Ashlyn Hernandez, of Ashlina Design Atelier, is a young and upcoming designer based in New Jersey. She prides herself by continuously learning from the field and striving to embody spaces similar to their owners through design. Learn more about her work in this interview for byDesign!

What is your favorite part about being a designer?

My favorite part about being a designer is being able to convince a client that a carefully-planned design can affect the way they feel and enhance their lifestyle whether it be a residential or commercial interior (or exterior even) while reflecting the client’s or brand’s personality. It really shows the thought and level of detail you put into a project created just for them.

Who or what would you cite as your most important influence?

One of the people I find iconic in the world of architecture is Zaha Hadid. The “Queen of the Curve” once said: “There are 360 degrees, so why stick to one?”

I think it’s really cool and badass when someone designs an interior or layout without confining themselves to a 90 degree angle, playing with all the real estate a site has without plopping in a “postage stamp” type of moment. Hadid left a great legacy in the world through her buildings and her company reflects her way of thinking.

Can you tell us about your personal brand?

From a design-related standpoint, I find my design styles to be very eclectic. While I do tend to gravitate to modernity with a glamorized approach, and that may be a key style I focus on, I’m not afraid to mix and match it with other styles such as industrial as well as transitional, rustic, and Mediterranean. Balance, of course, is your best friend. My design style is the only part of my brand, but I emphasize that the most important aspect of it is the impression I leave on my clients and how I make them feel. One thing that sets me apart from others is my ability to listen to my clients and fully understand who they are and what they need while educating them with open, honest, and clear communication. Pair that up with organization and you’ve got yourself a great bond. Here, I quote Danzie: “Your smile is your logo, your personality is your business card, how you leave others feeling after an experience with you is your trademark.”

What is your favorite color palette to work with?

I’m a big fan of using neutrals because I love introducing pops of color without overwhelming the design. Some of the colors I love to work with are blues, reds, plum, blush, and emerald green.

If you could travel back, what advice would you give yourself as you start this career?

If it feels scary, you should probably do it. It’s going to be hard at first, but if you never take that leap of faith, you’ll never know what you can accomplish.

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Please give us an overview of the more personal side of your business, how did it come to be, any interesting stories about the origin you can share?

Throughout my design career, I had worked for two very different firms: one being a celebrity boutique firm specializing in high-end residential and commercial design, and the other being a more corporate-structured commercial architecture firm specializing in prototypical retail and fast casual dining design. After three years of working with an iconic celebrity designer, I actually took a job at Restoration Hardware as a design consultant (a nicer name for furniture sales associate) in the interim of finding an architecture firm. At RH, although I wasn’t particularly designing, I had the pleasure of servicing a large volume of guests who walked through those storefront doors at any given moment. I also learned a lot about furniture design and fabrics.

From the moment I started my career at the New York School of Interior Design, I always thought about owning a firm of my own someday. At times I doubted I could deal with owning a business and would fear failure, so I’d try to stay the course of working for a large company and grow within. My gut always told me otherwise, that I have something that sets me apart and with the drive I always put into anything I do, I can really accomplish something great on my own.

It was after five months of working at RH that I met someone with the same driven mentality that motivated me to make this goal a reality and stepped me through the process of building my first LLC. Shortly thereafter, I got offered the position at the retail design firm, but I operated Ashilna Design Atelier as a side hustle, doing a few projects pro bono to build my independent portfolio. At the large firm, I got to work on a few cool unique projects, but for the most part, being a prototypical design firm, most of the projects were cookie cutter rollouts and had little to no creative freedom, making for a production-centered firm.

From a company culture standpoint, where I worked at did not reflect the values and morals I believe in, resulting in my departure from the company after a year and a half. An independent project that I have been working on since January 2020 couldn’t have come at a better time, falling on my lap a week before I left my 8-5. Seeing that this was an opportunity to focus on a design that required a lot of work, I made the decision to turn my little side hustle into a long-term dream of a full-time, full-service independent firm. Here I stand today, simultaneously working on three projects with a nice number on the pipeline.

Do you have anything you can share about how you and/or your firm have been affected by COVID-19, and any tips for other designers on how to navigate and cope?

COVID-19 slightly affected my firm in a few ways: vendors were delaying a client’s orders, some potential projects were pushed to start at a later date, and orders for a restaurant project did not take off yet due to a limited budget. It has been a strange and unsettling time, a slow one in the business nonetheless. A large portion of my time is dedicated to brainstorming ideas to better my business, taking a few days to organize, and taking advantage of CEU credit webinars. You can never learn too much.

What do you like most about DesignerInc?

Furniture research can take hours, days even, as it’s a mission to find items that you’re trying to be precise about. DesignerInc cuts those hours down significantly, helping you be more productive in other areas of design. Because Ashlina Design Atelier is a single-employee firm at the moment, this website is a useful tool for me and the fact that they can deal with vendors directly regarding pricing and shipping is the cherry on top.

If a student wanted to enter the field, what advice would you give them?

Stay true to yourself and don’t be afraid to bring out the best you into this world. The interior design industry is home to so many talented designers, especially if you’re around the NYC/NJ area. Your personal brand, drive, and enthusiasm will set you apart from the rest. Also, you won’t stop learning the minute you walk out of your thesis presentation. I’m still learning new things.

Follow her on Instagram: @ashlina_designs