How to find the right balance between modern and traditional in interior design?

Published: 10 July, 2018

Categories: General

How to find the right balance between modern and traditional in
interior design?

Design is firstly a problem-solving exercise that enhances a persons’ experience but without the

knowledge and skills that are brought forward from the past, the future is meaningless.

There is a very fine line between creating something aesthetically appealing and making something

practical that still installs emotion in each and every person who walks into that space. It is human

nature to react to things that are familiar, perhaps it’s something visual, a smell of an interior or even the touch of something. This familiarisation is generally present in your life from the furniture your mother inherited from your grandmother, the knee blanket that was knitted by your aunt and the cookies you used to bake with your mother before holiday celebrations – these ‘things’ are hardly ever a modern idea or something you just bought from a home furnishing store.

Dubai is a very fast-moving, forward-thinking city; a city of dreamers and achievers but without the

cities strong ties to the past and knowledge on how they got to where they are now I very much doubt Dubai would be what we see every time we open the door or drive down Sheikh Zayed Road. Putting it into perspective, the United Arab Emirates was only created in 1972 meaning that the country went from Pearl diving Bedouins to Travel destination with the Worlds’ Tallest building in under 50 years!

I think Dubai is a great example and contradiction between old and new, Traditional and Modern!

Driving from one side of Dubai to the other you will find yourself passing the old souk/market,

watching the traditional ferries called Abra’s transporting people back and forth across the creek

along-side the new bigger blue and grey RTA ferries as well as the first mid-rise buildings lining the

Dubai Creek that now house banks and Government Ministry’s; as you make your way South onto high rise buildings that line the ‘blood-stream’ of the city, Sheikh Zayed road, past the Worlds’ Tallest

Building, the World’s First Seven-star hotel and into the dense high-rise area of the Dubai Marina and Jumeirah Lake Towers.

Dubai has it all, but where do you balance it out? On one hand you don’t want to forget the Traditional or old ways, but on the other hand you can’t been seen to be stuck in the 1970’s! Many interior designers are stuck with this when they are asked to design for Middle Eastern clients, whether it be an Exhibition/Trade fair stand or a Hotel.

The Middle East has a great sense of where it came from and where it wants to go; but as clients they would almost always like an aspect of traditional culture incorporated in a very high-tech modern environment. They want the newest technology and the traditional mashribiya motifs, and they’d like it to come together like it was a natural combination. These traditional elements can easily be added into interiors through the use of textiles, flooring, wall cladding and light fixtures.

One current project that stands out in my mind is the new Al Seef District, where they have created a souk, harbour and hotel that looks like it has been there for many years. These areas are created to

look like the traditional mud-clad Arabic houses but it is indeed a newly build area in Dubai! The hotel will be spread across 22 of these Arabic houses and linked by a bridge that is above the actual souk area – once this Hotel is open it will be fascinating to see what they have done with the interior!  

By Claire Gordon


Claire is a Pretoria Alumnus working in Dubai for the past eight years