Out of the Box, Into your Space – Ashani Goonewardena Elwalagedera, Founder & Interior Designer of ON Design

A proud Ladies’ College alumna, Ashani Goonewardena Elwalagedera obtained her Bachelor’s Degree in Interior Design from the Northumbria University School of Design. She is creative by nature and has always wanted to do things differently – so choosing a career in interior design came as no surprise. It was in line with her passion. Upon graduation, she was approached by a friend to join a design firm, and thus she embarked on her journey as an interior designer.  Ashani considers this opportunity as one of the greatest blessings in her career as she gained extensive knowledge and training under renowned Architect Dipika Dharmadasa – one of the few qualified leading interior designers in Sri Lanka at the time. She was promoted to Senior Interior Designer of the firm and was given the privilege of handling a diverse portfolio of projects in the brackets of residential, commercial, and hospitality sectors, which improved the versatility of her skills and gave her the confidence she needed to progress further as an interior designer. 

After completing 9 years as an interior designer, Ashani decided to take a year for herself as she became a new mother, and it was during this time that she gained a fresh perspective on the future of her professional journey. She was eager to continue working as an interior designer alongside her new role as a full-time mother, and with determination, she founded ON Design in 2016, her very own Interior Design firm.

Ashani is excited by every project that comes her way irrespective of its scale or nature. She values all her clients and believes they choose her because they like her style and trust the consistency in the quality of her work. Ashani emphasizes the importance of mutual trust between her and her clients and says that she would not undertake a project if their vision does not align. Every project she completes is a reflection of her and her brand image and it is extremely important to her that she is proud of all her designs. However, she will always strive to accommodate any client that approaches her. “Design what you love and love what you design.”

ON Design boasts a portfolio of calming, layered contemporary interiors that are well-thought-out with an attitude of elegance. Space planning and design intuition play a huge role in making an interior work well. It could be said that intuition is the basis of art, rather than technique. Whilst all designers draw on both, Ashani feels that the balance naturally tilts toward intuition which you gain through the experience of having handled many projects.

Bespoke design is integral to the ON Design approach, where every project can be customized to exact specifications, ensuring that the client’s requirements are fulfilled and that the end product is unique to them. To Ashani and her team, it is important to strike a balance between sticking to their core design principles whilst adapting to suit clients’ needs.

The biggest challenge Ashani faces as an Interior Designer is time. She explained to us that most clients want their projects completed within a month or two, and managing 10 -12 projects at any given time while being a full-time, hands-on mom is not an easy task. Ashani is constantly working, and therefore makes it a point to schedule her days in advance so simultaneously juggling her multiple roles and responsibilities doesn’t overwhelm her.

One of the biggest challenges we all face at this point is the effect of the pandemic, and its strain on the economy. Ashani elaborates that ON Design has been fortunate to be involved in new projects during this time – they have a host of clients that desired soft revamps on their interiors. She states that many are cautious about how they invest during these uncertain times. As much as any Designer would love to work on an empty canvas, Ashani and her team strongly felt the need to adapt and extend their services to a new clientele in transforming their spaces by overcoming the restrictions imposed by certain existing structural elements. As a Designer, she feels the need to constantly change perceptions to avoid feeling like a victim of circumstances and instead take a stand as a creator of the future.

ON Design has been successful in bringing something unique to the table and works towards evolving by doing their next project better than their last. As designer products and services are easily accessible on social media services like Pinterest, Instagram, and Houzz, Ashani believes the demand for originality from professionals will increase in the future. ON Design has started producing a line-up of specialized artwork – custom-made, one-of-a-kind pieces that ensure originality is maintained with every project.

When asked about her project management process, Ashani said that the initial briefing process is critical as she needs to understand her client’s personality, style, and purpose of the space that they want designed.  This is followed by a presentation, made up of floor layouts with detailed elevations and renderings, inspirational cues, details, finishes and textures that all come together to give the client a full picture of how each space will look and feel, along with a selection of samples. Upon the client’s approval of the design, the ON design team develops technical drawings which are then sent out to various suppliers and manufacturers. Constant communication between all parties is crucial until the client approves the outcome. This is what the ON design team works towards and what they consider a successful project. 

Regardless of the extent of coordination and planning, there will always be hiccups, when handling a project. Ashani is conscious that what matters is how you overcome these situations, and that you handle them with integrity. If one makes a mistake, one owns up to it and resolves it. Her belief is that keeping a positive mindset will help you steer away from all the bumps you face along the way.

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