With a portfolio spanning commercial, hospitality, retail, and residential projects, Paul attributes the brand’s success “to the dedication and personal touch we apply to each and every project executed” and his ever-growing talented team of design professionals.
Launched in Dubai in 2004, Bishop Design has garnered a worldwide reputation for creative, timeless, and client-appropriate interior design. Having secured over one hundred awards and the highly acclaimed “Interior Designer of the Year” award six times from Design Middle East, there is little doubt that Bishop Design has established itself as a leader in the sector.
With expansions into the United States with their first office in Miami, Bishop design is set to dominate the Western interior design market with its innovative approach to our relationships with interior spaces.
We spoke to Paul about Bishop Design and how he approaches his craft as a designer within the landscape of contemporary global needs.
Please describe your background. How was Bishop Design founded and what drew you to the industry?
Back in 1996, I embarked on a journey to the United Arab Emirates after accepting an interior designer role. Little did I know it would be the first chapter of an incredible story. It is almost unimaginable that Dubai was a mere desert all those years ago, considering it is now one of the most desirable destinations. What captivated me from the very beginning was the plethora of possibilities the city and country presented. An era of change was adamant, and those who were present at the time had the chance to be part of a remarkable transformation. Around eight years later, I was offered a Design Director position in Singapore. But the lure of Dubai’s potential was too powerful to ignore. Instead, I established my own company, Bishop Design, and I am so proud of the contributions we have made to a country now considered one of the best in the world!
How has Bishop Design evolved since its inception? What challenges and lessons do you think you’ve learned over this time?
Since our inception in 2004, we have come a long way. Our humble beginnings started from a shared warehouse facility to now having two offices – one in Dubai and the other recently in Miami. The team is made up of over 40 people, and together we have completed over 300 projects. We firmly believe that every day poses a chance to be better than the last and that you are only as good as your latest work. As a brand, we strive to push the boundaries of creativity and seek out ways to better ourselves. One lesson I have learnt along the way is that you can never become complacent. It is the worst thing that can happen to a creative! You must embrace new challenges to remain at the forefront of your industry.
How would you describe Bishop Design, its philosophy, and projects to people who have never seen them before?
Our philosophy is centered around creating iconic interiors that deliver memorable experiences. We approach every project with a commitment to exceeding our client’s expectations and never compromising on the quality of what we deliver. Clients trust us with their vision, and it is a responsibility we take seriously.
People know when they are walking into a Bishop Design space. We put as much devotion into creating a visually mesmerizing environment as we do to ensure it operates efficiently. I encourage anyone to experience our venues firsthand to understand what we are all about.
What is your signature style and how does that influence/direct the design decisions you make? Has this style changed over time?
Creativity can certainly reflect one’s personal journey. Around 2015/16 I faced some challenges in my life that you could say caused a shift in my approach to design. It was a time where I was learning to embrace my authentic self. That is not to say that my ‘style’ went from Y to Z overnight, but rather, my confidence to do what I felt right and channel my own personality started to thrive. At the heart of it all, however, has always been a passion, devotion to clients, and dedication to delivering successful projects. That certainly never changes. At Bishop Design, we do not limit ourselves to a certain style. We are chameleons in that sense! Always adapting to the needs of the client and project at hand, at the same time remaining true to what we believe to be the best solution. Clients know we have diverse experience and have full trust in us; whether it is a luxury hotel, Michelin-star restaurant, or QSR, we have the capabilities to create something special every time.
How does Bishop Design draw from and incorporate local culture and work with local artisans, craftsmen, and components?
Celebrating local culture is integral to creating authentic and meaningful spaces, which is one of the reasons why we love to work with local artisans whenever possible.
Recently, we had the privilege of working on a South American concept called En Fuego, where we sourced many accessories and artefacts directly from the continent. During a visit to a flea market in Medellín, Colombia, we stumbled upon a talented craftsman named Oliver, who made these incredible models of chiva buses. Our team was immediately captivated by his work, and upon visiting his workshop, we purchased all the models he had. At the time of meeting Oliver, he told us that he was 74 years old, and the models we bought were the last he would ever make. Now his passion and legacy as an artist is displayed all the way in Dubai. If we can use our platform to showcase more people like Oliver, that would make me very proud.
What have you learned or experienced as a designer through your relationship to local and global influencers?
We enjoy collaborating with top talent across different industries to leverage each other’s skillsets and bring about the finest experiences. From mavericks in the film & TV industry to hospitality pioneers, collaboration is an important tool that has been integral to our evolution. The clients and partners I am fortunate enough to work with bring a wealth of knowledge to the table, and when we are together, we achieve great things.
What would you say are the 3 key design elements of Bishop Design and how are these folded into your overall design identity?
