Interior designer & alumni Amrita Khanna talks to Insight School

We love hearing our student’s stories – their life and journey before studying with us and some of their successes after graduating. This month we spoke with Amrita Khanna, founder of interior design company Zip Code 888 and graduate of the Certificate in Residential Interior Design course. The talented interior designer and mother of 3 shares her story with us.  

What is your background? What were you doing before coming to Insight School of Interior Design?

I grew up constantly surrounded by art as my mother is a fine artist herself as well as a patron of fine arts and she introduced me to the works of many great artists. I decided to pursue art in the form of textile design which I studied for 3 years with a major in the art of fabric weaving and then went on to work in the fashion industry with some notable garment buying houses that supplied design ideas and created garments for the likes of Karen Millen, Eddie Bauer, Monsoon and NEXT to name a few. Three gorgeous kids tore me away from work and I took a break to be a full time mom until Insight School happened to me!

Interior Design concept board for Tai Tam apartment

Image: Concept board for Tai Tam apartment

What did you study at Insight School and what key skills did you learn?


I chose to study the Certificate in Residential Interior Design course at Insight School. In my opinion the school equipped me very well to deal with pressures, time lines and demands of the world of interiors. Just a few of the most important takeaways that have really helped me in my projects are that a good designer needs to be a psychologist to understand the needs of the client, you need to be able to create for the client a space that they envision but by using your aesthetic and not execute your own version of what is good design.

Another immensely valuable skill I learnt is that when you follow the steps and stages of the creative process that the school teaches you the design you create is very unique and evolved.

Living room furniture board for Tai Tam apartment interior design project

Image: Living room furniture board for Tai Tam apartment

Where are you working now?


After graduating from Insight School i knew I wanted to immerse myself in interior design and this led me to starting my own company “Zip Code 888”. I didn’t want the company to come across as intimidating but rather as fun catchy and approachable, with a nod to chinese tradition where the number 8 is believed to be lucky and auspicious.

My company logo is a stylized version of the cherner chair, symbolizing beauty with functionality and classic style which echoes the mission statement of Zipcode 888, to create beautiful functional classic spaces within any budget.

What have been some of the biggest challenges in starting your new career as an interior designer?


I’d say one of the biggest challenges has been to try and do something different with each project and another is to get to the point in your relationship with the client where they trust your judgement and are willing to go out of their comfort zone.

What is the big interior design project you are working on right now/or just completed?


I have finished styling and decorating an apartment which got featured in the SCMP and Todays living Magazine last year. After this I completed a styling/ upgrade of a living room and balcony. These are both featured on my website zipcode888.com. And I am now starting work on other projects.

How do you stay current in the interior design industry? What newsletters/blogs/social media tools do you read each week?


To stay current I subscribe to Design Anthology and Home Journal Magazines, follow a lot of my favorite designers on Instagram, and our art history course at Insight School got me very keenly interested in decorative arts and I invest in a collectible book each month on different topics the history of furniture.

Image: Dining room of Tai Tam apartment interior design project

Image: Dining room of Tai Tam apartment

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Art for the Home: 5 Foolproof Tips & Tricks

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Sassy speaks to our founder Eve Mercier about how to make art work for your home.

Buying and hanging art can be a bewildering experience. So, to help you make the right decisions when choosing art for your interiors, two art and design experts share their know-how on art for residential interiors!

Eve Mercier, founder of Insight School of Interior Design (who worked for Christie’s in their modern art department before moving into interiors for the likes of Candy & Candy!), offers practical insights into hanging and lighting art in any space. Meanwhile, Côme Remy is an art consultant and historian who teaches at Insight School. Years of experience working for Sotheby’s and Christie’s means he’s just the man to advise you on how to make the right buying decisions!

Buy what you love

“Buy art that resonates with you,” says Eve, and Côme agrees. “I always say that pieces come to you, and not the other way around,” he says. “Wait until you really find the piece. Remember that it is hard to get rid of a piece. And also, don’t forget that money is findable… a really good piece is much harder to find again, if not impossible. You will remember the pieces that you missed, not the money you spent.”

