Environmental Psychology and Design (with Smita Sahoo)

Episode #299 the Wingnut Social Podcast

What does studying criminal minds have to do with interior design? Smita Sahoo (founder of āśaya I Design in Chicago) joins us to discuss her studies of environmental psychology, which explores the relationship between humans and the world around them. Smita uses research and data to drive her design. Also in this episode, Smita offers advice to fellow women designers and entrepreneurs.

After working for over 16 years with top national and international real estate developers and companies, Smita founded āśaya I Design, a Chicago based luxury interior design and architecture firm. Her uniquely creative voice in the design profession is informed by a diverse background in architecture, interior design and environmental psychology. Smita thrives on designing spaces that strengthen our emotional connections to the places we live, work, and interact.


Smita has a focus in environmental psychology, which is understanding how humans interact in their environments. Environmental psychology is very data-based, and this data helps drive her design. Every human being picks up on certain cues in their environment before they act. Smita studies the design of certain spaces and how human beings perceive it. She illustrates this through the design of a high-end store. You can’t lock up all the expensive items like a CVS. Your merchandise needs to be on display, but you don’t want to encourage it to be snatched up. In this situation, you need to curate a perception that customers are being watched so they are less likely to steal. Ultimately, Smita uses research and data to design comfortable spaces that feel secure.

Smita is very passionate about empowering fellow women in business. She has some really great advice, starting with “believe in yourself.” Once you believe in yourself, and you have decided that this is your path, no matter what happens you will commit to moving forward. Everything else will become aligned. Successful entrepreneurs are not those who haven’t seen failure – they have failed, picked themselves up, and kept going! Smita compares this to a child’s mentality of learning to walk. Despite constantly falling, they remain curious and don’t give up. She advises to not give up, with the intention of learning to walk, and eventually you will start walking. Confidence and tenacity comes first – the rest can be taught. You have to be a little crazy in pursuing your business, because if you’re just playing it safe and doing what’s already been done, you aren’t taking any chances or betting on yourself.

When it comes to mentorships, Smita keeps an open mind and likes to have multiple mentors from different walks of life. Different people have different strengths. Smita advises reaching out to potential mentors regarding some of their work that you admire, and request some time to chat. Smita has never shied away from reaching out to high-level designers and asking to grab coffee and chat about their experiences. She even reaches out to other business owners to ask simple questions like, “How do you save on taxes?” and “How do you hire people?” There’s a lot to learn from other business owners and how they operate. Try reaching out to someone you know and share secrets!


CONNECT with Smita:

Instagram: https://instagram.com/asaya.design?igshid=YmMyMTA2M2Y=

Website: https://www.asayadesign.com/

CONNECT with Susan & Paul:

Website: https://kadilakhomes.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/KadilakHomes/

Resources & People Mentioned:

“Onward: How Starbucks Fought for Its Life without Losing Its Soul” by Howard Schultz

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