A narrative is essential to creating design that truly connect with people. Storytelling has been around since the beginning of time. It educates, entertains, and allow us to make sense of things. Stories are memorable because they resonate with people on an emotional level. We always begin each project by establishing a narrative, which sets the tone and carries through the rest of the design. Secondly, timeless design. If you follow trends, your work will become outdated. We want to stand the test of time and produce spaces that people of today, and tomorrow, will enjoy. Lastly, we always like to take guests on a journey. We inherent different spaces with every project, each one with its own unique requirements, so we use a variety of detailing and efficient spatial planning to provide pockets of experiences. There are many layers to explore, and we like that no two visits will be the same.
What is the usual production process? How long does it take from inception to completion?
From concept through to detailed design, our process can take 6-8 weeks. This can be affected by the reviewing process and the scale of each project, but thanks to our expertise and skillset, we do have the ability to turn projects around swiftly without being detrimental to quality. After the interior design package is complete, we offer post-contract services where we supervise on-site and support through the construction phase. This ensures the built project reflects all the interior design intentions and is completed to the highest standard.
What designers do you compare yourself to and how does Bishop Design set itself apart from them?
That is an interesting question. Recently some key members of our team attended a competition where aspiring designers would present their work to a jury of design agencies to be awarded an internship. One student spoke about how she did not like to be restricted; that she loved using colour. In a room full of our peers, everyone told her that Bishop Design would be the perfect fit. There are some impressive designers out there, and I believe we all have our own niche worth celebrating, not comparing. The diversity of our portfolio, our experience in the F&B sector, and our ability to offer a holistic approach to design through branding and consultancy are just some of our unique traits. I also witness firsthand the dedication my team puts in every day and can confidently say that no one does it like us. Our clients come to us because they know the team will deliver. This would be impossible without them.
From your experience, can you tell us what makes a successful restaurant? Does design make or break a venue?
Bad design will certainly have an impact on the overall experience. Design is about controlling the operational flow and how people engage with the space. But, if the food or the service is not up to standard, people are less likely to come back. It is the perfect combination of design, chef, and operations that make a successful restaurant. Over the years, we have gained valuable insights working with leading figures in the industry, so we have a strong understanding of each element. We also contribute efforts to growing our team with specialists in their respective fields and offering these services as part of our 360-approach to design.
What iconic work are you most inspired by? Why and how does it influence you personally, with Bishop Design, and through your relationship to your work?
Exposure to diverse forms of inspiration allows us to think outside of the box and come up with unique solutions. We must open our eyes to all the possibilities around us. Throughout my life, I have been captivated by many people who I consider to be artistic geniuses. Jamie Reid, most known for his “God save the queen” graphic for the Sex Pistols in the 70s, resonated with many people of that generation through his refusal to abide by the status quo. Vivienne Westwood influenced many, including me, through her disruptive approach to fashion. The likes of Carlo Scarpa and Ettore Sottsass have made significant contributions to design, with their work still being referenced today. Later in my career, I got the chance to work alongside incredible clients. Being receptive to their wisdom encourages me to think about what I can take from each encounter and how I can apply their experience to better my own work. There is something to be inspired by every day; it is down to us if we are willing to receive it or not.
What have you been working on recently and how are you influenced by design trends?
There is a movement towards high-energy dining destinations, which comes as a natural evolution to the picture-perfect opportunities crowds search for, so we provide them with more captivating, immersive experiences. We see this across the globe with projects like En Fuego in Dubai and our gaming wonderland coming soon to Las Vegas, where people meet, drink, and compete in more than 20 games that make you feel like you are in your own game show. Trends are determined by many factors surrounding cultural shifts and societal paradigms. They change over time and more rapidly so in today’s world. You must be aware of what people want and consider how you can incorporate that into your design while not limiting yourself to a certain period.
What is the driving force behind your personal success?
A combination of passion, drive, and the support of those around me. When I set up Bishop Design, I had no money in the bank (or a bank account, for that matter!). A friend of mine offered a small area in his construction warehouse. I worked from project to project, investing the money from each one back into the business, and hiring people as it grew. The people that believe in you, even when you have nothing, are the kind you must surround yourself with. But more importantly, you have to believe in yourself as well. If I did not approach every day with passion in my heart, then none of it would have been possible in the first place. I am never satisfied with the level I am at. That mindset was apparent very early on during my schooling years as I would graduate with one degree and then immediately begin studying for the next. Coupled with the right people around me saw Bishop Design become a leading name in the design industry. It has been a phenomenal journey, and we are fortunate to have collected over a hundred international awards. But you must keep moving forward if you want to grow. What is the point of stopping now when you can always achieve more?
What direction would you like to see Bishop Design moving in future?
Establishing ourselves in the US with a bigger footprint across this demographic. The Middle East remains our home; it is a huge pleasure to continue shaping the region. Saudi Arabia is the hot topic of conversation – rightly so because everything that is happening there and the projects we are getting commissioned for are of an unprecedented level. The perception about America is that it is perhaps too saturated for any new kids on the block. But I would say the opposite. America has always been the place to go for those that believe they are capable, and with the recent rejuvenation of Miami, Las Vegas, and other states, this experience has been like going full circle where we are now getting the chance to do amazing things again, make a name for ourselves, and bring more unique, beautiful experiences to yet another part of the world. I cannot wait to see what the future holds!