The bigger picture

Julia Dempster, Interior Motives, moves from creating set designs at Paramount Studios in Hollywood, to her screen favourite destination, Dubai

Julia Dempster, managing director, Interior Motives design firm, Dubai, completed a BA (Hons) in interior design at the University of Central England, UK, and an MA in furniture design at Brunel University.

She started her career designing show homes in England before moving to Paramount Pictures in Los Angeles as a set designer. Sixteen years ago, after returning to Britain from a two-year stint travelling the world, she was handed the opportunity of a lifetime designing palaces in Dubai for The Crown Prince, H.H. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, now the Ruler of the UAE.


Interior Motives was set up in 2002 and has offices in India and the UK. It focuses on the interior design of restaurants, hotels and residential projects.

What project are you currently working on in the middle east? A first for the region, we have just finished designing a Steigenberger Hotel in West Bay, Doha. The luxurious design of the guest rooms, which are now decorated in warm shades of cream and brown also feature a high-gloss zebrano veneer, which provides a classy contrast.

One of the highlights of the project will be a new Day Spa of just under 1,000m² in size. We are also fortunate to have a loyal client for whom we are designing several brands of Hiltons in different areas of Saudi Arabia.

We are currently developing a programme of refurbishment and re-branding of the Ramada Plaza, Doha, which is a hugely successful hotel, to a Radisson Blu. The interior is unmistakably contemporary and the use of materials and decorative details promote familiarity more in keeping with a traditional building, accepting the existing architecture and energising it. We are also designing a resort hotel in Sohar, Oman for the Rezidor Group.

Others include OOSC (Oman Oilfields Supply Centre) offices in Muscat, the client has provided an exceptional brief but with the limitations of re-using some of its existing furniture.

We are designing a Crowne Plaza Minhal, Riyadh, Holiday Inn & Express, Hyderabad, India, Holiday Inn Medina, Novotel Al Barsha, Dubai and a Crowne Plaza in Lagos. We are also working on some confidential hospitality projects in Qatar and Tanzania.

What are the main challenges you face today in the Middle East? Our biggest challenge presently is a worldwide issue, the hotel industry is emerging from a difficult time. We have witnessed an increase in refurbishments whilst new commissions are on the down.

As a result, developers and hotel owners are looking to refurbish and revamp their existing sites or parts thereof, instead of investing in new constructions. Although opportunities in Dubai have obviously decreased with a more cautious stance by clients, they aren’t non-existent.

Other markets like Abu Dhabi are continuing their large scale master planning that is much greater than the recent recession could impact on. Our Dubai office serves as a hub for the wider GCC region; we have live projects in KSA, Qatar and Bahrain.

Many women who become self-employed do not realise that until they hire staff, they will have to wear many hats—assistant, messenger, executive. Along with family responsibilities, these additional roles can be very demanding.

The Harvard Business School Review confirms that the higher women climb professionally the fewer children they have, but the reverse is true for men.

This is a sensitive topic to discuss, because interpreted superficially it may seem to reinforce the old stereotype that women need to make a choice between career and family; an ultimatum society does not push upon men.

Personally, I feel all it really indicates is that women need to take greater control of managing their business development so that they can fulfil their potential both professionally and personally. I know this from personal experience as I am myself a mother-of-one.

Direct time-consuming tasks to other individuals, that way you can focus on growing your business while someone else works on the admin. This allows you to still have enough time to balance family life and work.

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