28 February 2018
Founding partner of interior design firm Bishop Design Associates, Paul Bishop, can still recall a time when the road from Abu Dhabi to Dubai was more akin to a track than a highway. Peppered with crudely assembled monuments to ‘modern day living’, the snaking road has undergone so many drastic changes as to become singularly representative of the region as a whole.
With the evolution of the city’s landscape has also come a distinctive transformation of its interiors. This, according to Paul, is as much to do with the 180 nationalities or so that the city plays host to as it is to a widening understanding of style and aesthetics.
“Dubai’s multi-cultural flavor has established a new ‘design vocabulary’ for the region. It is not only the industry that has become more developed and established over the past 15 years; it is also the knowledge, appreciation of taste and general design awareness of its end users that have helped create a 21st Century Arabia,’ Paul says.
Like most expatriates living in Dubai, it was work that first attracted Paul and his wife, Ellen, to the region. The former was a recent graduate of Manchester University, presented with an opportunity to form part of a new phase in Middle Eastern interior design. The promise of change and challenge was attractive; the reality of the living and working conditions was not, he laughs. Ellen for her part was a marketing specialist, keen for a sunny change but who, shortly upon arrival, also found herself ready for a career change.
After a stormy introduction, which almost derailed any plans to work together let alone set up home together, the couple took the decision to shed their respective former companies and found the interior design firm Bishop Design Associates in 2004.
Since then, the firm has gone on to win numerous awards and accolades. In 2007 and 2008 BDA took home awards across both the Retail and Residential sectors at the Commercial Interior Design Awards. The following year the firm was nominated for, and subsequently won, the Middle East Interior Design Firm of the Year Award. The victory was an unexpected to them as it was thrilling.
“We were both slightly worse for wear by that stage in the evening, and honestly weren’t expecting to win anything.’ Now in possession of an enviable portfolio of clients that range from the Fairmont and Aston Martin to Art Café and Zest and countless private residences and palaces as a leading authority on design in the Middle East.
Peeking into the Bishops’ home is like entering a parallel universe where taste and elegance prevail. Pulling up outside the unassuming Jumeirah bungalow there is no suggestion that within the faux-stone walls lies a serenely stylish interior. Through the doors however, and what seemed like an ode to 1970s Switzerland suddenly morphs into an ethereal living space basking in a dove-grey and mother-of-pearl glow. Admittedly, some internal restructuring has taken place in order to further the sense of space and light but the contrast is dazzling.
‘The inspiration and direction behind the interior design of our home was to create a sanctuary for our family where we feel comfortable and relaxed. Life is often stressful in Dubai, and it is crucial to be able to find peace and calmness in your home. That, however, shouldn’t compromise style and elegance,’ Ellen says.
The back wall, once constructed entirely out of chunks of reclaimed stone is now a shimmering façade of mother of pearl Maya Romanoff tiles, providing a breathtaking backdrop to the numerous pieces of iconic furniture dotted about the living room. From the Moooi armchair to the le Corbusier chaise lounge, subtle reminders of the owner’s profession and their increasing importance in the shape of Middle Eastern interiors are everywhere.
The sense of undisturbed calm purveys throughout the home, meandering down the wallpaper-lined corridor, and into the clutter-free bedrooms. One senses an element of refined privacy at this end of the house, which may explain why Bishop Design Associates is an increasingly popular choice for residential projects. Most recently, the firm took o a private apartment in the Marina, transforming the once ‘box’ rooms often found in Dubai’s more modern living spaces into personal and comforting quarters.
Despite current economic climes, home projects are on the rise, which has led to the creation of a dedicated Residential division of their company, dedicated to meeting the more subtle and emotional challenges of home interiors. Certainly, if the Bishops’ home and its calming influence is anything to go by, theirs are the only interiors in which I wish to rest my head.