Inside the Mind Of

Inside the mind of… Pallavi Dean


26 Dec , 2017  

I realized something during my chat with Pallavi Dean, founder and creative force behind Pallavi Dean Interiors – she’s not your run of the mill designer. Pallavi has a unique and rare set of skills that make up her success.

For one, Dubai is more than just her current address. Born in India but raised in Dubai, the city is truly home and is something clients, both international and local, can relate to. The years spent working in London reflect and contribute to the cross-cultural set of experiences she’s amassed over the years; you can see these reflected in her designs. As a former professor of interior design at the University of Sharjah, learning is a top priority on her agenda, and she strives to implement the latest theoretical and practical research into her firm’s designs. Having only been around since 2013, Pallavi Dean Interiors, though young, is a homegrown success story.


“One day I’m Audrey Hepburn and it’s all about timeless sophistication, and the next I want to be Lady Gaga and create controversial talking points.” – Pallavi Dean, Pallavi Dean Interiors

A trained architect and sustainability specialist, Pallavi’s won multiple awards for her work across a range of sectors including commercial, hospitality and residential. Not one to settle for only having explored interior design, she debuted as a product designer at Downtown Design in 2016. ‘Tension’ is a line of furniture that documents her design journey to date. The lights are now a part of the Preciosa Lighting International Catalogue. The Collection also won the Harper’s Bazaar Design Award in 2016.

We caught up with Pallavi to dig deeper and find out more about what keeps her going, and what’s in store for Pallavi Dean Interiors.

What’s your favorite design sector and why?

If I really had to pick the one thing I love more than anything in this field, it would be designing office spaces. When you design offices, you have the opportunity to bring together elements from all the other sectors.

Think about the reception and lounge areas in an office: for the best ones, you’ll take inspiration from some great hospitality designs such as hotels, cafes and restaurants. Then there’s the education sector; we take what we understand from well-designed learning environments in schools or universities and incorporate the elements that work into the collaboration and break-out spaces in offices. There’s magic in designing office spaces!

What have been your favorite and least favorite designs that you've worked on, and why?

It’s really hard to pick one, but I can definitely pick one characteristic they all share: all my favorite designs have been ones where our clients have been on the same wavelength and mindset as us. I’ve never understood people who hire designers, and then tell them how to design; counter-intuitive, don’t you think? We found ourselves in such a situation when designing the Abu Dhabi office for a large communications firm in the UAE – we were definitely on the same page!

Pallavi Dean
Sheraa Entrepreneurship Centre

Where do you find your inspirations for your designs? Are there places where you’ve found inspirations or sources that you’ve used many times?

The secret to good design is a good story. Storytelling is key and is what captivates the user. We’ve done a lot of research around this, and we’ve found that design narratives fall into one of seven categories, including history, nature, local culture and innovation. Our designs generally involve these themes.

What would be the most important piece of advice you could give new designers, and what’s the best advice you've received?

Invest some time in developing your presentation skills. It’s all well and good having a great idea, but belief in yourself will only take you so far in this business. You still have to pitch your design to someone else, and make them believe it’s great too!

How do you compare Dubai with anywhere else you’ve worked? What do you feel is the toughest part of being an interior designer, especially in the UAE?

Dubai is fast! During my time in London, it took us around two years to complete one project. Here in Dubai, we’ve designed and built over 60 projects in the four short years since our inception. The numbers speak for themselves.

What are your favorite spaces in Dubai or the UAE?

Our home base in Dubai Design District (D3).

I love it because it uses design to create a magical experience; it really brings together the design community with events such as Dubai Design Week. Office rents are falling in Dubai, but they’re climbing in D3. Why? Because they’ve really thought, at a deep level, about the experience they want users to have, and then built this place keeping that goal at the center.    

Pallavi Dean
Mirage Meeting Point

What's your favorite holiday spot to escape to?

Maldives. It’s the antidote to my life in Dubai as I’m forced to slow down, there aren’t any distractions, and I can simply chill. Holidays like that are important to refresh yourselves.

We were in Los Angeles this summer; it’s a great city, but too much traffic, and it reminds you of the traffic here!

Where do you see design in the architecture industry moving in the next five years?

More and more focus on the user experience. It’s happening already, but it will accelerate. It’s less about creating just a visually appealing office, and more about designing an office where the bosses, the workers, the visitors, and the janitors have an awesome day, every day.

If not interior design, what would you be doing?

I’d be a psychologist or a lawyer.

Pallavi Dean
Bakr Talent

How would you describe your design style?

Bipolar.

One day I’m Audrey Hepburn and it’s all about timeless sophistication, the next I want to be Lady Gaga and create controversial talking points. Thankfully we have all types of clients that allow me to switch between the two! I love how I’m not pigeonholed into one type of design or theme. The experimentation can be fun as well.

Is there anything exciting you’re working on at the moment that you can tell us about?

Al Rawi in Sharjah; it’s a book cafe where retail meets hospitality. It’s awesome! And a top secret education project in Dubai that will give the kids, parents and teachers the most extraordinary time.

Pallavi Dean
Edelman Office, Abu Dhabi

In terms of the corporate hospitality industry, what are some of the most common mistakes you see being made or built?

The mistakes here lie with the clients. There are owners who want a property to be designed based on a vision that was relevant 10 years ago, rather than for the people who will use the hotel today. They hire cheap contractors, give them an image of a 19th century hotel in Paris that they loved on their honeymoon, and ask the contractor to recreate it. The results are horrific. There are a handful of really good design-and-build firms in Dubai – I’m thinking about the Intercontinental Dubai Marina by Draw Link which is great. But that is the exception rather than the rule.

Pallavi Dean
Mrs B Salon

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