It’s past 3 pm on a Thursday afternoon, a time when most working professionals are home, having taken advantage of the holy month’s reduced working hours. Yet, the office is filled with an undeniable buzz. Sitting in the reception, I overhear discussions of client meetings, finishes, deadlines and weekly reports. But it shouldn’t come too much of surprise though, considering the studio is run by Isabel Pintado – Managing Director & Senior Vice President of Wilson Associates Dubai. Isabel is innately efficient with her schedule, a busy one at that. Yet, with a smile on her face like it’s just another day, she’s graciously granted me some time for an interview.
A seasoned interior designer with over 20 years in the design industry, Isabel Pintado‘s story is highlighted by drive and ambition. Having started her own practice shortly after graduation, Isabel is no stranger to the challenges of running a design firm. She’s aware of how critical each passing minute is, and it’s evident in the ethos her team carries. Her designs are a delicate balance between form and function, characterized by eclectic features and visuals.
Isabel: Just after graduating from university, contrary to the conventional route of looking for a job in an established design practice, I set up my own design practice. I was incredibly lucky and won a number of design competitions while still studying – the first of which was with Architect David Williams in Cardiff. David provided to me the opportunity to work on the interior design of his project, which led me to set up my own practice as a freelancer by the name – Barcia Pintado Williams, through which I learned management, design, invoicing and programming. After working in Spain and the UK for a number of years the opportunity to move to Dubai came up and my husband and I decided it would a good idea.
Since moving to the UAE sixteen years ago, I have been fortunate with the opportunities Dubai has given me. Starting with G.A.J. where Brian Johnson gave me his support and commissioned me to create an ID department within a thriving architectural firm, to LW Design where I was commissioned to manage the interior design department, to my latest endeavor as Senior Vice President MEA for Wilson Associates. I have worked on an enormous variety of projects, from high-end residential villas, hotels all around the world to small design projects such as the Art of Dining by AD this last autumn. Each of them in their own scale has been an interesting challenge.
Isabel: The sector I enjoy the most by far is hospitality. I love all aspects of hotels and serviced properties. From the F&Bs to the public areas and rooms. The space to create some truly unique experiences, especially in a city like Dubai, where each new hotel project strives to be even better than the rest, provides me a thrill like no other. Since the age of 10, I have been fascinated with the creation of interior spaces, both from an Interior Architectural point of view as well as a decorators angle. I find the process complex as well as fascinating, and it’s pure joy to see my designs come to life.
Isabel: My advice would be to stop using Pinterest and similar discovery platforms as reference ideas for projects and mood board pictures. I am of the opinion that designers should sketch and draw up ideas, and only THEN and not before look for images that support our creative process. There are far too many projects that look alike due to the “Pinterest” design generation. On many occasions, you will see projects with beautiful concept boards that fail upon reaching schematic because the designers do not have a strong design foundation behind their concepts.
Isabel: I would probably be involved in fashion or trend forecasting. My interest in fashion is a natural inclination, something that’s arisen from the creative part of my personality. I enjoy and appreciate how the fashion industry tries to push the boundaries of what is considered normal, something I can relate to as a designer.
Trend forecasting is fascinating, and something that comes naturally to me! It’s, in fact, something we do here in the studio and can be seen in our projects. Trend Forecasting isn’t as simple as it looks, it involves the study of human nature combines with the current world scenario. There’s a magical component to it – Current and future trends are a reflection of human behavior is adapting or reflecting the global status quo at that point in the time, and can be conservative or modern depending on it.
Isabel: A hairdresser salon! I remember seeing a design in Japan which had turned the styling area into a “theater” and has since been waiting for a chance to design something with this notion in mind. I would love to work on a funky project of that sort.
Isabel: There are many features that make up my designs, but Eclectic is what first comes to mind. Realizing a design that’s eclectic and unconventional in nature is a lot more challenging that traditional designs that are easily accepted and comprehended. It’s a delicate balance between form and function, and it’s this challenge that excites and drives me. It pushes me to not get complacent, and not constantly push the boundaries of my own creativity. This in fact also applies to how I dress, design and present myself.