Growth takes time: There are a lot of “three-steps-forward, two-steps-back” type of situations… and sometimes zero steps. You may see some success and then crickets for a while. In those situations, find something else to focus on and put your positive energy at the forefront. Things are always working in the background as you find your way — you may find yourself inspired by something totally unexpected.
The COVID19 pandemic has disrupted all of our lives. But sometimes disruptions can be times of opportunity. Many people’s livelihoods have been hurt by the pandemic. But some saw this as an opportune time to take their lives in a new direction.
As a part of this series called “How I Was Able To Pivot To A New Exciting Opportunity Because Of The Pandemic”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Rydhima Brar.
R/terior Studio was launched with a belief that your space should tell your story through the experiences it creates. They are a full-service boutique interior design firm specializing in both residential and commercial design specializing in bold, eclectic & contemporary interiors that are architecturally driven, layered with luxurious materials providing a bespoke approach to sculptural furnishings and artful decor. With a distinct eye for rich colors and textures, they draw inspiration from art, travel, and architecture and use them as building blocks to create your narrative through the spaces they design.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
Growing up in Kuwait, my childhood was immersed in breathtaking design & architecture. My father had uprooted himself from his native country of India to start his career in construction and finishing materials. From the opulent artwork and fabrics of cultures dating back centuries, to the simple luxury of our own home, I never failed to be fascinated and excited by the feelings that beautiful, creative décor inspired in me.
In 1990 came the Gulf War. We had to leave our home under the cover of night and head to another country. Returning to Kuwait after the war, I experienced the rebuilding of our home, and the rebirth of a nation. My dad restore his business too, and I fondly recall helping him organize his building materials and sample libraries, always complaining but loving every minute of it. Through spending those long (and extremely hot) summers with him, what I remember most vividly is admiring textures and colors and figuring out ways to repurpose them — I was then bitten by the design bug at an early age.
Leaving Kuwait, now as a young adult, I first moved to New York to pursue degrees in Business and Finance and form a career in Marketing at some corporate heavy-hitters, polar opposite of my youthful interests. Yet, my inherent love for design never left me. As I experienced the highs and lows of corporate life, I gravitated towards projects with design elements.
As I moved to California, I eventually settled in Los Angeles with my gorgeous daughter and brilliant husband and the next evolution of my career was gradual but inevitable. It started simply enough, using our L.A. condo as my first canvas to let my design dreams run wild, but still staying on a strict budget. This process helped me discover my aesthetic, which turned out to be a balanced combination of approachable and editorial or functional and luxe. I had fun playing with bold colors and unique pieces.
Impressed with the condo’s final result, my friends now tapped my help with designing their spaces — some in the commercial space and some residential. Those first projects were enough to immerse myself completely in the world of professional interior design. I went back to school while working on projects for clients, and before I knew it, I became one of the lucky few to be able to do what I love as a full-time profession. Each chapter came with experiences and challenges that shaped my philosophy and approach to design, which led to the birth of R/terior Studio.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“All that we are is a result of what we have thought” — Buddha
Making a career change at a time that may not be suitable can be extremely daunting. There have been times when fear of the unknown took over and controlled my thoughts. In those times, finding a sense of calm and belief can be an extremely powerful thing. There is power in acknowledging that whatever is happening now is happening for a reason, and believing that if you commit to yourself and your abilities, the universe will open doors where there were only walls before. This has been a grounding way of thinking for me and has helped me get through some of the most difficult times of my life, both professionally and personally.
Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
The Business of Home’s Podcast & The Big Leap.
When I decided to make my career switch from tech to design, I stumbled upon Business of Home, and it has since been one of my primary sources of information in design education and news. Besides introducing me to various vendors, another way their podcast has significantly impacted me is listening to the guests’ journeys and how they came about their success and learned from their mistakes. A lot of these designers’ stories have served as a personal source of inspiration.
The Big Leap was given to me by a coach who sensed the hesitation and fear I was experiencing while making my shift in profession. Quitting my well-paying job in finance to follow my passion was not something I had never dreamt of doing, but the hesitation was not going to serve me well. Reading this book opened by eyes and gave me the confidence to ‘take the leap’. It has taught me how to use my ‘zone of genius’ to my advantage and bring my goals to fruition.
Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before the Pandemic began?
At the start of 2020, my plan was to launch my interior design business and market it, attend trade shows and events, and just conquer the world! For the last year and a half, I was working as a design assistant to a local designer and working part-time at an art gallery, gaining all the experience I could gather. This being my ‘second career’, I took a leap of faith venturing into it, starting from the bottom again and working my way up. After gaining a good amount of experience, I finally gained the confidence to launch R/terior Studio. In March of this year, I was fortunate enough to get my projects published just as the pandemic was about to hit.
What did you do to pivot as a result of the Pandemic?
I started offering virtual design services right away. Working-from-home and homeschooling quickly became the norm, so I found design requests were more about how to make quick updates to current living conditions to adjust to this norm. Suddenly, the home served various purposes — office, school, gym, and restaurant. People needed help figuring out how to make it all work. Thankfully, tools like Zoom and FaceTime helped me conduct most of the clients’ interviews and consultations as I would recommend the necessary changes.
Can you tell us about the specific “Aha moment” that gave you the idea to start this new path?
