Creating Spaces with Equilibrium and a Contemporary Base – Chairman and Managing Director of Design Workshop Interiors Pvt Ltd, Rohan De Silva

Let’s get one thing straight: Sri Lanka has no shortage of incredible design talent worth celebrating. However, while we’re all for a localised approach to designing or styling our spaces, we’re also living in globalised times, where trends cross borders at breakneck speeds. And this applies to ideas, too. We once travelled to see something different or absorb new ideas. Still, now it’s easier than ever to glean further information from a beautifully designed space, viewed via your phone or computer screen. Call it the democratisation of design, but you can even intuit the creative genius of Interior design architects like Professor Rohan De Silva, Chairman and Managing Director of Design Workshop Interiors Pvt Ltd, whose work is at once profoundly charming and uniquely modern.

Delving deep into Rohan’s narrative of how his timeless design principles came to be, he began his escapade at the young age of fourteen. How formidable! By obtaining his primary education at De Mazenod College, he graduated from Katubedda/Moratuwa University with a degree in Built Environment. He then performed as a Trainee Designer at Jones International Ltd (a subsidiary of The Maharaja Organisation) for five years before being promoted to Assistant Designer. He joined H.don Carolis & Sons as the Chief of Design heading the design department for more than ten years. In 1982, Rohan was honoured with the Top-10 Presidential Award for Interior Design. Later in life, he went overseas for further education and was the first-ever Asian to earn a Charter in Interior Architecture and a Charter in Furniture Design. Following this, he received a scholarship to study Interior Architecture and Furniture Design in West Germany, which he undoubtedly excelled at. Adding further esteem to his educational background, Rohan holds four PhDs, a PhD in Interior Architecture (France), a PhD in Furniture Design, a PhD in Interior Architecture (USA), and a PhD in Interior Project Management. With a total of four PhDs, he is the most qualified Interior Architect in all of Asia. Thereon, he worked for Nunu Furnishing in Oman, and again at H. Don Carolis & Sons, and at Furniline Interiors Pvt Ltd as the Director – Design and Production, and was a Senior Lecturer for NIBM, later NSBM, National Design Centre-NDC, Open System Technologies-OST, as well as being the Founder Member of the Sri Lanka Institute of Interior Designers (SLIID) and established his own company, Design Workshop Interiors. 

In a sea of businesses that all claim to have amazing client service and guaranteed results, most brands and businesses have trouble getting noticed. Interior designers included. However, this hasn’t been the case for Design Workshop. When asked how his company differs from its competitors, Rohan remarked that they take on the entire project from conception to execution, down to the last detail, to meet the client’s needs. Over and above that, with over four decades of knowledge in the industry, the company adheres to the highest standards of professionalism. Moreover, they stand out as they have their own furniture manufacturing plant, which is rather distinctive. He went on to emphasise the need of having an in-house team to build and execute interior design projects. 

Creativity is an important job skill for coming up with new ideas, enhancing efficiency and solutions to complex situations. In lieu of that, Rohan praises his highly qualified and exceptionally creative design team, who constantly comes up with new concepts. Going into greater depth on this subject leads us to a family concern. The protagonist elaborates how three of his four daughters, all of whom are qualified Interior Architects, contribute to the creative flank of things. Ultimately, he noted that the organisation has a technically qualified and well-experienced furniture manufacturing and interior project implementation team adding to their list of strengths. 

Majestic structures stand as legacies to history’s greatest empires and civilizations throughout the world. The castles of mediaeval Europe, the aqueducts of the Roman Empire, the temples of Ancient Greece, the Great Wall of China, the pyramids of Ancient Egypt—these structures still awe and inspire centuries after they were constructed. Though they are found worldwide, they all have one element in common. All of the world’s most wondrous structures rest on a solid foundation. And the integrity of every foundation depends on its four cornerstones. To Rohan, fulfilling his clients and customers is a fundamental cornerstone as well as receiving repetitive customers and clients is equally salient to him as he expands his circle of success.

Moreover, his creative design team is yet another value. He dramatically appreciates their energetic and elevated spirit, how expressive they can be as a team, and continue to embrace their distinct design style. All in all, his committed personnel can take up any challenge in the industry. Ultimately, with this cornerstone, he can build something of more significance for himself and, most crucially, for Design Workshop. 

Many companies consider purpose merely an add-on to their strategy, but the most successful companies put it at the core, using it to redefine the playing field and reshape their value propositions. Downright to the subject, which sounds acceptable—offering one specialised service or expanding to offer many benefits to a client base? It is safe to say that it is the latter! Apart from Interior Architecture, Rohan provides a wide range of services to his clients, including space planning, material selection for interior dressing, fittings and fixtures selection, large-scale colour schemes, lighting solutions, and much more.

We can still dream about putting the COVID-19 genie back in the bottle, but the more likely reality is that the virus will become an endemic problem we just have to get used to. Climate change is similar in some ways: a difficulty we have to plan for, deal with, and overcome every day. Underscoring how the virus is morphing into an endemic concern, Rohan delineates how it has impacted the company’s cash flow, incoming and continuing contracts that have been unable to be finished, raw material scarcity, and, certainly, unpredictable working habits. However, if one could say anything positive about the COVID-19 pandemic—and its latest twist, the Omicron variant—it might be that it forced many people to get better at accepting and acting upon the need for change. Hence, he underlines how the organisation stayed ahead of the curve by frequently conversing with the client base and obtaining membership in Business Network International – BNI, which drove them to advertise their business/services through certain referrals. “Thanks to BNI and my good friend Chartered Architect Indika Samarasinghe, we were able to keep our heads above our shoulders,” Rohan verified.

With design in his blood and a gripping life-long ambition that inspired him to pursue a profession in architecture, it’s no surprise Rohan is highly sought after in his field. Retaining an exceptional ability to visualise, create, and transmit design concepts to paper, he also holds the talent to sketch what his clients require in a matter of seconds, i.e. “reading a client’s mind and grasping what he or she requires.” 

To grasp the expressive character of a space is to feel its significance, know its essence, feel the inward resonance of an idea or way of life, and on the strength of that, know how to recognize and respond to its other manifestations. The joy found in surrounding interior space and form is universal. As spatial compositions continue to evolve, so will the understanding of the meaning behind them. Predominantly, Rohan persists in concocting new-fangled interiors marking his prominence in the industry. “The way one looks at things is of the utmost significance,” he culminates his narrative with an inciting expression, “Seeing is experiencing with your eyes, thus if you can fulfil a human being’s five senses, you are a wonderful creator.”

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