Published December 10, 2020
Crafting Her Own Story
Featuring: Rydhima Brar, R/Terior Studio
By Jen Levisen
EVERY SPACE TELLS A STORY
The Forum’s Editor, Jen Levisen, sits down with Rydhima Brar, Founder + Creative Director, of R/terior Studio, a full-service commercial and residential design studio based in L.A. R/terior Studio launched in early 2020, right before COVID changed our world seemingly overnight. Rydhima shares her start in the industry, how she’s made 2020 work for her, and why cocktails and design are a match made in heaven.
JEN: Rydhima, it’s so great to chat with you today! I love the focus your studio, R/terior Studio, has on storytelling from a design and project perspective. How did that come to be?
RYDHIMA: I’ve always believed that your space should tell your story through the experiences it creates. It should create a narrative special and beautiful enough to manifest a fantasy and put a smile on your face every time you enter it. A narrative that evolves and grows as your relationship with the space deepens.
JEN: I love that. Tell me what sparked your interest in the design industry?
RYDHIMA: Design has just always been there in the back of my mind. I was born and raised in Kuwait. My father is in the construction business there and from a very early age I was surrounded by his work, by finishing materials — opulent materials, fabrics, etc. He would show us the work that went into creating these spaces and that stuck with me. I also fell in love with art when I was little and that stayed with me. Arts and crafts projects when I was younger, oil on canvas as I got older, building and making things — anything I could do to constantly be creating.
That creativity moved to the back burner for a while when I moved to the U.S. for school and pursued degrees in business and finance. But honestly, design was always there. Even as I pursued a career in marketing, I always gravitated toward projects focused on the customer experience and ones that had design elements.
JEN: When did the design move to the forefront for you again?
RYDHIMA: When my husband and I settled into a new space in Los Angeles, and I had the opportunity to design our condo with my vision and on a strict budget. This process helped me better discover my aesthetic, and as I got more and more involved in the project, it became such a huge outlet for me. It became my “me” time, my Zen time. We certainly had some challenges, so that was interesting in terms of design, but that almost made everything better. My goal was to have our space completed in time for the holidays, and the feedback I received really gave me a boost of confidence to start pursuing design again as more than just a hobby.
I was working full time as a product manager at a bank in L.A., but after the birth of our daughter, I took some time off to focus on my family and really think about what the next phase of my life should look like.
JEN: So, where did you start?
RYDHIMA: I took a few interior architecture classes at UCLA; I took some foundational classes that reintroduced me to the more technical components of the job. But having been in the workforce for 10+ years at that point, and having a baby, going back to school full time just wasn’t feasible. I knew I needed learning opportunities, but I also knew I needed to get my feet wet. I ended up getting a part time job with a local designer here in L.A., as well as a part time job at a local art gallery.
JEN: What sort of projects did you get to work on?
RYDHIMA: I did a little bit of everything with the designer — picking up samples, basic floor plans, sourcing and pricing. This firm was more focused on residential design, so the role allowed me to really explore all facets. On the other hand, at the art gallery, we would work directly with design firms who sourced work for larger hotel chains, corporate offices, medical practices, etc., so I was able to explore the commercial design world, too. I established relationships with local artists, which has been such an asset. I was really able to dig in and start working on both ends, developing a 360-degree view of the industry.
JEN: At what point were you ready to start your own studio?
RYDHIMA: I was at those two jobs for almost two years, and toward the end was able to get a few of my own small projects – a few residential ones, and a small office for a start-up in Santa Monica. The feedback on those projects gave me the confidence to go full time with R/terior Studios at the beginning of the year.
JEN: Oh, my goodness, and then COVID happened. What has this year been like for you?
RYDHIMA: Project-wise, at the beginning it was just full stop. For more established designers, work definitely started to pick back up again, but for myself, as someone who is brand new and not well known in the industry, I had to think through how best to position myself while remaining sensitive to all that was going on.
JEN: So much has happened this year.
RYDHIMA: Exactly. Going out and marketing my services just didn’t feel right. I leaned on my personal network — family, friends, etc. — to expand my reach and see how I could be of service. See if they needed help transforming their existing spaces to meet their new needs – home offices, study space, things like that.