Find out why these rockstars are in with a chance of becoming Commercial Interior Design's 2019 Young Interior Design of the Year.
Adriana Graur joined Perkins+Will in 2015 after graduating from Birmingham City University during the same year. She has since developed a niche in corporate interiors, delivering high-profile projects for Dubai Electricity and Water Authority, Adidas, Google and Zurich Insurance. Her determination to evolve can be seen in a diverse portfolio that includes art, fashion and architecture. And former design director of Perkins+Will, Diane Thorsen, says Graur is already on her way to becoming a “design powerhouse” in the Middle East.
“I have watched her journey as a designer and have been in awe of how she immerses herself during the design process, while researching the essence of the story and how this is woven into meaningful and emotive designs. The designs she creates delight and surprise clients when they realise the attention to detail and thoughtfulness.”
Alaa Mohamed graduated from the American University of Sharjah in June 2016 and started her professional career with award-winning boutique practice Roar, formerly known as Pallavi Dean Interiors.
She worked with the studio for two years on commercial, hospitality and residential projects before joining XBD Collective as a junior interior designer in September 2018. Her involvement on projects with the boutique practice touches on all stages of development from concept, detailed design and site supervision to material and furniture selection. Kerry Murphy, general manager of XBD, describes her as a designer of serious “pedigree” with an important mix of personal and professional values that make her indispensable to the firm. “Alaa is very passionate about what she does and this shows in her dedication and commitment to delivering unique designs to clients,” she says.
Maria Anna Economides
The daughter of two architects, Maria Anna Economides joined Wilson Associates in 2017 and has built a reputation for eco-focused, luxury hospitality design. Her recent projects include Palace Downtown in Dubai, Marriott Taghazout Bay in Agadir, Morocco, and Oberoi Hotel in Makkah, Saudi Arabia. She is passionate about environmental sustainability and continues to explore the role biophilic design and ethically-sourced materials can play in delivering green spaces. Isabel Pintado, senior vice president for the Middle East and Africa at Wilson Associates, says Economides is one of the most impressive designers she was ever worked with.
“Over the years I have worked with a multitude of designers and very few have impressed me as much as Maria does. Maria’s attitude towards her peers, teamwork and design is outstanding. However hard, complicated or irrational programmes and timeframes become, she smiles and delivers consistently creative and accurate work.”
Nicola Fahy joined Studio EM as an intern and quickly rose through the ranks. A promotion to head of food and beverage design this year highlights her growing importance at the boutique practice. While Fahy’s expertise is undoubtedly in the restaurant scene – just look at the four Wagamama branches she wrapped up recently – her capabilities extend far beyond this space: the 2,400m² Namshi office and the temporary HQ for Skydive Dubai demonstrates an increasingly diverse repertoire.
Emma Stinson, owner of Studio EM, says Fahy’s skills are “unquestionable” and adds that it is the leadership qualities and ability to go toe-to-toe with clients that makes her stand out. “She backs herself and I love it. “What she has done for the younger team members has been wonderful. She has fostered a mentoring role and a leadership role where she truly empowers those around her.”
Creneau International Middle East
Rosha Ehsan, 24, is the lead interior designer at Creneau International Middle East and joined the practice in 2017. Her major projects include the Fitzroy Restaurant and Bar on Palm Jumeirah and an office for events management firm Linkviva in International Media Production Zone, Dubai. Her upcoming work includes a corporate interiors package for Abu Dhabi Power Corporation and the design of Mangrove Hotel by Rotana, Ras Al Khaimah.
Dirk van de Haar, director of Creneau International, says Ehsan has all the attributes to become a top designer. “She has shown tremendous drive to stand out and proves to be an inspiration, not only within the design team but for the whole company. Whenever she is assigned new projects, her approach covers a wide-angled perspective and she makes sure she sees through the lens of her research to fully understand the client’s views and preferences.”
Design Worldwide Partnership
Sara Alsharif is an active interior designer at dwp, providing design inspiration as well as technical support for drawings from concept to documentation. She has worked on commercial, hospitality and residential projects in the UAE and Saudi Arabia, bringing a passion for street art, graffiti and calligraffiti to the fore. Justin Wells, dwp’s global head of hospitality, says Alsharif has “demonstrated a sustained trajectory of growth and intelligence in design”.
He knows what he is talking about too, having hired Alsharif not once but twice during her professional career. “Sara is a strong verbal and passionate communicator and brings global life experiences to the studio as a method of design investigation,” he adds. “She has a strength in collaboration and diligently understands the project processes and demands in the real world.”
Asmaa Said, 28, is somewhat of a juggernaut when it comes to career progression, having gone from junior designer to associate director in seven years at boutique practice Stickman Tribe. Under the mentorship of its founder, Marcos Cain, Said is running the multidisciplinary Dubai office, working on a raft of signature projects across 10 countries and 23 cities. Her body of work includes designs for the likes of Marriott, Shangri-La, Accor and Starwood.
Some of the most recent projects include Waldorf Astoria Maldives and the renovation of the Shangri-La in Oman. Cain praises Said’s “initiative, commitment and drive” and says her contribution to the business has been vital. “Asmaa’s unique and talented flair throughout the whole design process while also managing the design team in Dubai is one of our key ingredients to being a multi-award-winning international hospitality design studio.”