Interview with Isabel Pintado: Balancing work, design and family life

Marina Mrdjen-Petrovic talks to Isabel Pintado, managing director of Wilson Associates Middle East about the importance of managing talent and work life balance.

With 20 years in the design industry and more than a decade of working in the Middle East for award-winning design studios, Spanish-born interior designer Isabel Pintado needs little introduction. From humble beginnings working in her grandmother’s studio, Pintado went on to join GAJ in 2005, where she helped in setting up its interior design department. After seven years, she made a move to LW Design in 2012. Under her vision and business leadership, both studios have won numerous awards.

In July this year, Wilson Associates, the US-based global interior architectural design firm appointed her as managing director for the Middle East and Africa regional office. Taking over reins from Firas Alsalih, who helped establish Dubai office, Pintado is not afraid of making ambitious plans.


A rendering of the proposed lobby area for the new Anantara resort in RAK.

“The idea is to take the Dubai office really to the next level,” she says. “In past years, this office mostly served to support Wilson’s studios in Los Angeles, Dallas, New York, Paris, Singapore, and Shanghai. I’m currently seeing an incredible design talent that I inherited. I have 12 designers and more senior individuals will join us in October since the idea is to create the infrastructure to tackle future projects.”

Wilson Associates has more than 300 design and architecture professionals who work across inter-office teams, collaborating on various projects worldwide. Known for its luxury design, Pintado explains that each studio has its specific design expression.

“From New York’s funky office, which produces superb contemporary and avant-garde concepts, to our Dallas team that focusses more on traditional designs, such as Atlantis The Palm Dubai or the original Royal Mirage in Dubai. If we get a project of that style, we will go straight to our Dallas office. Then we have our LA office, which is known for its contemporary design and our biggest studio in Singapore, which is delivering an enormous mixture of design concepts.”


Vivanta by TAJ will feature 201 hotel rooms and 130 branded apartments.

We were curious to know what will be the future design direction for the Dubai office, which Pintado describes as “design with no constraints”.

“It will be my style,” she explains. “The idea is not to cut and paste something that I’ve done in past, instead addressing more what clients want and giving them something that is unexpected and quite unusual. That’s what we are doing right now. I’ve been in the US for a couple of weeks and already starting a new concept of what direction to take under Wilson’s umbrella.”

A complete freedom of design is one of the reasons Pintado joined Wilson Associates, explaining that there are “no preconceived ideas of what its work is”.


Vivanta by TAJ is on course to complete by October 2018.

She says: “Because it is all under one umbrella, we share resources and you get to see what other offices are presenting, taking an inspiration from it. Our office in Paris has a very special set-up. It is Wilsons by Atelier Tristan Auer, run by a very established designer with an exquisite taste, who is doing some work with Emaar right now. I was in our NYC office and looking at what they’re coming up with was so inspirational.”

The contemporary Anantara resort in Ras al-Khaimah and Vivanta by Taj in Jumeirah Lakes Towers are among the current projects that are being delivered by Wilson’s Dubai office.

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