We are sailing…

Firoz Sainudeen was shortlisted for Young interior Designer of the Year at the CID Awards 2010, and this year, he was overwhelmed to win the 2011 prize title

Firoz Sainudeen is a 23-year-old interior design graduate based in the UAE. He completed his Bachelors of Arts in Interior Design, with a specialisation in product design, from the University of Manipal, Dubai in 2009.

Sainudeen has worked for Al Mohanad Interiors for a year-and-a-half and was the first in-house interior designer hired by the company.

He feels working as a 3D freelancer during his second year at university helped him to build up his confidence post graduation.

He was recently promoted at the firm and given the responsibility of handling the design team, which includes visualisers, CAD operators, estimators and civil engineers. His tasks include coordinating with the sales team or a specific client on a project and providing a design, and/or coming up with a concept or a solution at any given time.

Sainudeen works closely with his team to ensure communication is smooth and a task is achieved within the given timeframe.

He believes it’s important to try to visualise the finish line, develop a path with minimal obstructions and stick to it, which has helped him to successfully complete a number of projects to date.

He feels grateful to have been given an opportunity to work in a design studio that houses a joinery division as it is here that he gets to see projects evolve from a drawing to its finish. Constant visits, double checks of dimension, material, material finish and ensuring every drawing is approved is part of his daily routine within this division.

How do you feel about winning the CID Young Interior Designer of the Year Middle East award 2011?
Words cannot describe how I feel. I might take a week off work and go skydiving, I’m afraid of heights but it won’t matter.

Winning an award is a dream come true. It has given me the break that will help shape my career and future. I have quite a few peers and juniors within the same field that look up to me as a guide or an inspiration; they have always been a part of my success. This will give them a chance to excel in what they do best, work hard and know that their work will be appreciated in a truly rewarding manner.

Post the CID Awards 2010 nomination, I was determined to do better, push myself even further and I’ve worked hard in achieving that goal.

The outcome is evident and I’m here today. To be singled out by a team of expert and honorable judges who have been in the industry for many years’ means a lot to me. Competing against the industry best is overwhelming. To be recognised as a young interior designer within the industry, will now give me a solid base and the confidence to reach further into the international scene.

It has given me the support I need in achieving the impossible, something I truly love as I enjoy a challenge. I now feel more confident in taking up new projects that I have not worked on before, perhaps airline interiors, a genre I’ve always wanted to get my hands into, as the challenge involved is by far the greatest in terms of interior design.

My friends and family have always stood by my side and have supported me through thick and thin, this is a great opportunity to give back to them what they have provided for me.

What projects are you working on?
I’m working for a high profile governmental organisation. Due to security reasons and client confidentiality I am unable to disclose any details about these projects. All I can say is that I’m greatly honoured to work for such a prestigious group.

The scope of work includes design and execution of various spaces within the firm which include offices, conference rooms, auditoriums and functional areas. Since it’s in the initial stage, design concepts and themes are being submitted for approval.

What is your favourite project to date?
Hands down, without a doubt it’s the yacht interiors I designed for my client, Saeed Ghanem Al Suwaidi, (managing director of Al Ghanem Real Estate).

The task was to refurbish the yacht’s interior. Give it a complete new look with a modern flair to it. It seems easy in essence but what was about to happen changed my entire perspective within that field.

At the time, It was my first large scale project and I could never have imagined starting my career with a project of an estimated six figure price tag. I was a 100% sure that all eyes were on me to bring this project to life despite doubts from others asking me if I felt capable. Knowing myself and the fact that I’m always up for a challenge, I could not resist. I held on to the opportunity and had to prove that I could do it.

On my first site visit, I knew research was the key to the initialisation of this project. Saeed advised me to visit a few yacht building companies and to understand the basics when it came to building yacht interiors.

I complied and took down notes, photos and made concept sketches whenever I could. Meeting a variety of engineers and specialists within the industry was a great experience. The emphasis to detail was fascinating for me, everything, be it a knob or hinge had to be of a specific marine grade.