Longevity is important here: buy pieces you know you will love for a long time. “I think people should grow old with their art,” says Eve. Remember, girls, you should be able to look at it and not get bored of it. Don’t buy something just because it’s fashionable, or because it’s a good investment.

And, says Côme, educate yourself. “Visit fairs and art exhibitions, attend art classes, read and discuss. When you’re looking at art, you should always be considering, ‘What will I be pleased to bring home?’”

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White is right

The best way to showcase art in your home is by hanging it against a plain, white backdrop. If you think about it, it makes sense: most galleries hang art against white walls. The minute you have some kind of paneling it becomes challenging, and the same goes for wallpaper. The whiter and flatter your walls, the easier it is.

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Consider your colour palette

Your art shouldn’t clash with your interiors, and here’s how to make sure it doesn’t. If your art work is grey and blue, for example, you’re going to make sure that the palette and the rug you’re going to use are all in this blue grey palette, so you have a monochrome effect. “Likewise, if you have a work of art with lots of colours, it would be nice to pack all the colours into your interiors, so your eyes can travel from your artwork to the other pieces of furniture” suggests Eve.

Or you could go in the opposite direction and choose contrasting colours for your space. Let’s say you have a very neutral background. If your interiors are, say, beige and grey and white, and you want to lighten everything up, you can bring a very warm colour in with your art. It could be a shot of yellow or a shot of pink, for example.

“If the idea you’re going for with your décor is to create the feeling of going to see an old friend, don’t be afraid to make a real and personal choice when it comes to colour or style of the art you go for,” adds Côme.

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Hang each piece with precision

A good rule of thumb to follow when hanging your art is to place the centre of your work 1.45 metres from the floor.

It’s also a handy place to start when you’re hanging a group of works together or when you’re creating a picture wall. “Figure out where the centre of the group is, and place this point at 1.45 metres from the floor,” advises Eve.

In addition, you should hang the heaviest, darkest works in the bottom left corner, with the lightest and brightest pieces of art in the top right corner. Your eye naturally travels from bottom left to top right.

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Light it right

So you’ve chosen your art and figured out where and how to hang it. Now for the finishing touch: present it in the best possible light by using the right type of lighting, as well as the right tone. “Halogen light is great for commercial spaces, but for a home, it’s too bright, too harsh and too white. It’s better to use incandescent bulbs or LEDs,” says Eve. Plus LEDs don’t generate the heat halogen does, and that heat can cause damage to your art.

But remember to pay attention to the colour of your LED, girls, because if it’s very cold and white it’s going to affect the look and feel of your piece of art!

For much more on art for the home, check out Insight School’s special one-day course on Art and Interiors, which includes a lecture on how to use art in your interior décor followed by a guided tour of Affordable Art Fair in Hong Kong. Find out more here.

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This article was published on Sassy Hong Kong’s homepage on May 2, 2017.

 

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BA&SH Asian Retail expansion design project

Insight School and renowed Parisian brand BA&SH collabrate on a retail design project for Asia.

BACKGROUND

Renowned Parisian fashion brand BA&SH came to Insight School for help with their retail expansion in HK and broader Asia. Recently acquired by LVMH, BA&SH enlisted the help of Insight School Diploma students to translate and adapt their strong European retail design to the local Asian markets.

BRIEF

To adapt the existing European retail store design to better meet the Asian consumer’s needs and tastes
To develop a store layout that is more “lively” and better lit
To create striking store facades which appeal to the Asian market
To redesign and increase customer seating throughout the store
To redesign the accessories visual merchandising
To create a new window display for Chinese New Year

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Yacine Bensalem, Isolde Andouard and Eve Mercier

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHALLENGE

To stay true to the DNA of this Bohemian Paris brand

To effectively translate the BA&SH brand guidelines to the Asian retail store roll-out

DELIVERABLES

  • A printed and bound A3 booklet and a 15 minute powerpoint verbal presentation to existing BA&SH Asia CEO, as well as retail design expert and lead teacher Yacine Bensalem from In Situ & Partners and Insight School teachers.
  • Included in the presentations were 2D and 3D store layout drawings, a materials proposal and a marketing & design strategy

STUDENT WORK

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Diploma student Duncan Craig presenting his design proposal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Diploma student Duncan Craig design proposal

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Diploma student Ligia Campanela – FF&E selection

 

 

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Diploma student Madalina Stoica – new concept facade

 

 

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Diploma student Holland Young –2D drawings of store layout

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CLIENT FEEDBACK

BA&SH client and Asia CEO Isolde Andouard was very impressed with the student’s creative ideas and presentations. BA&SH will consider implementing the Chinese New Year window displays and some of the visual merchandising shelving systems in their new Harbour City and Times Square stores in Hong Kong.

