Kriszta Kesmarky: Hard-working punk seeks inspiration in Asia

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Kriszta Kesmarky was a young, punky Budapest designer, working in leather, when she and her husband first went to India and south-east Asia at the end of the 1980s.

She was soon entranced by the way locals used and fashioned available materials.

“I was fascinated by their approach to design and how they used materials like abaca, water hycante, bamboo, teak and mango wood.”

Fired up, she put her degree to good work by founding her first interior design store in 2000, mixing modern design with a strong Indian and south-east Asian theme.

“We called it Goa because we like the name; it’s simple and has ethnic meaning,” Ms Kesmarky says.

The first store soon attracted the avant garde, including celebrities and actors, and also proved a hit with foreigners.

Ms Kesmarky now has three outlets, all of them in Budapest, and imports work from some 20 countries.

“We always source personally, from about 60 suppliers, and we avoid buying the same items twice. We now specialise in interior design projects for offices, restaurants and private homes,” she says.

But when the chance to open a further store on Budapest’s fashionable Andrassy Boulevard appeared, she opted to rework her Asian themes in the form of a restaurant.

“We spent 18 months recruiting, cooking and testing to find the right people,” she says. In four years Goa Café has earned critical acclaim and attracted many famous diners, including such international film folk as Steven Spielberg and Charlize Theron.

Ms Kesmarky is now expanding Goa into real estate. “If I have a weakness,” she says, “it is going into things too deeply. But I believe this is my strong point as well.”

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