It started with some casual conversations with friends and my sister, who found herself suddenly having to homeschool my nephews. She mentioned to me that she found it difficult to keep them focused or motivated to study, and recommended some small design changes to help with their productivity. From there, the idea developed as more friends reached out, and I decided to make it into an offering which resonated with many folks nationwide.
How are things going with this new initiative?
It has been quite popular! During a quick consult over Zoom, I typically speak to the client for 90 minutes. I was surprised at how much we were able to cover, and how many issues and problems were being solved just during this time. The Zoom consults slowly evolved into coordinating design updates and tackling home projects that many clients had put on hold for a long time. With all travel plans cancelled and no social engagements, many families were noticing their surroundings. They started to pay attention to their situations and wanted to make their home’s functional to the new way of life.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
While I was navigating a drastic career change that would impact our lives on so many levels, especially financially, I was full of self-doubt not knowing how to make it happen. But his unwavering support and encouragement to follow my true passion has been the lifeline to my growth as an entrepreneur. During the long nights and days while I am working on back-to-back projects, he cares for our toddler and supports my process. When the pandemic hit, with so much uncertainty around us, I almost wanted to close shop before it even began. His advice was to use the downtime to build the foundation of business, grow my online presence, start my blog, and build my network.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?
The birth of my blog — Cocktails & Interiors!
One of my biggest desires is to design a cocktail bar and restaurant. With the bars and restaurants closing due to Covid-19, everyone (including me) missed the experience of gong to a bar or restaurant. I have always seen design inspiration from bars and restaurants and incorporating those designs elements into my own spaces, such as our home bar and dining room. I loved that I could create that interior and trigger that emotion in my space just with a few of those elements. When the pandemic began, I thought to myself, “how cool would it be to create a space that is inspired by your favorite bar or cocktail, that you could make and enjoy while in the comfort of your own home.” The parallels of cocktails and interiors is a topic I’ve always been excited about, so I started the blog to provide ideas on how to connect the two. If you love a Lavender Old Fashioned or Vespar Martini, head on over to my blog and take a look at the interiors inspired by those cocktails!
Another interesting thing that has happened: In September, I started an online program with the University of Pennsylvania, ‘Design Thinking for Social Innovation’, geared toward architects and designers who work in public policy and urban development. The program has allowed me to further explore my interest in the impact of design on a neurological level, exploring how color, texture, space, etc., impacts an individual emotionally as well as physically.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- Growth takes time: There are a lot of “three-steps-forward, two-steps-back” type of situations… and sometimes zero steps. You may see some success and then crickets for a while. In those situations, find something else to focus on and put your positive energy at the forefront. Things are always working in the background as you find your way — you may find yourself inspired by something totally unexpected.
- Your friends and family won’t be your customers: In my very first project I learnt a valuable lesson: do not assume that friends can be great clients. I learned this the hard way and it did not end well. That experience taught me that while you may need clients when you’re just starting, and you’re willing to do everything to please them, but never forget who you are in process and let that be taken for granted.
- It should be about how to be of service, not about how to make a profit: This is something I understood a bit later, but the day I did, it was life-changing. Focus on how you can be of service to your clients, and the profits tend to follow along (most of the time).This allows you to be free of expectation and allow your creativity to flow freely. When you are in that state, your “zone of genius”, the final outcome is brilliant — which leads to happy clients and potentially growth your business and profits!
- There is never a good time to start, just do it: This may sound cliche, but it is one of the few that is true! I wish I had realized this sooner and made the leap earlier, instead of waiting for the perfect time. When I launched my business this year, in the middle of a global pandemic, I thought to myself, “I should have waited.” But, some amazing things happened during this time, such as being featured and published in Forbes (twice!).
- Know your ideal client and focus on one thing — one niche, one audience: As a business owner, you naturally may want to be of service to everyone and do everything. When you are looking for business initially, you will agree to it all. But once you have done that a few times, you will have figured out what type of client you prefer working with. From here, the best thing to do is to narrow down your business to that one type of client. Every type of client exists, so it is a matter finding them within your niche, which can pave that path for future clients.
So many of us have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. Can you share the strategies that you have used to optimize your mental wellness during this stressful period?
Carving out some time to be alone has been crucial for me. We live in a two bedroom condo and with the lack of space (and privacy) it was difficult initially to figure out how to do this. Our small patio acts as my peaceful sanctuary, as I have never used it more than I have in the past 4 months. It serves as my my quiet place where I can gather my thoughts, find inspiration, and organize my goals.
Deep breathing and eating healthy are simple ways to take care of yourself mentally. I have also been enjoying doing simple yoga both with my toddler as a fun, relaxing activity. When it comes down to it, using a one-day-at-a-time approach has been the biggest key to it all.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
Home is where the heart is. I would take this even further and suggest that a home evokes an emotional sense of comfort — the place is that makes your heart happy. Create a space that gives you the feeling of joy every day, because as you start the day with happiness and peace, you will mostly likely carry it through the day and spread that emotion like ripples. It is key to find emotional shelter, as well as physical, of course, in a designed space!
Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!
Beyonce, Priyanka Chopra, and Mindy Kaling. Each one of them have taken over the world in their unique way, making an impact and serving as a source of inspiration to young girls and women across the world.
How can our readers follow you online?
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!