“Thank you Insight School of Interior Design students for your incredible work on BA&SH Asia store concept! We loved your ideas! & Thank you Eve Mercier!” Isolde Andouard

 

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An interview with Insight School alumni & interior designer Liza Beighley

Former Insight School of Interior Design student and interior designer Liza Beighley talks about life before and after studying at Insight School. After working for 10 years in the luxury fashion brands, Liza discovered her true passion and went on to co-launch her own interior design company.

Certificate Presentation with JJ Acuna, Enrique Moya-Angeler and Eve Mercier (Liza Beighley)

Certificate Award ceremony with teachers JJ Acuna, Enrique Moya-Angeler and Eve Mercier.

 

What is your background?  What were you doing before coming to Insight School of Interior Design?  

I worked over 10 years for luxury fashion brands CHANEL, Celine under LVMH Fashion Group, and DFS Group Limited mainly as a training, merchandising and product manager in Asia, North America and the Mid-Pacific regions.  Soon after becoming a mother and moving back to my island home, I worked for the Bank of Guam as Quality Assurance Manager designing customer service and product programs.  During this time, we renovated our beach condominium and I fell in love with interior design.  We eventually moved to Hong Kong (for the second time) and I went through the process of redecorating our flat with the help of Australian based designer, Melissa McShane.  It was showcased in Expat Living Magazine upon completion and I thoroughly enjoyed the process.  I decided to indulge my passion for design and researched interior design schools in Hong Kong.   Insight School of Interior Design was the choice for me.

 

My personal Style Liza Beighley

Liza’s personal style mood board

What did you study at Insight School and what key skills did you learn?

I was a mother with young children and decided to take the short course Textiles for Interiors as a start. Shortly thereafter, I enrolled in the Introduction to Interior Design course which confirmed my passion for interior design.  I decided to continue with the part-time course and earn the Certificate in Residential Interior Design.  I often wondered prior to the course how inspirational ideas were developed into working concepts and Insight School helped me to develop the key skills to implement ideas into design. We studied interior architecture, interior decoration, drawing skills, the design process, history of styles and put it all into professional practice. Working with clients and making design proposals throughout the course really helped to simulate what it is like to work in the real world. 

Insight School project: Bruno de Caumont book-shelf proposal by Liza

Insight School project: Bruno de Caumont book-shelf proposal by Liza

Insight School project: Bruno de Caumont book-shelf proposal by Liza

 

Where are you working now?

With this knowledge and learned tools of the trade, I felt confident to take the necessary steps in opening BV Designs with my classmate and design partner, Sarah Vanica.

Insight School project: Liza’s mood board for an art gallery conversion into a residential apartment.

Insight School project: Liza’s mood board for an art gallery conversion into a residential apartment.

 

What have been some of the biggest challenges in starting your career?

Aside from the regular challenges of starting a business, making the necessary connections to export/import home goods overseas has been a big challenge. Also, it takes time to create the perfect logo to reflect who we are as interior designers and set-up our social media sites which should be available for viewing in the coming weeks.

What is the big project you are working on right now?

We are in the process of finalizing an executive home in Deep Water Bay in addition to having furniture made for a flat in Repulse Bay and sourcing furniture/fabrics for homes overseas.

Design Projects Liza Beighley

Liza’s design projects at Insight School

 

 As an interior designer, how do you stay current in the industry? What newsletters/blogs/social media tools do you read each week?

