I've always admired those people who possess a firm, unwavering understanding of what they need to feel calm, centered, supported—and simply, good. Their rituals suggest a self-knowledge and trust that they can structure their days around the habits that ground them. And no one embodies this more than Amanda Gunawan. As the founding principle of OWIU, a Los Angeles-based architecture and design firm, and founder behind the sister brand, OWIU Goods, Amanda has blended her passions with her work to build an all-encompassing, inspiring life completely on her own terms.
But rather than leaning toxic—as American work culture often does—Amanda's dedication to her career feels holistic and fully integrated into her design-centric life. As she says of her work in the conversation ahead, it's "very much an embodiment of the way that I operate my life."
Born in Indonesia, and having grown up in Singapore, Amanda now resides in LA, a city she credits with much of her ability to find creative energy in all that she does. The team visited Amanda in her bright and airy home, marveling at how the space fully encapsulates the person behind its design.
Read on for insights into Amanda's daily rituals and her non-negotiable wellness practices that fuel her curiosity, maintain her energy, and her push forward in life, every day.
Meditation, every day without fail, and movement in the form of physical exercise, which I guess is a form of active meditation too.
The spaces I design are always thoughtful and intentional. I never want a space to feel suffocating or to communicate something in an overt way. These spaces are always calming and centering because a feeling like that is what I find sustainable in the long-run. I feel like I just described everything that would define my ideal state in life.
The first thing I do when I wake up is start the day with a meditation. It really helps me set the tone for how I want to go into the day.
I love Sundays when I have to meal prep for the week ahead. I have so much fun planning the meals I am going to have for the week, going grocery shopping, preparing the ingredients, and getting everything ready to cook to save time during the week. I enjoy food a lot and it’s very important to me that I am not just eating for sustenance. My meals are always the most enjoyable part of each day so I take a lot of pride in making sure that I am always eating delicious food. It makes it all the more enjoyable knowing I get to take credit for them.
My meals are always the most enjoyable part of each day so I take a lot of pride in making sure that I am always eating delicious food.
No. I actually try to make sure there isn’t and love the feeling of sensory deprivation when I meditate. I do, however, love the smell of tuberose. In fact, I only ever buy perfumes with tuberose in it. It’s my scent! And I like it because it is my grandpa’s favorite flower. He used to grow them in his backyard and would leave fresh tuberose all over his house. I have my fondest memories in that house, running around and playing all sorts of games with my cousins, subconsciously taking in this scent and associating it with feelings of happiness up until today. It serves as a source of comfort to me.
Yes. It most definitely does. Music keeps me energized, relaxed, focused, happy, excites me, accompanies me through the daily heartaches of life and then gets me through them. I definitely cannot live without it!
I incorporate lots of movement into my day. I make sure I get a run in, and if it’s not a cardio day, then I make sure I accompany whatever workout I am doing with 10k steps. I also have two extremely active border collies who will never let me get through the day without exercising them. In that way, they keep me accountable too. Do not be surprised if you find me taking out my roller blades from the trunk of my car and roller blading my two dogs around the office. Sometimes, you have to do what you have to do. That and meditation—even a short 15 minute one mid-day can really perk me up.
Books! I have a little library in my house/office and it’s almost impossible not to resolve any type of creative block after spending some time there.
There are times I simply go out and just fully take in Los Angeles. That’s the best part about living in a city, there’s always something going on—you just have to look instead of see. Head to a coffee shop and people watch, go see some beautiful architecture, visit a museum or window shop at the coolest new spot. There’s always something to learn. Inspiration is truly everywhere.
That’s the best part about living in a city, there’s always something going on—you just have to look instead of see.
Because I run my own company, I will never run out of things to do. I make my own to-do list and so I’ve learned to go about my day by seeing it as a series of priorities. Some days, it may be different but on most days, my priorities should not change. Health and wellness is ranked at the very top for me so I rarely sacrifice the things that correspond to that. For example, meditation and exercise contributes to health and wellness and is therefore something I rarely miss. I also try my best to cook my own food so as not to order out too much. I love home-cooked food because you know exactly what’s going into your meals.
That you are not really living unless you’ve failed, unless you are living life so cautiously that you might as well not live at all and. You better learn to get used to failure and stop viewing it so negatively. Instead, welcome failure as an opportunity to learn and grow
I am honestly one of the worst people to ask about work/life balance because there is none for me. I love my work so much that it rarely feels like work—it is very much a part of my daily life. I am always immersed in it, and the work that I do for OWIU (our design firm) is very much an embodiment of the way that I operate my life.
Every time someone asks me what I like doing for fun, I kind of blank for a second trying to think of something that is not related to my work. I think I’ve just somehow made all of my hobbies and passions a subset of my career.
My meditation room. It’s really quiet and cozy, it has the best light, and I somehow feel very peaceful when I am in it.
I’ve been loving DamDam’s hydrating essence mist for lazy days because it is so easy to use and you don’t need to apply anything else but sunblock after.
I close the door of my meditation room/library and spend hours in there just flipping from book to book with lo-fi music playing on the speakers, the AC turned on, under a cuddly blanket.
Mornings. There is something about the morning light that I feel is so good for your mental health. I am sure there’s science backing this up, but I haven’t looked it up and just know it in my gut. Being able to watch the sunrise and the world wake up is such a beautiful feeling.