Antara was born in Muscat, Oman and her family moved to Dubai when she was 12 years old. She was always drawn to art, design and the finer things courtesy her parents. Her parents are both artists and creatives who explored art and design in their unique ways.
"They took me and my brother to different museums and historical places all around the world when we were kids. I was always fascinated with these places. The Guggenheim was all about walking up and down the spiral walkway with my parents giving us a history lesson about what we were seeing and getting to see the amazing Michalangelos ‘David’,we were in awe. I think all those memories were imbibed in me and it shaped my interest in Design."
Antara studied Interior Design at Manipal University in Dubai, and worked with design and fit out companies before she became a one-woman-army for AR Interiors 4 years ago.
What has been your biggest challenge? How did you overcome it?
When I first started this design process, the challenge was dealing with contractors. I think I struggled with that the most. I learnt the hard way and I am more aware of how things are done. One of my favorite quotes are “There's no failure,You either win or you learn.”
How would you define your design style? What do you think has shaped the way you design?
I have noticed that I like to use a lot of metallic finishes in my design. I feel like it adds a bit of pizzazz to the space. A lot of my design process is just instinct. If I like something and can convince the client to do it I just go for it! That kind of freedom is liberating as well as rewarding. When you read up on Design trends, Travel and explore different places they all shape the way you design. I even watch a lot of Interior Design or Home renovation shows with my mom and it's amazing to see creativity around the world.
As a freelance designer what advice would you give to other young designers who want to have something of their own one day?
I think it's very important to gain experience with a firm initially. Start from scratch, the “odd” jobs, the paperwork, the jobs you find totally menial will all shape you up to perform better in the long run for when you start your own firm. I definitely recommend “Site work” as that taught me the most! Be focused ,passionate, determined, ignore the naysayers and be prepared that you might have to lose out on a social life for a while but hard work pays off!
Top 5 favourite designers
1) Kelly Hoppen
2) Sabyasaachi Mukherjee
3) Laura Hammett
4) Nate Bercus
5) Kelly Wearstler
Name a mentor or someone who impacted your career and life. And how?
I can't credit one person as there were a few people who impacted my career and life and my parents would be on the top f that list. They are my biggest critics and my biggest cheerleaders. Having an art background it was easier to help me, guide me, give me advice etc. There are also some amazing friends I have who helped me get on this journey, given me business advice and pushed me to do this and I am so grateful to all of them! Along the way you meet some amazing clients and i also know they have a huge role to play as they teach you so much.
What is the trait /quality in someone you admire that you wish you had? Give a shout out to this person.
Never to complain! My mom no matter how hard her day is or what she's gone through in life she's never complained and that I find remarkable.
What do you consider your greatest achievement ?
As cliche as it sounds each and every project I work on, there's a sense of achievement and satisfaction knowing you have created a space for someone. It's so personal because you know it's been all you! But if I have to pick one of the projects it was for a jewellery store I designed in Dubai Mall and it felt incredible to walk past a space you designed in the biggest mall in the world. Just walking past and saying 'hey that's me'!
Talk about a time you failed at something or thought you did – but how it molded you.
Failures are but pillars of success! When I first started I focused on the bigger pretty picture and missed out on the smaller finer very important details. In time you learn that by missing out on those smaller details its too much of a price to pay so you learn the hard way and eventually each experience molds you to be better.
A quote you live by…
”Less is more” and “what is for you ,won't pass you by”
The hardest part of your job is….
Site work! When you’re actually on a site with no AC in Dubai summer heat!
The part of the design process you love most.
I love it all!When you see your project come to life its got to be one of the most exhilarating feelings in the world!
The part of the design process you least like.
Chasing for Payments!
Do you have a dream project ? What is it?
In University for my dissertation I had done a Stilt house retreat.Its still got to be my dream project and I would love to design a Retreat/Hotel project on Stilts in a place like Maldives, Seychelles or Bora bora!So dreamy!
Is there something you would do differently if you ran a design school? What do you think there should be more emphasis in design schools?
I think definitely more hands on experience and design details.
If there is one thing you want people to know or be inspired by from your story – what is it?
All those people who told you you couldn't, work hard in silence and let your work do the talking!
What are you most excited about for what’s coming next ?
This restaurant project I've been working on.I am excited to see it come to life!
Are there any other outlets you express creativity ? How did that come about ?
There's a funny story here, I was designing a space called The junction at Al Serkal Avenue and my amazing client was looking for actors for a small play she was directing. One day she looked at me and said she thought I would fit the part in the play, as apprehensive as I was she pushed me into it, coached me and there I was performing and it was such an amazing experience. The play was called “He said,She said” and till date I look back on the video and thank her for pushing me to do something out of my comfort zone and yet so creative. Another outlet was teaching Arts and Crafts for kids during their summer vacation.
What makes you happy?
Doing what I love! Quality time with family, babysitting my friends babies, Travelling, Starbucks and Netflix (What was life before Netflix?)
What is your morning routine before you begin work?
A cup of Ginger tea and a few biscuits.
What music do you listen to when you work?
I love RNB and Hip hop, Afrobeats, Old school classics and Punjabi/Desi music. A total mixed palette!
Favorite tools / software?
Its got to be the Laser measuring tool and Photoshop!
What is an important lesson you’ve learnt over the years as a designer that you would like to share with other designers?
Updating and educating yourself with the latest trends is so important. I go through my old notes, design books etc and refresh myself on all the Design 101! Also its so important to listen to the clients needs and vision at the end of the day they're going to be using the space the most!
Antara has designed and executed multiple residential projects in Dubai, from small apartments to lavish villas. Choosing to go solo she says wasn't easy, and having been four years into it she believes it was the right decision. With full autonomy on the projects she takes on, Antara is excited about all the new developments in Dubai and the interesting work potential that lies ahead.
Written and edited: Kamsin Mirchandani