1) Introduce yourself:
Smita Sahoo: I’m Smita Sahoo, Owner, Founder and Creative Director of āśaya | DESIGN, a Chicago based luxury interior design and architecture firm, with nearly 20 years of expertise specializing in multifamily residential, commercial and hospitality design. My passion is for designing spaces that strengthen emotional connections to the places we live, work, and interact. My designs are largely informed by a diverse background in architecture, interior design, environmental psychology, and sustainability. With asaya | design, my mission is to produce projects that positively impact the growth and enrichment of a client’s brand equity from an economic, social, cultural, and environmental perspective, employing social entrepreneurship as a top pillar.
2) When did you start āśaya | DESIGN?
SS: I started my firm on July 04, 2020 because the date is significant to me as it is an Independence Day, and I wanted to start something that celebrates true independence - independence of mindset and the way we do business, as well as celebratory of independent woman-owned and minority-owned businesses. I’m now following my own path and hoping to support other women-owned and minority-owned businesses along the way. I see a crucial need and tremendous benefit to increasing our diversity of business owners who bring a different perspective to how we have been conducting business over the years.
3) What inspires you?
SS: I’m inspired by nature and the constant evolution of design. Design that is in sync with nature is always timeless and sophisticated. I believe it’s important to know the history and background influencing design so that we can continue to push forward in developing new styles that challenge convention while also encouraging an inviting atmosphere for users. My creations present a considerate blend of design innovations of the west paired with timeless elements of the east.
4) Where did you start your process?
SS: I have been a creative mind since my earliest memories of pursuing art and dance as a child. My father’s idea to build and design our own home, and his inclusion of me and my ideas into the project set the design wheels in motion very early in life.
5) Does āśaya | DESIGN sponsor any local community organizations?
SS: I currently serve on the Insightful Chicago board as well as University of Florida's Department of Interior Design’s Advocacy board, where I lend insight on topics like design thinking, industry trends, mentorship, and EDI (Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion). I’m also a sponsor of SHaD (She Has a Deal), an organization that promotes women towards hotel and commercial real estate ownership.
6) How do you take care of your mental health while operating a business?
SS: I often hit the pause button to re-group and get into nature, and take walks to clear any barriers to my creativity. It’s essential to take breaks and look for new forms of inspiration. Taking care of our minds and bodies will only deepen our connection to what we’re creating.
7) What are your hobbies when you aren’t working?
SS: I’m trained as a classical Indian dancer and a painter. When I’m not working, I’m experimenting with different cuisines, cooking and traveling around the world. I’m inspired by different cultures, mindsets, and lifestyles. I also enjoy practicing yoga as mindfulness is an essential part of life to me.
8) What state are you currently located in?
9) What is your favorite place to visit in Illinois?
SS: My favorite place to visit is the lake for relaxation but I also enjoy the excitement that the West Loop has to offer.
10) What is your favorite part about your Illinois' natural environment?
SS: I’m struck by the beauty of the lake and river and how they wind their way through the concrete structures around them - influencing their creation and reflecting back onto their mirrored glass.
As beautiful as Chicago and the Midwest are naturally, I’m most inspired by the cultural diversity of the city. There is no better place to feel the creative energy from resources all around the world, living and working together in Chicago. The city is a phoenix rising from the ashes, giving new life and creating a vibrant tapestry for inspiration.
I chose Chicago because it’s a design hub with so many architects and designers in its history and in our own generation. To work alongside such prestigious innovators makes me so proud to be among them with my business.
11) Has your āśaya | DESIGN won any awards?
SS: Since being in business as asaya | Design, in 2022, my previous work with BKL, known as The Cirrus Condominiums, was the recipient of the People's Choice Award and won the IIDA Red Award. Prior to starting my own business, I have received design awards including but not limited to:
- The UFAA outstanding young alumna award from the University of Florida
- The NAIOP Chicago Awards for Excellence: Multifamily Development of the Year - Wolf Point West Friends of Downtown Best New Building Award - Exhibit on Superior
- The Camme Award: two/three bedroom model unit - Exhibit on Superior
- The Cisco Project of the Year Award: New Construction - Wolf Point West
- The IIDA Global Design Award - The King Abdullah Specialty Children’s Hospital
- The Building Industry Award for the US Bank – Private client reserve office in Naples, Florida