Happiness is the key to success

From humble beginnings working in her grandmother’s studio in Spain, Isabel Pintado went on to join GAJ, winning CID’s Interior Design Firm of the Year 2011

Isabel Pintado, associate partner, GAJ, claims her introduction to interiors came through her paternal grandmother who had a small decorating shop where she sold furniture and undertook projects.

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From the age of 13, she started working weekends at her shop/studio, and this is where she developed a passion for design.

“I loved putting schemes together with her help and seeing them come to life,” she said. “Interior design and decoration fascinated me and drove my mother insane as I changed my room every couple of months. You could say that I started decorating and then after university moved on to designing.”

At the time, Pintado’s options in Spain were limited to studying architecture or interior decoration so she moved to the UK where she first took a foundation course in art and design in Brighton followed by a degree in interior architecture at the University of Wales.

In the last year of her studies, she started working part-time for architect, Patrick Williams on the redesign of Aberystwyth University Student Union in Wales.

“After completing this project, the studio I set up with my husband and a colleague from university took off and we spent many years designing restaurants, private villas, pharmacies, clinics and stands for fairs. A superb learning curve where we supported each other and undertook tasks we thought we would never do,” she said.

Pintado moved to Dubai 11 years ago, looking for a change of scene and new sources of inspiration from the Middle East.

She was introduced to Brian Johnson, through a friend, and after working on a couple of projects on a freelance basis, he invited her to join GAJ (formerly Godwin Austin Johnson).

“With Brian’s support and trust in my abilities, the interior design team grew from just me to a team that reached 24 at our peak. Our staff have been with us for many years, some have moved on to other countries, some we sadly had to let go through the recession but the overall feeling is of a team that supports each other and craves to achieve the best possible work,” she said.

Over the last six months, many of the projects GAJ had on hold during the recession have come back to life, together with requests for new work.

The team is currently working on a series of hotels; Millenium in Muscat, a 4 star hotel at The Wave, Muscat, a series of private villas in Jeddah, Abu Dhabi and Muscat. A golf club house in Scotland, and an apartment in Paris.

It is also completing a series of projects in Sharm El Sheikh, in Egypt, for Citystars urban development, from a 5 star hotel and apartment blocks to a nightclub.

“The extension to Palm Tree court, at the Jebel Ali Hotel has restarted on-site and we look forward to many of our other projects to reach site as to allow us to transform all our ideas and hard work into the finished project,” said Pintado.

“I see a year full of promises, new projects, new team members and developing the relationships with our current and new clients. A year that I am hoping will bring back the full potential of the team.”

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