Designed to succeed
Founded in 2012, Canvas is one of Sri Lanka’s leading interior design studios offering design solutions from concept to end design. Canvas Interior Design Studio is among the pioneering and well established interior design firms in the country. With repeat clients in Sri Lanka and a fast-expanding clientele in East Asia, Canvas brings to life interior designs to suit a wide array of clients.
Established by Chamika Wickremasinghe, the CEO and Principal Designer, Canvas was purely originated on her passion for interiors. Before studying interior design in 2012 and subsequently starting the studio, Chamika worked in corporate communications and marketing. She brings to the table her experience in the corporate sector in knowing the dos and don’ts as well the importance of meeting timelines, goal setting and expansion. The studio’s craftsmanship and attention to detail haven’t gone unnoticed. In 2021, the experts at Luxury Lifestyle Awards selected Canvas for a prestigious award as a category winner for ‘Best Luxury Commercial Interior Design in Sri Lanka 2021’ for The Suites at Cinnamon Life.
“We started in a small way but we have been fortunate enough to get good projects since inception. We currently have a competent team of designers. We take on a variety of design jobs from large scale buildings to interiors for residences,” said Chamika. She explained that having a diverse portfolio included working on projects related to hospitality, healthcare, conglomerates and residential projects. Chamika went on to say how this helped the team stay fresh with ideas. She added that they did not cater to a particular niche market and intended to remain the same.
Highlighting the growth of Canvas, Chamika noted that as a studio their success was in identifying and being able to cater to the clients’ needs. She added that all Canvas projects have a signature to them and often, the team goes beyond what is expected of them.
Adding to this she said, “When a designer is assigned to a project, they are fully involved from the start to the end.” She elaborated that this practice enables a sense of ownership to the project and upon completion, the designers bring to life something that they too are proud of.
SECRET TO SUCCESS
Speaking of the successes achieved thus far, Chamika noted how over the last ten years they have had a good balance of both repeat and new clients. She added that it was encouraging to see new companies enter the market. Chamika explained how this enabled a healthy competition for all designers and provided clients with an opportunity to evaluate and know the value of what they are signing up for.
“There is enough work to go around. More interior designers and companies coming in is also an indication of more work and opportunities being created,” enthused Chamika.
Reliability, timeliness and creativity are among the key values that build Canvas’ 10-year track record. By fulfilling these values, Canvas has been able to continuously receive work from not just existing clients but also new ones through referrals. Chamika attributed the long-lasting client relationships to Canvas’ policy on prioritising quality and purpose of the design.
From the inception of a project the studio works hand in hand with the clients. “We have been fortunate enough to work with clients who trust our process. We are often given the freedom to do things and by understanding their requirements, we are often able to exceed their expectations as well.”
THE PANDEMIC AND ITS CHALLENGES
As with most industries, the construction sector was deeply affected by the pandemic. At the start of the pandemic in March 2020, Canvas had been uncertain of what direction to take. However, following that initial period, industries, especially tourism-related businesses identified the pandemic as a time to renovate and reconstruct. “We haven’t looked back and have been busy since.” As to how birds of a feather flock together, Canvas was fortunate to secure a clientele that had the foresight to work on such projects during this time.
Another challenge that their team faced in 2021 was the shortage of materials. Due to import restrictions, Canvas began looking into local products and manufacturers. The challenges opened their eyes to a new world of possibilities and creative ways in which to work with locally available resources. Canvas has and continues to work with local artisans to bring new creative and innovative concepts to life.
WOMEN AND YOUTH IN CONSTRUCTION
When walking into the Canvas studio, most would notice three things. First, is the sleek, minimalist layout. The presence of a majority of female designers is the second. The third being young and vibrant individuals at work.
We asked Chamika and the team whether being female makes carrying out work challenging for Canvas. While they agreed that it is not common to see many women in the industry, they feel that it has not been a great challenge for their business, nor have they had many negative experiences so far. They note that their work and skill generate acceptance and respect.
When asked about her very young team of designers, Chamika explained how it was important to bring in new and young blood to the design industry. She said it was crucial as “sometimes we find ourselves caught in a particular way of thinking. It is really good to have fresh ideas”. The team at Canvas does this by ensuring that their team is diverse in all aspects – gender, age, ethnicity etc, which brings more experience and learnings to the table.
The year 2021 was big for Canvas. The first of which being the selection for a prestigious award as a category winner for ‘Best Luxury Commercial Interior Design in Sri Lanka 2021’ by the Luxury Lifestyle Awards. The studio also saw massive growth last year. Chamika laughs as she says she wants “to take it a little slow.” While there is the capacity to scale, she wants to ensure that the studio doesn’t lose its signature style by scaling without a plan.
For now, Chamika intends to continue working on their projects while maintaining the familial working environment she has been able to create for her team. She notes that their complimenting style is not only welcoming but also gives a conducive environment to stay ahead of competitors.