darc speaks with interior designer Paul Bishop on his work across the Middle East, design trends in the region and how he finds inspiration through travel.
Founded by Paul Bishop in 2004, Bishop Design continues to work on high-end projects across the entire MENA region as well as internationally. An award-winning portfolio of commercial, hospitality, retail and residential projects have been secured through recommendation, referral and repeat business – a true endorsement of the company’s abilities. The success is mainly owed to the dedication and personal touch that is applied to each and every project executed.
With over 60 awards under Bishop Design’s belt, both regionally and internationally, the firm’s continued execution of well-planned design solutions has led to an ever-increasing portfolio, which today, includes hundreds of projects worldwide.
Born in Croyden, London, one of Bishops’ biggest passions growing up (alongside athletics) was art, which led him to attend Brighton School of Art. Immersing himself in all aspects of design from fashion and textiles, through to theatre, graphics, furniture and product design, in these early years his aspiration was to pursue a career as a fashion or theatre set designer.
“It wasn’t until I went to Kingston University to study furniture and product design that I discovered interiors,” he tells darc. “From there, I knew it was the direction I wanted to take and I went on to study a Masters in interior architecture at Manchester University. I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have studied at these esteemed universities and honoured to have had my mind inspired and shaped by such lecturers along the way, from the likes of Eric Owen Moss to Lord Norman Foster.”
The opportunity soon arose to move to Dubai – at the time, a somewhat unknown location. With a vague idea of where the city was, Bishop was shocked to find just a handful of buildings in the entire city. “My career only really took off when I came to Dubai,” he says. “Upon graduating I was tour managing and producing music videos and prior to this I had taken on evening and weekend jobs while studying in the UK. These varied from bar work to high-end retail sales, but all of them shaped me in some way, as these are particular sectors of design we specialise in.
“Once I got to Dubai I worked as a senior interior designer for a number of companies before being given the opportunity to move to Singapore as the Design Director for Wilson Associates, but I just couldn’t turn my back on Dubai. The city was a blank canvas with so many opportunities and it was here that Bishop Design was born.
“Twenty two years on and the city is booming; it amazes me every day the changes we’ve witnessed in the region. It’s such an amazing experience to have worked on so many of the hospitality venues in Dubai and to work on a project from the onset to final delivery.”
When asked about the use of light in his designs, Bishop says: “It’s everything. It is integral to all interior environments and is 90% of achieving the desired, unique ambience and atmosphere to animate the interior.
“We have worked with Aculite, Preciosa Lighting and Nulty+ on previous projects,” Bishop continues. “In addition to more specialist designers such as John Cullen Lighting, Lightflume and PSLAB – all very professional and a pleasure to work with. We also select and specify lighting for the majority of our projects in house, it’s only when clients require something a little more specialised that we might look at bringing a partner on board.
“In an industry where there is an endless choice, suppliers that stand out for me are those that continuously create new and innovative solutions, in addition to bespoke solutions developed and created with the designers already mentioned. We also work closely with manufacturers such as Moooi, Karman and Minehart to mention a select few that bring original concepts to market and are a collation of my personal favourites.”
Lighting in general within the Middle East is, according to Bishop, becoming a much more considered element of design and new ways of incorporating it into interiors are continually being explored. “Not just as a fixture,” he says, “but also considerably more as an animator as we continue to explore unique and more original solutions to enhance the lighting experiences in the interiors. So we are extremely diverse in our design and appreciation, as all these elements are fundamental. With that in mind we carefully consider whichever suits the design better from either technical, decorative lighting to 3D and virtual mapping.”
With design heroes as eclectic as Vivienne Westwood, Ettore Sottsass and Carlo Scarpa to Marcel Duchamp, Ron Arad and Jamie Reed, Bishop naturally draws inspiration from all of these celebrities of design, but tells darc he is most inspired when travelling.
“It’s a struggle to find inspiration from a laptop as you have to be so specific as to what you’re looking for and your mind is concentrated on just that one thing, yet when you are walking around and immersed in different cultures, you take inspiration from everything.
“No matter how subtle or obvious something may be, I draw inspiration from everything – we need to open our minds to connect to that initial piece of information and then evolve it into something of our own.
LA, Miami and New York are iconic for design and are my personal favourite destinations as their restaurants and street cultures inspire me so much for my own design here in Dubai and internationally.”
After two decades in Dubai, Bishop tells darc he still gets the same excitement he did back then… walking into the office in the morning and knowing that every day will be a different experience.
“It feels amazing to have worked alongside some of the most of creative minds and incredible brands,” he continues. “One in particular being world-renowned Chef Massimo Bottura while working on his new Italian offering, aptly named Torno Subito located at the W Hotel, Palm Jumeirah. Designing for such an inspirational, creative mind such as his has deifnintely been a notable part of my career. We had to bring to life his vision without him actually knowing what this was, which I believe was the biggest challenge. All projects have challenges of course, but this is what makes life and particularly a designer’s life, so exciting!”
With such growth in the region, Bishop Design has also worked hard over the last year to set up subdivision Rogue, the alter-ego to Bishop Design. It gives the studio more freedom to explore a cheekier and slightly more provocative approach to interiors, as well as allowing a progression into other fields including architecture, branding and creative media. “We’ve also taken on some exciting international projects in the Bahamas, London, Paris and Mauritius with our recent decision to expand further internationally. We also expect to expand the brand even further, establishing offices and representation in Los Angeles and Miami over the next year.”
For Bishop, when considering interior design, you should consider a narrative. “Interiors are experiential,” he says. “When guesrts leave a venue it’s not a particular colour or a certain piece of furniture, but rather the ambience, visual dynamic, the experience had and memories made. It is essential that they are able to move and travel freely within the space, while the operators are able to fulfil their needs also.
“A thoughtfully approached layout allowing for maxium efficienct use of the space by both the operator and the client, as well as carefully selected palette, styling, finishes, furniture and ultimately lighting to allow for the upmost comfortability are the key elements of any successful interior.
“Lighting is the nucleous of every interior with the ability to alter one’s visual perception of colour, furniture, details and accessories. It cannot be overlooked as it has the power to make or break any space.”