AOD Alumni Radhia Hassen; Breaking Stereotypes and Originating New Possibilities in Interior Design

AOD Alumni and Founder of ‘Interiors by Radhia Hassen’ is taking on the challenge to create a lasting impact in the Interior Design Industry

We are at an age where the Interior Design landscape is changing with great advancements in technology and methods which have given life to some of the most innovative design concepts and structures. As the residential and hospitality sector grows, there is a need for Interior Designers with specialized skill, knowledge and the ability to cater to highly sophisticated and creatively focused consumer needs. AOD Alumni Radhia Hassen is one such Interior Designer who is inspired through her education and passion for making spaces more functional and aesthetically pleasing.

What determined your passion for design?

My earliest memory of how my passion began for design was when I sneaked into my cousin sister’s bedroom as a child and found it in a beautiful mess of books, sketch pads, colour utensils, samples and materials of fabric; all strewn across the floor and bed. She was a practicing fashion designer at the time and this was a game changer in a family made up mostly of businessmen. The memory stayed with me even after graduating high school; it seemed to be the world I belonged to.

What first drew you into interior design?

I was wasn’t sure about my choice in interior design at first but during my first few classes with Interior Design Programme Leader Joel Rapp, I learned of how Interior Design was not just about making things look pretty. We would be learning the ergonomics of human behavior and study basic functionality of varying spatial constructs and much more. When I knew I was going to understand spaces with such passion and intelligence, the subject grew to be exactly what I wanted to do and I was drawn to it ever since.

How do you think your design education enhanced your creativity and prepared you to start your own Interior Design practice?

The kind of education I received at AOD was not always textbook-based and our classes included many opportunities that exposed us to the world out there. We were trained in presentation skills and project managing skills as students- making introverts like me a lot more confident. Whilst the local architects and designers who taught us brought us a vast and expert education in the local industry, the foreign lecturers broke our thinking patterns and opened our minds to the bigger picture. Creativity comes from being best informed, and today, my own practice, ‘Interiors by Radhia Hassen’ benefits from my insistence of challenging local methods and pushing towards the more globally-appreciated ones.

What are your other interests and how do these influence your work?

I am a movie buff and I use this interest to fuel my creativity for my work. Sets from the Edwardian and Victorian eras inspire me and I sketch out parts of what my eye catches and make sure I use them in my design work. I am also an avid reader, so whenever work becomes just a little too much, I take an hour to immerse myself in a good book.

What were some of your favourite projects and what was the inspiration behind them?

I have mostly worked on residential and hospitality projects so designing a restaurant and bar as my first large-scale freelance project was an enticing challenge. We worked with a run-down heritage structure- at the time totally neglected and structurally incompetent. Restoring the old and forgotten is a true passion of mine. The thickness of the ancient walls, the bright coloured large bricks made only in older times, the decorative shapes of the windows and doors and the weathered oak floors were perfect for a designer to begin working on. Making such a derelict structure into a loud and glamorous pub for the youth of Colombo has earned its place as my favourite project so far.

What is the most challenging thing about your career?

Handling my own practice in itself is the challenge. There are a number of obstacles to overcome. Befriending every client and finding their true needs takes practice and confidence. Handling all suppliers and contractors- in a mostly male dominant industry, can at first be very difficult but if you remind yourself of why you love what you do, and you find ways to patiently win every difficult person over. I am learning self-discipline in my everyday activity and my parents inspire me to be more responsible.

What would you say is the best thing about being an Interior Designer?

The large scope of an interior design education and career is what is best about it. For someone like me who needs constant motivation and interest in my work, this is an ideal career. From business to all ends of the creative arts, interior design is an impressive foundation to have. As a designer you are open to social awareness, business, branding, arts, IT and every new age invention.

What is your advice to a young person who is wondering whether a career in interior design is for them?

I believe design is for a person who is open to change and challenges. There are no norms and a very few rules to follow. As exciting as this may seem to a young person, you have to understand the responsibility it requires from an individual as well. You will always have to be interested in creating and learning and it comes from so many places- from books to Instagram to hiking to everyday ordinary activity. If you can find purpose in this then interior design, or rather design in general, is your game to play!