Nothing goes unnoticed when building yacht interiors. The entire physique or structure had to be understood and thought about; everything had to be perfectly weight balanced to avoid the yacht from tilting to one side.

Working in a space where fiberglass is your structural base or canvas, has to be given the highest amount of care, as it is quite expensive and time consuming to repair if it gets damaged.

With a deadline of two weeks to prepare an initial concept, layout and 3D visuals, the pressure was intense. I worked back to back, constantly visiting the yacht for measurements. Pre-presentation, I was held in a make or break situation. Negative thoughts entered my mind but I stayed positive and strong.

I knew I did everything by the book. Looking at the first 3D perspective view of the upper deck, Saeed said, ‘This is exactly what I want’, and it was from that moment I knew I could make it and my work could make a difference.

How do you feel about being a young interior designer in the Middle East?
I feel thrilled, excited, valued and hopeful for a brighter future. I’m thankful to be fortunate enough to start my career in UAE. Dubai especially, is the fashion and design hub within the Middle East. There’s great opportunity and potential here.

I’ve grown up in the region and have friends from different backgrounds and cultures. It exposes you to different lifestyles and mind sets, shaping you as an individual to be compatible in a multicultural environment. It’s home to me and to have an opportunity to do something you love on your hometurf can never go amiss.

I have to admit, there have been a few times when I received a second glance from clients when I disclosed my age; I usually laugh it off and get back to business. Working as a young emerging interior designer especially within the UAE can be brutal or rewarding. It’s essential to be strong and make space for harsh criticism, it shouldn’t break you. It’s the trust factor that’s important.

Competition is tough especially when you’re young and clients are eager to know if their money is well spent. The key is valuing what you do and understanding what you’re capable of. I don’t fancy imitating someone else because of their success, I’m sure the successful have had their share of rough seas and I’m prepared for it. If it’s my story I want to be the lead in it. It’s an individual’s character, upbringing, environment, exposure, ability to think outside of the box that defines them.

Where do you get your inspiration from?
Every client I meet inspires me to explore further; they’re the ones that literally pull my thoughts out of the box. It helps me to be more flexible in terms of design. It’s brought me out of my comfort zone and has led me to explore new areas and concepts.

When I work in the studio I have my headphones on and my surroundings don’t matter. My colleagues know when I have my headphones on and I’m working on a project I’m not to be disturbed. It helps to keep me focused on what I’m working on. Music inspires me.

Away from the studio, I’m spoiled with choice. Everything is an inspiration, from street lights to a concrete barrier. It’s been painstakingly designed by someone. I admire detail, I’m always arguing with myself regarding the pros and cons of an element in a design.

I’m sure they have spent a lot of time, money and effort in the design process and I try and figure out why. The cost factors, material, ways to further research and come up with something more effective and sustainable in nature. I’m a diehard fan of minimalism when it comes to interior design.

Clean shapes, earthy tones and natural design elements are what I look for. Simple is beautiful. The raw aspect in terms of design is intriguing. It should be easy for the eye to digest.

I’ve recently started using twitter and it’s a great way to meet and follow some of the industry’s best. It’s a great medium for keeping up-to-date in the industry and a great source of inspiration.

What’s next for you?
Accepting new challenges defines me. I’m keen to know what may come in the future but time will tell. An opportunity to create the interiors for a private jet or commercial planes would be amazing. It is a whole new world and the challenge creating interiors for the air industry is fascinating.

Weight is a crucial issue when it comes to aircraft interiors, sourcing out new materials or having the opportunity to experience or use different type of materials other than wood would be fascinating.

It’s always been on my mind to learn more about green design and build, as this is the future. I want to know more about the sustainable environment. To research and study about energy efficient methods and ways in creating an energy efficient space and pursuing studies on materials that are eco-friendly. The UAE is swiftly adopting green buildings; a LEED accreditation course will be next on the to-do list.

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