Brooklyn-based interior design firm Ishka Designs specializes in “efficiently beautiful” interiors for residences, restaurants and vacation properties. “Good design must be functional,” Anishka Clarke and Niya Bascom say. “Great design should be timeless, beautiful, universal and efficient.”
The firm integrated all four of these elements into their recent design of a five-bedroom, mid-century-inspired home in East Hampton. “The most striking architectural detail, the large picture windows and doors, open up the home to the outdoors year round,” say Clarke and Bascom. “We wanted to be sure that the furnishings perfectly complemented these views and wouldn’t obstruct the eye-line.” Their solution included a neutral color palette and low-profile furniture: a custom-built coffee table, Design Within Reach sofa and a Moroccan-style modern rug. They also added elegant and eclectic accouterments to create that relaxed hotel-feel at home, such as an abstract wall sculpture, wooden African mask and carefully placed forsythia branches.
The lack of clutter, functional furnishings and efficient use of space in their designs results in a tranquil atmosphere, which recalls the sophisticated and relaxed feeling of a five-star resort. In the following interview, Clarke and Bascom offer their advice on how to bring that perfect hotel vibe home.
What is one element you integrate into all the spaces you design?
A bit of nature. It represents life and always grounds a space.
How do your roots in Guyana and Jamaica influence your designs?
Growing up in the Caribbean and/or being raised by Caribbean parents has instilled in us a waste-not mentality. As such, we are always conscious of this throughout our design process. In addition, growing up on a Caribbean island, most times, you have to think outside the box when resources become limited. This resourcefulness has become part of the Caribbean person’s DNA, and is passed down through the generations, shaping creativity and that entrepreneurial spirit.
I love everything about the five-bedroom home you designed in East Hampton — from the placement of the yellow forsythia branch to the wood wall sculpture. What inspired its design?
The year-round access to nature combined with a minimalist approach inspired the complete design solution. The owners of the home are repeat clients who are fans of zero clutter, functional furnishings and a very efficient use of space. We really love their aesthetic as it mirrors our own design sensibilities. The Hamptons home is their getaway from the city, and they wanted a different feel from their city home, which has much more color and vibrancy. So we stuck to a more neutral palette influenced by the architecture and that would not compete with the outside.
For another project, you were inspired by the couple’s honeymoon to Africa, and made their New York City apartment recall their romantic experience there. How did you decide on that theme? What goes into the client discovery process? How can people find the best theme for their own homes?
While floor plans speak volumes to us, it is the ongoing client interviews that really spark what the space will eventually be. We usually sit with clients for hours, asking them pertinent and intimate questions that enable us to understand their style preferences, experiences, history and how they want to live. Often the interview spans days, depending on the size of the property or the actual scope of work. It is an organic process: We start with a basic framework of questions and depending on the answers, we get to flush out further info that will eventually inform the design solution. With these particular clients, their South African honeymoon and the items they picked up along the way really ignited the idea and the direction for the space.
Why do hotel rooms often feel so much more relaxing than our own bedrooms?
It is a combination of a few things. Hotel rooms are usually well contemplated and researched design solutions developed by architects and interior designers in conjunction with other interior specialists to create the perfect themed atmosphere.
Then there is the mindset of the vacationer. By the time you show up to your hotel room (usually one chosen for its aspirational qualities) your mind is already in vacation/relaxation mode, so it’s kind of hard to feel anything but relaxed.
We definitely agree that a clutter-free room lends itself to a relaxed vibe. Having staff available to keep the space immaculate every day, twice a day, definitely ups the ante.
Design elements play a crucial role in the relaxed vibe of a room or villa. For example, layered lighting and window treatments that control the light quality and mood are usually well thought-out in a hotel room to allow for all types of persons to feel relaxed at all times of the day. In general, we’ve found that most persons don’t invest time or money in ensuring their bedroom light and mood is perfect — or perfectly modifiable based on various needs.
Another huge factor is temperature control, whether through HVAC units, ceiling fans, windows and window treatments. Any combination of these elements definitely gives the traveler the ability to adjust the air quality of a room, easily aiding in their ultimate relaxation.
Lastly, having accessible amenities within arm’s reach can make travel easy and stress-free, e.g., integrated charging stations, high-quality linens, room service, a minibar and modern bathroom facilities for spa-like comfort. None of these elements are solely the purview of the hospitality industry, and can be incorporated into a well-designed home with the right investment — although we would strongly suggest skipping out on the minibar in the bedroom.
What small changes can someone apply to their home for that perfect, “hotel-feel at home” vibe 365 days a year?
Bedding is a huge factor in the comfort and ability to relax in a space. Investing in a great mattress and appropriate organic bedding can be a relatively small but impactful way to bring the hotel vibe home. Placing throw rugs beside the bed for a warm touch when you exit the bed every morning is another great way to increase the level of comfort. Acquiring sufficient storage solutions for all your rooms can reduce clutter and enhance that ever-clean environment. Lastly, place lavender or any other fresh scent around the home for a fragrant experience all day everyday.
How often should people refresh the design of their homes?
We design for longevity in mind, so this is a tough one for us. Major life changes such as marriage, divorce, new additions to the family, etc., can impact spatial needs and therefore a design change. On the other hand, certain elements, like textiles, eventually wear down but are relatively easy to replace. It ultimately depends on the occupant and how they use the space. We have a client who travels a ton for work, so she is barely ever home. Her home looks almost exactly the same now, as it did when we designed it years ago. On the other hand, we’ve had a family go from just two members to four in the span of a couple years, requiring several modifications to their home.
What is your best piece of advice?
Hire an interior designer. If you choose not to, take your time with designing your own space. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither should your space. Buy things you need and make sure you love everything you bring home.
Photos by Niya Bascom Photography.