Earning your Creative License – Yasmine Samarasinghe

Yasmine Samarasinghe – Creative Director & Interior Designer at Creative Heritage.

Yasmine Samarasinghe began her professional life in the Finance industry, and then in a move similar to Ina Garten, Madeleine Albright and Victoria Beckham, she made a U-turn in her career journey and stepped into the world of Interior Design. 

“Interiors have been my passion since childhood, but like many I chose an academic route rather than follow my creative path, and as such I ended up working as an Investment Banker in London and the US for more than 15 years. Although I did enjoy my finance career, the creative need was always there. I retrained as an Interior Designer in 2006/07 when I enrolled at The Interior Design School in London. But I only made a true switch several years later. At that point it really felt like I couldn’t ignore my passion any longer.”

Such a shift was not without challenges, as Yasmine describes –  “Of course, it was scary to make such a large move and I set up my own company in the process, but time goes fast and I felt strongly that if I didn’t make the change then I would regret it. I told myself that if I made the move now, then in ten years’ time, I would have a ten-year career behind me. But if I waited another ten years, it would be twenty years until I had a ten-year career behind me, so the time felt right! There have been and still are many challenges; setting up a new company leaves much to learn and I’m learning every day. But as the company and team are growing, and we have an increasing portfolio of work, which we are very proud of, so does the confidence that each challenge can be overcome with a calm head, a positive attitude and willingness to learn. I also always remind myself that each challenge is an opportunity to become better and there is always room to improve.” 

Of her qualifications in her new field Yasmine said, “I learnt the basics of my trade when studying at The Interior Design School in London, which was a fantastic experience, which gave me the starting point to understand the principles of Interior Design. In turn however, I feel my years of exposure to some of the most amazing interiors in the world has given me the confidence that I know the benchmark I’m working towards delivering”.

“Take your time in preparing the change. Know what you will have to give up in the short term and make the change for all the right reasons. Think through if it is the right move, but don’t let fear guide you. Prepare yourself with a plan, education or whatever else you may need for your career change. Be realistic about what you can achieve straight away but dream big. Take it slowly and learn to walk before you run, look at each step as an opportunity and before you know it, you’ll have come far. Keep in mind that integrity matters and treat people with respect and know that even the smallest relationship may end up being a huge help on the way. Keep believing in yourself, stay true to yourself and stay kind. Success isn’t worth much if you can’t look yourself in the mirror and know you’re a decent human being”, were words of wisdom by the Interior Design guru to ladies seeking to make similar turns in their own career journeys. 

Talking about her brainchild, the Interior Design company she started from scratch, Yasmine explained, “Creative Heritage was born from years of dreams. When I finally made the decision to leave London and move back to Sri Lanka, after more than 25 years away, I decided to set up my own firm. I wanted to bring my years of exposure and understanding of luxury interiors to Sri Lanka. To create interiors starting from a design concept rather than working with what I could find here. This approach has worked well so far, and I feel my clients agree that we create unique interiors – each one different from any other. So rather than ‘having a style’ I want to bring the space to life, ensuring it suits the client, the purpose of the space and evokes the right feeling when in it. This however, means a lot of extra work such as designing bespoke furniture or sourcing items that we cannot find readily available. But it’s worth it and it is the hallmark of Creative Heritage. Today I have many established supplier relationships, a team of 5 interior designers, visual creatives and procurement specialists, as well as a stake and joint venture with a fantastic Civil Works company, allowing us to deliver high end interiors as per our vision.” 

‘Creativity’, according to Yasmine, does not mean complacency, copy or competition. To her it means a strong sense of passion to use the various senses in order to improve upon something. “In my case it is spaces and creating interiors using vision, technical know-how and interior principles to evoke a feeling within a space. But it also applies to the creation of my firm, it’s values, and how we treat each other within our firm as well as our suppliers and all others we work with. What we don’t engage in is competing with others, copying others work or becoming complacent in striving for excellence.” 

“Once you have training, a large part, I believe, is confidence. Confidence and constantly looking to expose yourself to new ideas, new ways of doing things, pushing your comfort zone”, said Yasmine, whilst discussing the most effective means of creative inspiration. 

Voicing her opinion on the term “Thinking outside the Box” being rarely truly practiced, Yasmine stated that the reason is that, “Partially I think human beings are naturally inclined to like what’s familiar. We crave approval from our peers, our friends and those around us. This need for external approval can often push us to stay stuck ‘within the box’, within a comfort zone. But the flip side is we often fail to grow, or deny our true selves. To constantly remind oneself that the only real approval is one’s own and ask yourself at the end of the day, “Did I do my best according to my own vision?” This is why having integrity matters, as once you feel that deep down, you’re a decent human being, the outside of your achievements matters less. This in turn makes it easier to think outside the box and follow your own path.” 

When asked if she believed there was such a thing as “thinking too much outside the box”, Yasmine immediately responded, “No, I don’t think so. You may find that you’re too ahead of your time though. It’s not always easy to be a Maverick. But all big changes have come from Mavericks leading the way!” 

On the essentiality of the ability to turn obstacles into opportunities, the Interior Designer expressed her view, “It’s absolutely the most important lesson to carry with you and a great way of dealing with life. Each obstacle, no matter how hard, is an opportunity. An opportunity to learn, to grow or simply to open doors you never imagined.”  Speaking of the influence of Digital Technology on the Interior Design industry, Yasmine expressed her view that, “The access everyone has now to view amazing interiors, to see what is possible allows for a bigger outlook. That bigger perspective can only be positive!”