YardEdge Talks to Jamaican Anishka Clarke On Designing Spaces in New York City

Fully renovated kitchen with 19th c. stove as centre piece
Fully renovated kitchen with 19th c. stove as centre piece

YardEdge: What is Ishka Designs all about?

Anishka: Ishka Designs Inc. a New York-based interior design firm, led by myself and Niya Bascom, provides efficiently beautiful interior design solutions to commercial and residential spaces. Each project is thoroughly conceived with substantial client involvement throughout. From conceptual ideas to fully installed projects, we work with clients at all levels to provide a comprehensive and creative design solution.

Importantly, our design solutions are informed by over-riding concerns for their environmental impact. As a Brooklyn-based business, Ishka Designs has developed strong relationships with local vendors and specialists that translate into cost savings for clients and a continued focus on environmentally friendly design by minimizing the carbon footprint of any project. We are currently building out our vendor contacts in Jamaica and thought the carbibbean to offer a similar service.

YardEdge: Describe your vision? What are you trying to create?

Anishka: From a design perspective, our goal is to create efficiently beautiful interiors that are inspirational and aspirational. We bring a minimalist philosophy to each project to ensure maximum use of space. We also use environmentally sound solutions on as many aspects of a project as possible to ensure that our designs are truly efficient.

For the residential client, we aim to improve home values by increasing functionality and adding comfort and beauty.

For our commercial projects, we want to underscore the value of our interior design capabilities and the positive impact design can have on branding and profitability. Aside from creativity and outside the box thinking, we believe one of our main strengths is our analytical approach and our ability to look at the business’ objectives and how to improve upon it through design.

Another long-term goal is product development and the creation of our own line of furnishings. We currently create customized pieces for almost all projects, but it would be incredible to create something based solely on our own criteria.

YardEdge: Why did you decide to open it?

Anishka: Throughout design school I went back and forth between going to work for a company or venturing out on my own. After discussion with professors, entrepreneurs, and family members, starting my own business had the greatest appeal. I figured that the experience gained from having my own company (providing I got clients, that is) would far exceed working my way up the ladder in a firm. So I made that hard decision to take on the full risk of ownership, even though I didn’t fully comprehend what that meant at the start. And so Ishka Designs was born…

YardEdge: Are there others behind the business?

Anishka: Yes, to start I share management and creative roles with our Executive Director, Mr. Niya Bascom. As a successful professional photographer for over 15 years in New York, Niya’s contribution to the development and growth of the firm since inception has been invaluable.

He also brings to the table a natural designer’s eye and instinctive spatial awareness. We are also blessed with his amazing talent as the firm’s official photographer. Also, Ishka Designs is structured as a corporation. We have another major stakeholder as well as 3 other Board members, all with strategic input into the company’s direction.

YardEdge: Tell us about your experiences so far- what have you enjoyed, not enjoyed?

Anishka: Great question! I like a lot about this interior design business. But mostly I think I truly enjoy conceiving something out of practically nothing and then seeing it materialize by the end of the project. Add to that a client’s enthusiastic approval and you know that all the time consuming effort that goes into creating and managing the design and implementation process is well worth it.

That feeling makes me want to get to the next project and hopefully build upon the lessons of the past and bring an even stronger perspective to the table. I love doing custom work too. We’ve designed a custom sink for a commercial client, a custom bed and bedhead for a residential project, to name a few. Finally, the lasting relationships we develop with most of our clients makes it worth it all.

What I don’t enjoy…aye yaye yai! I would say confrontation. It happens on every project. Whether its with the client, a vendor, a crafts person or even your own team mate. All told, I’ve found that I am handling conflict better these days, but for the most part I tend to pass that onto Niya!

YardEdge: Tell us a little about yourself?

Anishka: I am a career switcher and very happy about that. I have no regrets leaving the finance world, except for maybe the salary. LOL!!! Ultimately I knew that I was in need of major change but it never really clicked until a conversation with a close friend that I should really get paid for what I thoroughly enjoyed doing as a hobby. So in early 2007, I quit my 10-year career in finance, to go back to school to study interior design. I am grateful for the learning experience at FIT in New York, as it really opened up my eyes and mind to the fact that I really did have a latent talent.

I think that I subscribe to a minimalist philosophy, putting maximum efficiency at the forefront of my thinking. Raised in Jamaica by a Guyanese mom, I am happy for my Caribbean upbringing. I can’t help but bring the essence of the Caribbean into a project and sometimes it’s so subtle that only I know where to find it. I also think that growing up in Jamaica has given me an over-riding environmental consciousness that I bring to most projects.

YardEdge: Do you enjoy living and working in NYC?

Anishka: Without a doubt. Jamaica is beautiful and people often think I am crazy for choosing to live in NYC, but I can’t imagine being anywhere else at the moment…except maybe Japan…

YardEdge: What’s the best & worst thing about living NYC?

Anishka: NYC is a mega-metropolis of multi-nationals. As such, there are so many influences around you to inspire creativity and learning. You just become more culturally aware and open to others, and I think overall that can make you a better person and designer. Also, the insane amount of exposure to suppliers and artisans can open up your mind to limitless possibilities in design.

The worst of NYC is definitely the grime. Some people choose to look at it as grit, which I guess gives the city character, but after returning from vacation from practically anywhere, that grit just looks and smells like garbage to me. But I get used to it after about a day or so. I also still insist on using public transportation…though a bit “gritty” its really convenient and a benefit to the environment.

YardEdge:  How has it been starting out?

Anishka: Whew! Lets just say its not for the faint of heart. I think that ultimately you have to really love what you do and really appreciate true independence. Because with that comes major responsibility and risk-taking that working for someone protects you from. Between Niya and myself, we’ve worn every hat possible, from strategic thinkers to taking out the trash. And lets just say we weren’t particularly good at everything. We’ve made mistakes, but we’ve learnt from them and as such we’ve managed to grow the business to a satisfactory level to date.

