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‘There is a lot of personality involved in homes’

Taleigao based interior designer Devika Martins strives to use ethical practices to give form to people’s dreams. NT BUZZ talks to her about aesthetics, sustainability, and her love for renovation of Goan homes

Danuska Da Gama I NT BUZZ

Twenty six-year-old Devika Martins has always been fascinated by the unique architecture that the Portuguese left behind in Goa: a blend of European influence in keeping with Goa’s coastal environment. This was possibly why she took the plunge into interior designing after graduating in business administration.

While she would have loved to study in Portugal, the lack of a degree of her interest in the country led her choose Italy instead where she studied at the University of Florence. Italian universities rank the highest in preservation and renovation of heritage monuments and structures and as a student she got hands-on experience in assisting the restoration projects of UNESCO sites around Florence, Rome and Milan.

Putting her management degree to use, Devika has set up a design firm in Goa. From handling the commercials to the aesthetics, she is doing it all, overcoming the barriers of gender, age, and competition.

Excerpts from an interview


Q: Can you tell us about your first project as an interior designer?

In March 2016, while in the UAE I worked on a renovation project as the principal interior designer for an educational centre Kidzania. The centre provides a realistic educational environment that allows children to role-play and mimic adult activities and is a city built for children, complete with buildings, banks, paved streets, vehicles, a functioning economy, and recognisable destinations in the form of ‘establishments’. My task involved restructuring the entire place to create more room as it was expanding.


Q: What area of design do you specialise in?

I’ve majored in renovation and historic preservation. I thoroughly love working on traditional Goan homes, and restoring houses and dilapidated structures. This also means using natural materials available and making sure structures blend well with the environment.


Q: How has the journey been so far in Goa?

The last 18 months have been a tremendous learning experience. You can procure everything under the sun in Goa now! I have a good team, so labour isn’t an issue. In terms of job orders, I don’t take a lot of commercial projects unless they’re luxury based. I prefer working on residential projects, since there is a lot of personality involved in homes, and that gets me excited every day!


Q: Are people in Goa open to your ideas and your expertise?

When I first began, very few people knew what an interior designer does. Most thought I decorate a room – paint schemes, curtains, choice of wood, furniture styles. In reality it involves planning a room, the architectural and structural aspects. I have to draw plans for electrical, lighting, tiling and furniture layouts, keeping in mind my clients ‘design style’. Sometimes, I even have to design personalised furniture pieces for a space.


The main challenge I face is people think I’m too young and that I probably lack adequate knowledge about how to renovate an old Goan house. But, fortunately things are beginning to pick up. People now know I have actually studied old structures and how best to preserve them. On the other hand, some want me to use my expertise and young ideas and see what I come up with.


Q: Can you share with us the advantages of sustainable design and how it can be achieved?

The best way is by using low-impact construction materials, capitalising on renewable energy sources, focusing on space efficiency and reducing construction waste disposal. I’ve noticed there are many who are using this approach in Goa. There is an increasing inclination towards energy savings, waste reduction that has put the construction industry at the very forefront of adopting sustainable building designs. Whether it is residential, commercial or industrial construction, infrastructure developers are altering their current practices to create greener structures that greatly reduce the impact of construction on the natural environment and human health.


Q: Goans somehow still like to use the modern and antique approach when it comes to design…

Yes! I like the fact Goans are really looking after an old heritage when it comes to the architecture of a home and even doing up an interior space. Like anything old and of great value (wine, books, jewellery, art), antique furniture can feel like a hefty commitment that requires constant upkeep, and preservation to maintain that value. Not to mention, many of us simply think the aesthetic is far too specific to fit into a modern day setting. But there is no denying that the presence of an object crafted more than a century ago adds sheer beauty. In Goa, designers touting the importance of an old-meets-new mix to achieve balance and character show that there is a perfect blend in our culture here using the modern and antique approach.


Q: So do you prefer functionality or appeal?

I’d use the word aesthetic appeal and functionality, and they both go hand in hand. Obviously if something looks really good, you’re going to want it. But you’re always going see how best it functions and whether it really suits your purpose. When it comes to designs I like rustic and vintage design styles with classic, traditional design elements. I enjoy using antiques, traditional brown furniture, and printed fabrics such as floral chintzes to make its mark in a space.

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