beginning.  Photo credit: Niya Bascom Photography
B-side in progress.  Niya Bascom Photography.
Cafeteria Chairs - stackable, affordable and small.  Niya Bascom Photography.
An aside: we've decided that our blog posts are going to be monthly for now.  A commitment we feel we can handle.  So 'til next month!



Pushing the envelope, 2012

Ok. We've been a tad delinquent these past few months. What started out as an excuse to get from behind the computer everyday all day, fast became a great habit forming ritual - nights out with the girls, the guys and then some.  It then got pretty busy for a while and blogging just didn't seem to be a priority anymore.  But alas we could not close out 2011 without reconnecting with all of you who have helped us get to where we are now: confident in 2012.

So just because we've been silent doesn't mean things haven't been happening.  We commenced this Park Slope, Brooklyn project in 2009 with a bathroom gut renovation (see story here).  This very long-term project has finally been completed. Finally! Hooray *doing a happy dance*.  Our client was a very patient one, choosing to execute phases over time all the while growing to understand her space and how she functions in it before making any firm commitments.  We are just as happy that it is completed as we are with the final result, so much so that we went about the photo shoot slightly differently.  One of those differences included producing a coffee table book to show off to all and sundry willing to give us their eyes and ears.  Here's a sneak peak:
Sneak Peak 1. Photo by Niya Bascom Photography; Styling assistance: Sana Keefer
Sneak Peak 2. Photo by Niya Bascom Photography; Styling assistance: Sana Keefer
As most of you blog readers are aware, we finished a year long home renovation in Gerritsen beach, Brooklyn for an amazing 5 member family.  Read all about it here.  They were great to work with and we so look forward to working on that vacation property they promise to get and have us design for them!
Gerritsen Beach kitchen renovated. Photo by Niya Bascom Photography
We successfully completed a cellar renovation for a couple in Ft. Greene, Brooklyn and promptly began work on their entire parlor level including overseeing the refurbishing of the brownstone's front door.  We started to show you in progress images (read here) but pulled back for no real reason really.  While the cellar is now complete, we will only show an in-progress image of the newly reformed space as we plan to do a grand reveal when all accessories are in place and more of the house is complete.
Cellar Before. Photo by Niya Bascom Photography
Cellar in-progress. Photo by Niya Bascom Photography
To round out the year of comprehensive projects, we began work in May on a medical/health and wellness facility build-out. The project was already underway with permits, plumbing and walls in place. We were brought in just in time to conceive of a concept that tied into their holistic/wellness approach and to work on all fixtures and finishes, furnishing selection and placement, bathroom designs and custom millwork in all the common and staff areas.  We also played a hand in branding development for the client which we are quite excited about.  Frankly we are amazed at the project and are so happy to be involved in something that will hopefully be a major contributor to the neighbourhood long-term.  Part of the facility is currently open functioning at just above the basic level while waiting for finishing touches to be put in place.  Phases 2 and 3 are still ongoing (including the façade, which we are working on).  It is the expectation that the official launch will happen by the beginning of the 2nd quarter of 2012.
In Progress.
Of note this year was the fact that we got to do some interesting collaborations while strengthening up relationships new and old.  Special mention goes out to 33 Woodwork, Sana Keefer of Pip & Estella, Malene Barnett, Snug Furniture, The Sweeten, The Blue Griffin, D. Bryant Archie, Jhamal Ince, Sankofa Law firm and Karen Young.  We also met some amazing local artisans that we are dying to work with in the near future, including Hugo McCloud Designs and Kat Flower.

It's been a good year for us with respect to press coverage.  We ended the year with a print feature in Panache Jamaica magazine, but who can forget our 12-page spread in Rue magazine, our write up in Munaluchi Bride and feature in Prominence magazine.  We got lots of blog love too for which we are eternally grateful (special mention to From Me To You who captured our mugs below) and we look forward to more features in the printed and virtual presses in the coming year!
Our portrait by Jamie Beck, From Me To You
We started out 2011 contemplating production possibilities and where that road can lead us.  We kept the eye on the prize and we are that much closer to realizing our design-build dreams.  We've continued to research opportunities for production while producing one-off custom designed furnishings for our projects.  We are steadily building our stock pile and look forward to that day when we can say "Why yes! We do have our own line."

Having had time to reflect on our accomplishiments in 2011 we eagerly look towards 2012 for what we feel is our "buss-weh" year.  For the non-Jamaicans, that just means 2012 will be our year for super successes.  Of course, we know we have a lot of work left to do.  So we continue to push on, following our guts and taking more and more risk daily.  All this so that in 5 years time (thus making it 10 total) we can finally become that "overnight success" story.  Or perhaps in 2 (for a total of 7).  Can't hurt to push the envelope.

All the best in 2012!

idi team