A visit to the home of Niya, one half of Ishka Designs, Inc.

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From left to right in a clockwise motion: A portrait of the principles of Ishka Design, Inc.: Anishka Clarke (Design Director) & Niya Bascom (Creative Director) ©Industry City. Images from their Whitehouse project, Jamaica including custom art by Bruce Allen and Garfield Morgan ©Niya Bascom 

Ishka Designs Inc. is a Brooklyn-based interior design and creative firm founded by Niya Bascom and Anishka Clarke. While each project in their portfolio reflects the personality of their clients or brands, all of their projects align on the company's endemic principles of creating attentive, minimal, bespoke, artistic and timeless environments. Locally, their designs are the result of extensive collaborations and long-term relationships with local partners and artisans. Artsper invites you into the home of Niya Bascom, Creative Director of Ishka Designs, to hear about the influence of art upon his interior design.

1. Hello Niya ! How would you describe your interior design style and the ethos that informs it? What kind of person would you say your design is intended for?

Ishka Designs' (IDI) style is minimal, effortless, and conscious; it emanates from our ethos of bespoke, mindful, minimal, artful, timeless, and the honoring of natural materials to create luxury ecosystems. It's an ongoing, heritage-informed body of work exploring elevated presentations of sustainability and longevity. We design for anyone who is willing to co-create their [commercial/ hospitality/ residential] environment with us. Our clients take creative risks to arrive at a cohesive design solution.

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Artwork on display in Niya's home ©Niya Bascom

2. Describe a moment from a past project that still resonates with you as a designer.

One of our most resonant projects was a beachfront property in Whitehouse, Jamaica (Caribbean). We were introduced to and collaborated with a host of exceptionally talented artisans who rely mostly on traditional techniques and limited resources for their creations. The pieces they fabricated for us are still our favorites. It was a beautiful experience to shape and inform our designs alongside these artisans in real time. The insights we gained from being a part of the process has permanently impacted how we view ourselves, our work, and its connection to the artisan communities surrounding each project. Memorable moments included aging wood in the ocean, developing a rock into a bench, and witnessing our millworker handcraft each tread for the villa's custom staircase– these events, and others, reconfigured our ideas for design.

3. With an ethos that includes simplicity and nods to minimalism, what is the role that artwork plays in the cultivation of your “luxury ecosystems"?

Art is the spiritual backbone of our projects. For me, art is what lives within the artists creatively, now placed in the client's environment to live with them. BUT art is not only the physical additions to our clients' environments; it is also the process of how we create or approach each new project, custom piece, etc.

4. You're based in Brooklyn - where are your favorite places to experience art in the city?

Richard Beavers' Gallery and Medium:Tings (owned by Stephanie Baptist) are both places where I enjoy art. Also, MoCADA, the Bedford Stuyvesant Museum of African Art, Pioneer Works, and the Brooklyn Museum. I can't forget Brooklyn itself: from street art to street style I'm always encountering artfulness of sorts on my daily commute. And finally, the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens (BBG) because some of the world's best artwork emerges from the soil. I've pulled inspiration from the varieties of spaces at BBG; the herb garden, Japanese garden, and rose garden all give me inspiration that I bring to IDI clientele.

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Artist Delphine Diallo's photography, Highness Samsara, amongst the display ©Niya Bascom

5. Why did you start collecting art? How would you describe the works you gravitate towards and eventually add to your collection?

I've always loved and purchased art; always had an appreciation of things I can't do but that reveal something within me. I'd describe my collection as cultural, spiritual, resonant, substantive...I purchase art based on what touches, moves and inspires me—not on its monetary value. That said, my collection ranges from works purchased from artists selling their work on the street to works purchased in major galleries. I describe my acquisitions as African-centered and cosmopolitan. My art collection reveals me to myself.

6. Which contemporary artists and creatives, famous or emerging, have intrigued you of late?

Ayana V. Jackson is an African American artist whose powerful conviction informs her self-portraits. She uses her body and self-presented image as a means of deconstructing the colonizer's gaze. Moreover, her choice of color and light for this task is brilliant. Anthony Olubunmi Akinbola is another artist inspiration of mine. I have sourced many of the Nigerian-American artist's works for client projects. The handling of materials (durags) in an almost paintbrush like manner has enabled him to reframe a cultural experience. Takeya Takata, too. He is a Japanese artist. Overall I'm inspired by the scale, textures and layers of his work. There's a general mathematical quality to his expressions that pulls me in. Genesis Tremaine is another African-American artist whose work I appreciate for her use of color juxtaposed against her religious beliefs. Her spirited work takes me on a vivid visual journey full of intense energy.

Kimani Beckford is a Jamaican artist. When I encounter his work I think of effortless strength and power. There's a visceral, magnetic quality to his art that's surreal, and yet still curious. I respect his artistic inspiration. The South African artist Zwelethu Machepha's use of multidimensional dynamics in his paintings and drawings are incredible. His work is like an intentional kaleidoscope; a complex labyrinth of memory-laden lines forming portraits of African infinitude. And finally, to end on Jack Whitten, an African-American artist, whose noteworthy abstract artistry functions as its own cultural language. He was prescient with his use of material, texture and colors to illustrate the times.

7. Finally, you've built your design house as a partnership between yourself and Anishka Clarke. How does working as a design duo affect your interior design?

With Anishka, I have someone trustworthy and extremely talented to build IDI's body of work. The trust between us underlies the exchange and challenging of ideas at the firm, and ultimately leads to personal and professional growth. Over the past decade and a half of working alongside each other we've learned that by staying true to the process of our vision we will always arrive at something beautiful and timeless. I also believe that because Anishka and I have taken our egos out of the equation, this has given an effortlessness to our partnership and the team dynamics at our company.

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Ishka Design's Whitehouse project, Jamaica ©Niya Bascom

Their favorite artworks

Kikashi, Jumeaux Ouattara


Jumeaux Ouattara

Sculpture - 16.9 x 9.4 x 7.1 inch


Bagadadji, Malick Sidibé


Malick Sidibé

Photography - 15.7 x 11.8 inch


L'un pour l'autre, Kokouvi Adoku

L'un pour l'autre

Kokouvi Adoku

Painting - 35.4 x 35.4 x 0.4 inch


Buy Black, Felandus Thames

Buy Black

Felandus Thames

Sculpture - 24 x 18 x 3.5 inch


Black is Beautiful, Felandus Thames

Black is Beautiful

Felandus Thames

Sculpture - 24 x 18 x 3.5 inch


Composition aux réveils, Arman

Composition aux réveils


Sculpture - 31.5 x 23.6 x 2.8 inch


Black Mirror, Nemanja Nikolic

Black Mirror

Nemanja Nikolic

Painting - 30 x 20 x 1.5 inch


Leeches (1982-83), Jean-Michel Basquiat

Leeches (1982-83)

Jean-Michel Basquiat

Print - 22 x 30 inch


Girl giving flowers to Jesus, Clementine Hunter

Girl giving flowers to Jesus

Clementine Hunter

Painting - 14 x 18 x 1 inch