How Simplicity and Creativity are the Driving Forces of Amoda Rathnayake Associates

DESIGNING A SPACE GOES BEYOND FURNITURE AND EQUIPMENT AND FOCUSES ON THE PERSON USING IT

Today, young people are at the forefront of emerging industries, innovating through creativity and unique perspectives. This is no different at Amoda Rathnayake Associates, a team of creative designers specializing in interior architecture, construction, furniture and product designs.

Their focus is simplicity, and through their innate creativity across cultures, activities, building types, events and landscapes, they manifest a vision that connects clients with their dreams. Amoda Rathnayake, Managing Director – Lead Interior Architect, sits at the helm, and here, she shares how ARA came about, its work culture and the importance of interior design in office spaces.

What compelled you to start your own company and tell us about ARA’s journey so far?

Soon after graduation, I started my career at MICD Associates, under the guidance of the architect, Mourad Ismail, but I dreamed of establishing my own brand and identity.

I have always appreciated the freedom given by MICD to get involved in private projects while working there. My first individual project was a diamond grading centre for NIRU Diamonds at Access Towers.

Upon successful completion of this project, they invited me to design their factory renovation project in Panadura. It was at this point that I quit my job to focus full time on my practice. From 2012 to 2015, I practised as an individual.

In 2015, I founded Amoda Rathnayake Associates, and in 2018 I formed Jayabuilders Pvt Ltd, which specializes in the construction element of my designs. We provide overall design solutions to a wider spectrum of clients, ranging from individuals to startups to world-renowned multinational organizations. The success we’ve garnered over the years is humbling.

What are the three most important things you had to do that had the greatest impact on the company’s success?

I believe teamwork, a yes-attitude, and leadership are the most important factors which have helped in the success of ARA.

Of all your projects, which one are you the proudest of because it was the most challenging, and needed creative and unique solutions?

Every project is both unique and challenging for us, as the clients and expectations vary from one to another. The timelines are tight, too. Most projects take place while their regular operations are functioning. The factory renovation project of Niru Diamonds, however, was the most challenging for a couple of reasons.

It was my first large-scale project, and I was operating it as an individual with very little experience. But I had the confidence and grit to make it a signature project.

What gives ARA its competitive edge, and how do you approach a project for a client? Is there an ethos and design philosophy that guides your work?

What makes us different is the creativity of our designs, and the peace of mind we provide to the clients.

We offer an overall design to build solutions where clients don’t have to worry about coordinating between designer and builder.

Our process includes understanding the client, his lifestyle or leadership style, and then his requirements. We make our client a part of the design journey where we blend our creativity with his functional requirements.

This ensures we have the freedom to explore creativity and the finer details from an aesthetical and functional perspective. We stay up-to-date on modern design trends, enabling us to do something new every day. We keep altering our designs based on how rapidly the design world changes.

How has COVID-19 affected your business? What is the new normal like for ARA, and how are you dealing with fresh challenges?

COVID-19 affected almost all industries, including the interior design industry to a great extent. At the onset, projects got postponed because of cashflow challenges of the organizations.

But things are now moving in the right direction. Previously, we would import specially designed office furniture and light fittings from our offshore supplier to make every project a unique one.

However, the current restrictions on imports have significantly affected us. So, we seized the opportunity and now fabricate some furniture and light fittings locally so there won’t be delays.

What is the business sense for brands to invest in interior design and architecture right now?

Office designs are more than creating an environment that provides all the furniture and equipment to support the various work-day tasks. It’s not merely arranging a table layout with basic facilities.

Brilliant office designs go beyond the physical, practical concerns and consider the psychological well-being of the employees who will use the space.

Therefore, it is essential to get your office’s interior designed to reflect corporate identity, including personal and professional elements, making it attract anyone who walks in. An office isn’t just a place that you work in — it should be a place of inspiration and motivation for the employees who spend significant amounts of time there.

It should support innovation, conversation and collaboration while allowing you to feel comfortable enough to be energetic and creative.

Tell us about ARA’s culture and how you keep a young team engaged and inspired?

Our team is young, and what drives them is freedom. They have the independence to create designs and pick their working hours. This brings out the best in them. Although they are young, the team is mature enough to use this freedom with great responsibility.

We have a family-like culture where we bond beyond work and this has created a lot of trust among the team, which has converted into passion and unconditional commitment.

The team at ARA does not work for a salary but serve a higher purpose when they live in the designs they create.

If there are three things you want to tell aspiring young entrepreneurs, what would they be?

Drive forward with a yes-attitude, never give up, and always differentiate yourself from the rest. This is my success formula and I’m sure it will work, for anyone.