I love to stay current in the industry by reading international and Asia based design magazines such as Architectural Digest, Design Anthology, Home Journal, Home Solutions, and Expat Living.  I especially love to read about projects completed by established and new designers focusing on what motivated and inspired them.  Since my roots are in the fashion industry, I gain inspiration from fashion magazines such as Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar and feel it’s important to think out-of-the-box.  My favorite thing to do is look at my Instagram feed on designers I follow which leads to links with more details on their websites, blog, and newsletters.  I especially love to view projects and inspirations from new, up-and-coming interior designers.  My design partner and I share this information with each other and bounce ideas around to remain current and catch onto upcoming trends in the industry. Insight School of Interior Design is one we follow on our social media feeds.

Can you give any advice to students looking to start a career in the Interior Design Industry?

Don’t hesitate!  If you are passionate about Interior Design have the confidence to move forward and find the right interior design career for you.  Listen to your clients and always keep an open mind.  Continue to make connections in the industry and bounce ideas around with those you trust.  Above all, think outside the box. Inspiration is everywhere.

Liza studied the Certificate of Residential Interior Design at Insight School.  Enrolments are now open, course starts February 20th. Enquire today and ask about our 10% early bird discount.

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Career Forum at Insight School of Interior Design

Interior design career advice, case studies and course information at Insight School.

Last Saturday 19th November, Insight School of Interior Design hosted a career forum for anyone interested in pursuing a career in interior design. Industry experts Leslie Lui from Aedas Interiors, Hernan Zanghellini from Zanghellini & Holt, Alicia Chan & Naqeeb Popal from Bespoke Careers and Eve Mercier from Insight School inspired, educated and entertained us over a few hours and a few bottles of wine!

The afternoon began with 1:1 career ‘speed-dating’ sessions where our guests had the opportunity to show their portfolio to our panel of experts. This was an opportunity for people to get informed about their career prospects, understand the job market in HK for designers and learn more about study options available at the school for those wanting to switch careers. These sessions were extremely popular and could have gone on for hours.

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Head teacher Enrique Moya-Angeler advising our guests about our courses at Insight School.

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Naqeeb Popal informing a design student about her career prospects.

Our first presenters were Alicia Chan, Design Consultant and Naqeeb Popal, Architecture & Design Consultant from Bespoke Careers. Alicia and Naqeeb showed us how to write the perfect job application and how to send it out to prospective employees. They took us through a few examples of mistakes to avoid when putting together a CV and portfolio, and gave out tips on how to present yourself in job interviews.

Alicia Chan and Naqueeb Popal from Bespoke Careers discussed career opportunities with students.

Alicia and Naqeeb from Bespoke Careers discussed career opportunities for interior designers with students.

Leslie Lui, Senior Associate at Aedas Interiors gave a very inspiring presentation on how interior designers can and do add value in the design development process. Leslie went through many case studies where interior designers and architects have successfully collaborated on a project, dispelling the myth that the 2 disciplines can’t work together.

Leslie Lui from Aedas Interiors presenting hospitality design case studies.

Leslie Lui from Aedas Interiors presenting hospitality design case studies.

Hernan Zanghellini, partner at Zanghellini and Holt, followed next with a candid and informative presentation on the “business of interior design”. Focusing on food and beverage projects, Hernan gave us a real insight into the many hats an interior designer needs to wear when working on design projects; from business advisor to financial consultant, from life coach to mentor. Hernan talked about how crucial it is for interior designers to understand the client brief from a business point of view before starting the project ie. how the F&B establishment runs, how they currently generate revenue and what is the client expectation – these are critical factors which can often be overlooked by inexperienced interior designers who may just want to ‘decorate’ an interior.

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Hernan Zanghellini showing photos of the Wooloomooloo Restaurant, which he designed and co-owns.

Eve Mercier, founder of Insight School was the final presenter for the afternoon and gave us the pros and cons of working in your own business as an interior designer versus working for a large firm. Eve also presented a list of her top 5 interior designers and qualities and traits which have made them outstanding in their fields.

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Eve Mercier explaining the difference between the Residential and Commercial Interiors Certificate.

A full library on Saturday.

Insight School library on Saturday.

Having listened to three interior designers give three very different accounts of their career, one couldn’t help but feel inspired and excited by this profession. It definitely inspired many interesting questions to our presenters and discussion topics during our networking drinks!

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