YardEdge: Are you happy with the level of success you’re getting?

Anishka: Hmmm…I am not sure we will ever be truly happy with the level of success that we attain. We always want better for ourselves and our clients and I think that means that we are always willing to grow. The one thing we never lose sight of however, is that we must always enjoy the process or the takeaways and when that enjoyment ceases, then we know that the next level of success will no longer be worth it.

YardEdge: What kind of marketing have you been doing? What has worked? Not worked?

Anishka: When we started out, we relied heavily on word-of-mouth. What helped significantly was getting a large project at the start with a client that was a real talking piece for us. Also, having Niya photograph that project allowed us to launch our first website and portfolio which we marketed as best as we could through facebook and linkedIn.

And it worked. We got decent attention and a few clients strictly through these media. We also started a blog (ishkadesigns.blogspot.com), which finally has a voice that we are happy with. We recently joined twitter and are happy with the level of success and expansion to our network. Another thing that is beginning to show signs of returns is joining design networks, i.e. Black Interior Designers Showcase and Decorati.com.

Over the last few months we realized we could no longer rely solely on online marketing. So we hired a Business Development Manager and her mission is to increase our commercial client base and increase our PR. So far so good. We recently quit our facebook and google ad campaigns, as we didn’t think it so effective. We may revisit down the road.

YardEdge: What have been your biggest challenges?

Anishka: I would say managing everyone’s expectations, including our own is a huge challenge. Another is being in all the right places all the time. We are always forcing ourselves to network and it really is a chore for us, me moreso. But it’s getting better.

YardEdge:  Biggest rewards?

Anishka: Continually working on projects ranks high on the rewards list. Also, we’ve been getting more press attention lately, which makes us feel as though we are not operating in a tiny bubble. And I would say, the biggest reward to date has been our growth. We are taking larger risks and they are translating. We just have to remember that patience is key.

YardEdge:. Describe your offerings…

Anishka: I think we touched on that a bit in the first question, but in a nutshell, Ishka Designs Inc. provides interior design solutions for both residential and commercial spaces. Our services currently range from one-day consultations on conceptualization, colour, furniture fixtures and equipment (FFE) selections and material selections, to long-term comprehensive design project solutions, which includes all of the above as well as creative problem solving, space planning, working drawings, hand-renderings, and custom design solutions. A comprehensive project solution starts with conceptualization and finishes with a fully installed project.

Services List

• Design concepts and ideas

• Creative problem solving

• Spatial Planning

• Architectural/Working Drawings (floor plans, elevations, perspective drawings)

• Lighting solutions

• Materials, furniture and finishes selection

• Custom Furniture design

• Color selection

• Renderings and sketches

• Design Consultation

YardEdge: What is the price range?

Anishka: For comprehensive project solutions, we charge by the square foot. Of note, our residential rates differ from commercial. Our US rates also differ from our rates to clients in the Caribbean. Finally, for our specialized services we charge by the hour. We are reasonable and willing to discuss all projects as they come.

YardEdge:  Final thoughts?

Anishka: We definitely encourage readers to read our blog, www.ishkadesigns.blogspot.com, to keep apprised of relevant interior design-related news. We attempt to make weekly “must-have” updates, highlighting products with a positive environmental impact for the home and business. We also give readers a glimpse into Ishka Designs “behind-the-scenes”, what inspires us, tips for better lifestyle, and to provoke our readers into thinking more about the environment. What makes our blog unique is that we discuss interior design and décor with a sustainable voice and a subtle Jamaican undertone.

Finally, one of our immediate goals includes further expansion into the Caribbean particularly in the hospitality environment (villas, vacation rentals, and boutique hotels). Also, Ishka Designs is looking to develop a stronger Caribbean portfolio and to establish sustainable relationships with suppliers, including artists, artisans, and craftspersons who can successfully execute our custom design portfolio.

Casual living space in Brooklyn brownstone townhouse
Casual living space in Brooklyn brownstone townhouse
Small conference room
Commercial bathroom
Commercial bathroom

You can contact Anishka via her website: www.ishkadesigns.com or email her at inquiry@ishkadesigns.com.

Twitter: twitter.com/ishkadesigns



Brooklyn NY, USA

347-750-7187 (o) | 917-362-2612 (c)

Kingston, Jamaica


Mon – Fri: 9:00a – 7:00p

Weekends: By appointment only

Master Bedroom in Brooklyn limestone town-house
Master bedroom in Brooklyn limestone town-house
Living room in New Jersey condominium.
Living room in New Jersey condominium.
Anisha Clarke
Anishka Clarke

All photos courtesy of  NiyaBas.Com Photography.

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  7. July 15, 2010 at 3:45 pm — Reply

    Beautiful !!!

  8. villiemac
    July 6, 2010 at 6:49 pm — Reply


  9. villiemac
    July 6, 2010 at 6:48 pm — Reply

    When did you become such a bright, talented young designer? I’m so proud of you! That was an excellent interview… very informative and well thought-out answers. Congraulations! I know you will continue to do well.

  10. Omar
    July 6, 2010 at 9:47 am — Reply

    Wonderful interview Anishka. Hopefully people take notice of your skills. Best of luck.

  11. joan
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    wonderful; the exposure cannot be too much so wishing you much continued success

  12. July 4, 2010 at 5:18 pm — Reply

    Big up and much happiness to see you featured here finally! Great interview, with a generous and thorough discussion on how you made the career switch and it’s challenges and rewards. I’m sure many will be inspired. And the images are great. Keep it up Ishka!

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