Women’s Day Special: Meet Kashmir’s interior designer who’s going places

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Srinagar: Afsa Malik, 27, reminisces about the pivotal moment when she chose to pursue her passion for interior design, defying familial expectations that she become a doctor or an engineer. “Most of the people in my family are either a doctor or an engineer. They wanted me to become one of them.

They asked me to do civil engineering, which was never my calling. I did it for the sake of doing it,” Afsa candidly shared. However, during her civil engineering studies, Afsa felt a growing discontent, a nagging feeling that this was not her true path. “During my studies, I used to do food blogging at various places.

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I used to visit various places in Chandigarh. I used to get fascinated by the interiors,” she explained. “When I returned to Kashmir, I continued to conduct food blogging here. One thing I saw was that while interiors are highly touted outside Kashmir. They aren’t as much within since people are unfamiliar with the concept of interiors as much here,” she said. From food blogging to getting passionate about the interiors, Afsa kept wondering if she could be able to create something like it in her life.

Afsa made the bold decision to pursue interior design. She enrolled in a degree program in Bangalore, where she immersed herself in internships and projects to gain expertise in her newfound field. “During my course, I did internships with numerous firms and contributed to many projects to study and gain expertise about interior design,” she said. Determined to apply her skills and transform spaces in her hometown, she started as a freelancer in Kashmir. However, she encountered challenges familiar to many entrepreneurs, including late payments and difficulties in conveying the value of her services. “I struggled a lot at initially to make people grasp the concept of interiors. Some people did not pay on time.

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I had to explain why it was vital to pay for site visits. I realized that people took our time for granted, so I charged them consulting fees,” she said. Despite these hurdles, Afsa’s dedication did not go to waste. She garnered a reputation for her exceptional work, which ranged from commercial interiors to residential projects. Her designs began to gain traction on social media platforms, earning praise and recognition. She has done the interiors of many boutiques, bakeries, pharmacies, cafes, and many residentials. “After a lot of effort, I succeeded in my field. I had a very great feedback on my effort.

When my clients shared my work, it boosted the popularity of my projects on Instagram,” she said.

For Afsa, interior design is not just about aesthetics; it’s a reflection of one’s personality and emotions. She believes that women bring a unique perspective to the field, as they connect with interiors on an emotional level. “Outside of Kashmir, I’ve noticed that people prefer female interiors over male interiors because they believe the female perspective of interior design is rare and unique, and they are more creative than men. Yes, there are technical phrases to master, but I believe that a female may be just as creative in interior design. Interiors are all about emotions, and females connect to the interior through emotions,” she said.

Passionate about preserving Kashmiri culture while embracing modernity, Afsa strives to create spaces that are both aesthetically pleasing and culturally resonant. She infuses elements like paper-mâché and wood in a minimalist fashion, striking a delicate balance between traditional and contemporary design.

“Our culture is lovely and unique, but individuals don’t know how to balance it in their homes. They must strike a balance between tradition and modernization so that it does not become too congested. I constantly attempt to infuse our tradition with modernity, such as infusing paper mache and wood in a minimalist way to make it look attractive to the eyes,” she said.