A graduate from Chennai, Ujen Wangmo Lepcha later worked in Delhi before she arrived in Kathmandu. She has recently forayed into the world of minimal interior designing and her projects here are a clear indication that she’s here for the big time. Starting off as an event manager during her college days in Chennai, Ujen slowly got into sales and learnt how to pitch products. She later also worked in the finance and business development arena and got more exposure on digital marketing, thereby gaining vast experience from different fields. After her marriage here in Kathmandu, Ujen initially had a tough time getting a proper job due to the lack of opportunities. Later, despite working on a social enterprise for some time, she didn’t feel a sense of accomplishment and so in 2020 ended up starting Mint Unisex Salon and Mint Audio Studio (A music production company) along with her husband who is a music producer.
What’s interesting here is her attention to details and that refined aesthetics that led her to design the salon and studio herself. Although this was her first project in interior designing, Ujen visualized ultra-modern, contemporary, clean and sleek styles that scream less is more.
With her salon located in Jhamsikhel, she has tried to offer that calm oasis where clients can get their salon services and at the same time enjoy the view and the overall experience accompanied with some wine. As you step into the salon, you will clearly notice the spacious ambience that Ujen has created avoiding all sorts of visual clutters. She says, “I had no idea that I could actually get into interior designing before I started my own thing. I feel that I have always been very creative and that’s something that actually gave me an upper hand when it came to giving a look to my own space. I have been into different kinds of product development programs in the past too, which also kind of opened up my understanding of the minimalistic approach in getting things done.”
“I have myself adopted a very minimalistic approach with my lifestyle too. We ladies are known for our hoarding of items but I have literally given it all away. Now, I have a limited number of pairs of shoes that’s like a necessity. I have de-cluttered by getting rid of every useless thing right from materialistic things to relations. Less is always more and nicer,” she adds.
People would walk into their salon to get their services done but instead got impressed with the minimalistic décor of the place. “Simplicity, clean lines, natural textures and neutral colors make for a warm inviting interior and we have researched a lot to finally evolve with a design that we can call our space. This space has opened up new opportunities for us in interior designing and today we have got back-to-back projects from commercial to residential spaces. We have not even had to do any marketing for our interior designing work; we are already swamped with projects,” reveals Ujen, showing that if the product speaks for itself, marketing sometimes isn’t that important.
“I love using a clean neutral palette and also like to experiment with texture and shapes of various objects to turn them into the prominent feature of the space. It’s all in the finer details,” explains Ujen.
The minimalist decorating style is an exercise in restraint, where space, lighting, and objects play equally important roles. This style demands you to pare down your furnishings to the bare essentials so that you’re left with a set of curated objects that deliver maximum impact. Far from being boring, this style is bold, functional and highly memorable.
Ujen and her team have done their bit in many residences, commercials and offices till date. She elaborates, “It all started with one client who praised us whole-heartedly for the interiors of the salon and later ended up giving us our first project.”
“We also give utmost priority to customer service and we value our client right from the moment they step into our salon. We try to offer a very friendly environment and treat all our clients in the same manner. Everyone is treated like a VIP here. I want people to get inspired from us in a way they also think of becoming a stylist. We also pay our employees well, and also give them regular education and training regarding the values of life. We have a book and it’s based on principles and moral values. Personal development and self-reflection are the major highlights of each session. We try to have a regular session and apply the same in our day-to-day life”.
Highlighting more on this, she revealed, “I took one-month to think about this space. I realized how elevated salons are not much around and with ours we wanted to encourage appointments rather than just the walk-ins. Despite the fact that it would affect our overall sales, we wanted to change the culture and it was all about giving that experience.
Talking about the challenges that she experienced initially, she says, “I had a tough time finding the labor-force for the designing. Even when I found them, most of them just compromised with the quality. They do not look into the details. I feel that we Nepalis have become used to the ugliness. Be it on the roads or the interiors. Choosing on the furniture was also a cumbersome process. We used to dedicate a timeline for that every day and hand-picked everything. Even the lights and small décor items are hand-picked making the overall space very personalized.
Ujen considers interior designing as a way of excitement in her life, which adds that flair of fun in her everyday life. She didn’t want to spend her day regularly in the salon. Rather, she was willing to hire professionals who could manage her salon and she instead chose to run around and take challenges. “I wasn’t loving the monotonous work in the salon. With my work as an interior designer, I am always running around, meeting clients, dealing with laborers and that’s challenging yet satisfying at the end of the day. I am a workaholic. I have a to-do-list for each day. I have luckily got such good clients and I don’t want to let them down,” she claims.
For her, efficiency and functionality matter the most with the interiors. Just because it looks cool, doesn’t mean it will be of use. Next, she also emphasizes listening to the clients carefully in a way an interior designer should be able to include their emotional attachments in the design process. She also believes it is perfectly fine to give ‘no’ as an answer to some clients because aligning a client’s expectations and the practicability gives a certain boost to the project.