BEYOND AESTHETICS THE ART AND SCIENCE OF INTERIOR DESIGN WITH KHYYAM IKRAM
Introducing Khyyam Ikram, a visionary interior designer and property developer who has a passion for creating spaces that inspire and delight. With a background in architecture and engineering, Khyyam’s expertise in lighting design sets him apart from his peers. He believes that lighting is the key to unlocking the full potential of any space, and his innovative approach to lighting design has earned him a reputation as one of the most sought-after designers in the industry. In this month’s cover story, we explore Khyyam’s journey to becoming a leader in the world of design and property development, and learn more about his unique perspective on creating spaces that are both functional and beautiful. We’re excited to delve deeper into Khyyam’s journey and learn more about his unique perspective on design.
‘I’m very visual and tactile so making things that can be seen, touched and experienced is what drew me to pursue a career in design’
Pleasure to have you with us on our cover this month Khyyam. Let’s start from the beginning. Tell us - what inspired you to pursue a career in property development and design?
I’ve always been drawn to beauty and have had a desire to make things beautiful. I’m very visual and tactile so making things that can be seen, touched and experienced is what drew me to pursue a career in design, and now more recently on a larger scale to property development.
What was your experience like studying architecture and engineering in Torino?
Grueling! I moved to Italy to study design and the curriculum in Torino was more engineering focused. I have sweet memories of the beautiful northern Italian region, which was home to Fiat cars and Ferrero Rocher chocolates, but I quickly realised that I needed to move to a more design centric city, so Milan was the perfect choice.
Your final degree focus was on lighting design - what drew you to this area in particular?
Lighting is the soul of any space. The influence of lighting design on mood and experience is something everyone can appreciate, but it’s so much more than that. Properly thought-out light design mechanisms foster well-being, both in public and private spaces. It is elevational and generational. When done right, many times lighting is not something you are even supposed to notice when interacting with a space.
‘Milan was transformative. The city is so steeped in design and fashion that if you’re observant, even a simple walk home is an education’
What was your experience like studying interior design in Milan, and how did it shape your approach to design?
Milan was transformative. The city is so steeped in design and fashion that if you’re observant, even a simple walk home is an education.
Can you tell us about your experience developing your first building project in Islamabad, and the challenges you faced along the way.
I was 24-years-old and had just joined the family business. I convinced my hard-to-impress boss, who is also my father, to let me build on this new property. It was extremely exciting, but I was obviously very nervous. Looking back, I would say my biggest challenge was my lack of focus and somewhat relaxed attitude towards deadlines. I was easily distracted by socialising and partying
What motivated you to bring a new model of commercial hospitality to Islamabad?
When I came back to Islamabad from Italy and joined the existing family business and started getting involved in the city’s business culture, I noticed that most tenant spaces were not offering much more than just floor space. I wanted to elevate the daily work experience by bringing in hotellike elements such as a concierge, lobby cafe, front desk and valet. I was confident that people would appreciate these value-added services.
‘Lighting is the soul of any space. The influence of lighting design on mood and experience is something everyone can appreciate, but it’s so much more than that’
How do you balance commercial considerations with your artistic vision when designing a space?
I always prioritise aesthetic and design, so this is definitely a challenge for me. Luckily, I have great people in my team who I can rely on to ensure the more functional elements are never a secondary consideration!
What was your inspiration for the Loft project at Mujahid Farms and Stables, and how did you approach the design process for this project?
The Loft is a collaboration with UNH Architects, who are also good friends. We wanted to celebrate the beauty o f construction materials like structural glazing, HVAC systems – things that are often covered up or kept in the background. It was also important to me personally to do this without making it too industrial. So we took inspiration from the beautiful earthy hues of our traditional mud houses and celebrated the elements and textures from our rural landscape both in the interior and exterior.
Congratulations on your multiple wins at the Asia Pacific Property awards. Do you know what made the Loft stand out to the judging panel?
The Loft combines the best of l o c a l c r a f t s m a n s h i p w i t h renowned international brands, creating an experience that keeps the well-being of its visitors as the foremost priority. I think this combination is what makes it unique and what gives our guests the feeling that they have been transported! I would like to think the judging panel was able to understand this from our submissions, and appreciate the monumental task of achieving this in Pakistan.
‘My advice would be to not just rely on academics – look for inspiration and education in everyday experiences’
How did it feel to win these awards?
A dream come true. It’s been an amazing morale booster! Definitely the motivation I needed to push to finish a few other projects.
How do you stay motivated and inspired when working on a project, and what strategies do you use to overcome creative blocks?
Construction takes its sweet time, and there are times when it’s difficult to feel motivated as you don’t see instant results. But I’ve always prided myself on being able to see the bigger picture, so I just keep that in mind and the motivation to work follows! Having creative people on your team and collaborating with talented people from the industry is a great way to overcome blocks. Also, when possible, travel! Not just for my field but for most, the exposure to new places, people, food, fashion – it all just opens your mind and allows you to think about the same things in new ways.
‘The Loft combines the best of local craftsmanship with renowned international brands, creating an experience that keeps the well-being of its visitors as the foremost priority’
Can you tell us about your upcoming hotel project in Islamabad, and what you hope to achieve with this project?
The hotel is a true labour of love. It is a small boutique property in the heart of the city, designed for leisure travellers and those who demand true luxury. We hope to open doors later this year.
What is the biggest challenge you face in property development work in Islamabad, particularly with the new multi-purpose high rise you are developing?
For such large - scale developments, project management is the biggest challenge. If you don’t manage capital and procurement in a timely manner, it can become a nightmare. Fortunately, we have strong systems in place that ensure such instances don’t occur especially in our high-rise developments.
How do you stay up-to-date with the latest design trends and innovations?
Through travel and Instagram!
‘The hotel is a true labour of love. It is a small boutique property in the heart of the city, designed for leisure travellers and those who demand true luxury. We hope to open doors later this year’
What advice would you give to aspiring architects or designers who are just starting out in their careers?
My advice would be to not just rely on academics – look for inspiration and education in everyday experiences. Focus on the utility of spaces that you visit, absorb heritage and culture, obser ve the infrastructure around you.
When you’re not working, how do you spend your time?
Any hobbies or activities that keep you engaged? I love horses! I’m not a hardcore equestrian but I love taking care of and interacting with horses. It’s very soothing and almost like meditation to spend time with them. Whatever free time I get, I make sure I am at the stables.
INTERVIEW: SUNDUS UNSAR RAJA
PHOTOGRAPHY: BASIT ALI