Unlike many programmes around the world, Aakriti Dhaliwal’s design education at the Inchbald School of Design adapted a very hands-on approach, including working on briefs from real clients and learning to design around their needs.
Dhaliwal then proceeded to switch her career focus to journalism, eventually settling back to her initial calling. Having interned at Interior Motives for four months, Dhaliwal was then hired as a full-time employee of the company.
Her first project was a hotel in Saudi Arabia, which is currently ongoing. Dhaliwal cites presenting her designs to clients as the most daunting challenge she faces.
“I was very well walked through the brief and the client’s/operator’s requirements, but my senior believed that if I am designing a space, then I should be the one presenting the idea behind it. It was scary but just what was needed,” she says.
“Additional challenges that I faced included keeping the client and the operator happy simultaneously. Apart from that, there was learning how important coordination among different consultants is and having knowledge not only about your design but its fluidity with MEP, signage, landscape, lighting, etc.”
Much like her peers, Dhaliwal also sees a shift in the approach to design and overall tastes in the Middle East, with classical aesthetics shifting towards more functional and experimental spaces.
“Back in the day, the Middle East was all about classical, ornate private interiors, whereas now it is opening up to free-flowing functionality, industrial looks, and exposed ceilings. So I have to say, I am mastering the skill by evolving with the industry.”
Commenting on current hotel design trends, Dhaliwal says: “I believe hospitality operators and designers are trying to make hotel spaces more residential and welcoming, giving them a ‘Home Sweet Hotel’ look and feel by creating reception-less lobbies and personal check-in facilities.
“Hotels are also shifting a lot more towards eco-friendly design by controlling their power and water supplies,” she adds.