Walls & Roofs Magazine interviews Shiree Darley, the Chief Executive Officer and Founder of Darley Interior Architectural Design (DIAD), on their latest award-winning project.


An interview with the CEO and Founder of Interior Design firm, DIAD

Shiree Darley, Chief Executive Officer and Founder of Darley Interior Architectural Design (DIAD), is dedicating her time, resources and team to creating word-class hospitality spaces. The company has managed to create an impressive portfolio of international commissions in the Middle East, Europe, Africa and the Indian Ocean islands. Walls & Roofs Magazine recently spoke to Darley to find out more about their recent accolades.

DIAD was recently awarded by the Europe Business Assembly (EBA) for being Best Enterprise in the Construction, Architecture, Construction Materials and Luxury Real Estate category at the London Summit of Leaders 2014. Darley also received the prestigious Laureate Award as Manager of the Year for 2014 for the African Region. Further to this, the MENA (Middle East North Africa) Interior Design Awards for 2014 also recently recognised DIAD’s designs as the overall winners for the Emirates First and Business Class Lounges Concourse A, Dubai International Airport, as DIAD received recognition for their outstanding work and top honours in the Best Hospitality Category as well as these Emirates Lounges receiving the Global Travel Awards for best international Airline Lounges 2014The same project has also been shortlisted for the prestigious International Design et al Yacht and Aviation Awards for 2015.

The lounges are aimed at the Business and First-class travellers of Emirates Airlines, which is renowned for its service excellence and high standards. The interior design brief was to include key branding elements such as comfort, warmth and elegance.– Covering 24 000 sqm over two levels – DIAD created Airline Lounges that with a welcoming, hospitality ambience focusing on incorporating privacy and technological convenience.

The layout of the First-Class lounge allows more spacious seating and visitors immediately feel as though they’ve stepped into a high-end boutique. The Business Class lounge has a more contemporary look and feel for corporate business travellers. Both lounges feature sophisticated fabrics and finishes that are durable as well as easy to maintain.

“Receiving this recognition shows us that our hard work and dedication to our passion for design are delivering on an international level. We’re exceeding benchmarks that have been set by some of the biggest role-players in the industry and we are very proud of our team’s achievements,” says Darley.

Replace fleeting trends with timeless interiors

One of Darley’s design philosophies is to avoid focusing on trends when taking on projects of this stature.

“If one follows trends, it leads you to create interiors that are a fashion statement and this can quickly become outdated. While it’s important for designers to stay up to date with new materials and innovations, you need to continuously focus on creating a space that will suit the client’s needs for as long as possible. You don’t want to create a space that needs to be completely changed in ten years’ time – it needs to be timeless design,” says Darley.

One of the challenges of working on large, overseas projects is meeting budgets as well as tight deadlines. With certain projects, Interior Designers will need to search long and hard to find materials and local suppliers that offer the right finishes and products at economical prices.

“With any international project, we do a lot of research on the location and market base. Not only does this help us to bring a sense of local culture into the Interior Design, but it also helps us to establish which local suppliers to use – but most importantly, commercial viability for our Client’s,” says Darley.

Tighter deadlines and demanding schedules

“There are usually very tight deadlines when working on international projects as well. Because it’s so expensive to construct these days, more pressure is put on the Interior Design team to produce the design documentation as soon as possible,” says Darley, before explaining that design planning that would normally take between six to eight months usually has to be completed in half the time on these large-scale projects.

“You need to remember that you’re competing against big names in the international playing field, so you need to meet these tight deadlines without compromising the design,” says Darley.

The Dubai International Emirates Airlines Concourse is a kilometre long, making it one of the largest buildings in its size and structure in the world. The entire design of the Business and First-Class Lounges needed to be completed within six months.

The various consultants who form the design team are rarely based on the same continent. With this Dubai International Airport project, the Interior Designers (DIAD) were based in South Africa, the Lighting Designer was from France, the Retail Designer was in Australia and the Architect was in Dubai and Beirut.

“The Consultants are from all corners of the globe. The interiors are what make the final product, so this part of the project usually needs to be fast-tracked to give other Consultants the opportunity to incorporate their services into the design intent. These projects happen incredibly quickly – it’s challenging, but it makes a great final product,” says Darley.

When working on projects in more rural parts of the world, Interior Designers also need to pay attention to various skill levels of Contractors and Consultants. Not only are the deadlines and budgets different, but the design team needs to ensure their documentation is very detailed so that the Contractors have everything they need once they start constructing the site.

While it’s not always possible to use products you’re familiar with when working overseas (due to import duties and availability of materials), Darley feels it’s vital for South African Interior Designers to promote South African products where possible.

“DIAD is rather biased when it comes to local products – we’re always promoting them and trying to introduce innovative South African products to the international market. Whenever we can work with a South African manufacturer, we make it happen,” concludes Darley.
For more information, visit www.diad.co.za, to whom full thanks and acknowledgement are given.