Slow and Steady


A strong real estate market in Saudi Arabia is boosting the interior design sector

Jeddah’s real estate market is benefiting from the recently announced 500 billion Riyal financial stimulus package, according to the latest City Profile released by Jones Lang LaSalle MENA.

“Like the rest of Saudi Arabia, Jeddah is particularly well positioned to benefit from this massive flow of public capital into housing and infrastructure,” said Soraka Al-Khatib, co-head, Jones Lang LaSalle Saudi Arabia.


According to the report, the office market continues to become more tenant-favourable as market competition increases, leading to lower rents and more options available to occupiers. The hotel market is also doing well, said the report. Driven by rising investment in tourism infrastructure and development of the city’s leisure offerings, long term prospects for Jeddah’s hotel sector remain positive.

Mohammed Nawarah, country manager – KSA, DORMA, which has been in the Saudi market for over 18 years, said there is a great market in Saudi Arabia for interior design fit-out. The booming construction industry is influencing the interior design sectors, with the most vibrant being office buildings, like the King Abdullah Financial District.

“In the King Abdullah Financial District, there are more than 60 towers of offices and apartments; it is proposed that designers from around the world work on these,” said Nawarah.

Deborah Blandford, UK-based interior designer, has been working with Saudi Arabian clients in London since 1985, and eventually was hired for projects in Saudi Arabia for private residences. “The industry is very strong and there are a number of world class developments taking place there.”

She added in the 1980s, there was an Arabic style far richer and ornate than Europe when it came to interiors. “I am very interested in Arabic design and sought to combine this style with a contemporary twist. Products now are available globally and the trends are for simpler interiors; in addition all designers have to consider universal themes such as sustainability and accessibility.”

Nawarah said he has noticed a trend in the Kingdom to have modern, smart offices. He said frameless partitions and automatic entrances fit into this trend. “We provide them with new technology for automatic doors and have patented a technology for door operators called CS80 Magneo which uses something called magnetic levitation.”

Blandford said the only challenge she has faced is the speed of procedures. She added it is often a slower process and the initial negotiations take longer.

“For instance I did a job for the Saudi Arabian government — designing accommodation for the Saudi army and it seemed to take a long time to actually settle all the working arrangements and scope of the project. I was installed in a small flat opposite Harrods in Knightsbridge with a French architect and we designed the interiors.

It was challenging in that we did not really have a brief apart from the size of the spaces and what needed to be provided, so in that sense there was a lot of FF&E but no real style preferences,” said Blandford.

The main challenge for Nawarah is to design the office or apartment considering the religious and cultural aspects of the country. “We have to design offices to avoid interaction between men and women. While clients want the latest design and technologies, they want the fit out done without compromising on their religious or cultural values,” he said.

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