Meet the judging panel: CID Awards 2016

Meet the judges who will be bringing their industry expertise and category specific competencies to evaluate this year CID Awards contestants.

Set for 21 September 2016 at the Conrad Hotel, the 10th edition of the Commercial Interior Design Awards is just around the corner. In the previous issue, we introduced you to the CID Awards sponsors and now moving to the next stage, it is time to meet our judges.

The judging panel includes 10 leading experts from across the private and public sectors and will provide unique perspectives from various angles in the design industry. We have an eclectic mix of individuals from different parts of the industry, including interior designers, architects, art consultants and academics, all of whom will focus their expertise on the projects submitted for the awards.

Our star-studded panel of judges includes: Isabel Pintado, senior vice president and managing director of Wilson Associates Middle East; Jennie Binchy, founder of Binchy and Binchy, an architecture and interior design practice; Jonathan Ashmore, founder of Dubai-based design studio Anarchitect; Laura Bielecki, interior design manager at Ellington; Maja Kozel, interior architect and founder of Maja Design; Louise Duggan, FF&E interior designer and founder of Ophelia Art Consultancy; Albert Fakhoury, the Chair of the Interior Design Department at the American University of Dubai; Linsey Thomson, Interior design assistant professor at Heriot-Watt University Dubai Campus; Paul McElroy, partner at KK Design; Renae Hewitt, director of the Association of Professional Interiors Designers (APID) and Esra Lemmens, designer and director of the Esra Lemmens Agency.

In the following weeks, the judging panel will come together to go through shortlisted submissions and decide winners in 17 categories for individuals and projects that push the boundaries beyond ordinary.

As the deadline to submit nominations is now past, the Commercial Interior Design editorial team would like to thank everyone who has entered.

We wish you all the best, and if you would like to enquire about booking a table, please contact and for sponsorship opportunities.


With more than 20 years in the industry, a decade of which she spent in the Middle East, Isabel Pintado’s familiarity with the region’s culture and business landscape, combined with her in-depth knowledge of the industry paved the way for her success as an integral member of Wilson Associates, where she currently holds the position of senior vice president and managing director of its Dubai design studio. In 2005 she moved to Dubai and joined Godwin Austen Johnson (GAJ). After seven years at GAJ as an associate partner and head of interior design, she made the move over to LW Design Group in 2012.

“I look forward to seeing all of the fantastic designs to be submitted by the talented individuals,” says Pintado. “I anticipate a close competition, as so many designers are pushing boundaries in design throughout the region.”


With over a decade of professional experience working for a succession of internationally acclaimed architectural practices in Europe and the Middle East, Jonathan Ashmore founded multiple award-winning architecture, interior architecture and design practice Anarchitect in 2013.

He studied a degree in architecture at the University of Liverpool and did his post-grad at the renowned Bartlett School of Architecture in London before completing his professional training at the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA). He is an elected member of the RIBA Gulf Chapter, a British Council Cultural Excellence Fellow and also an active design critic and regular architectural speaker across a variety of professional platforms and academic institutions in Europe and the Middle East.

“With an another progressive year behind us since the last awards, I expect to see some high-quality built work coming from both new and established practices with a particular focus on the hospitality, educational and private residential sectors,” says Ashmore.

His portfolio spans residential, leisure, hospitality, workplace and cultural projects.


Laura Bielecki is a professional interior designer and design manager with Ellington Properties in Dubai. Having graduated with a bachelor’s of Applied Interior Design from Mount Royal University in Calgary, Canada in 2006, she went on to complete her LEED accreditation for green building. In 2012 Laura was awarded The Best Young Designer of the Year at the Commercial Interior Design Awards. She has extensive experience with high-rise residential projects in New York and Montreal, office and government design/project management experience in Western Alberta and residential, hospitality and education experience in Qatar and the UAE. She has worked for internationally renowned design firms Escobar Design, Kasian and Godwin Austen Johnson.

Bielecki comments: “With Expo 2020 and World Cup 2022 in the near distance, the design profession in the region is under a watchful eye for smart, well designed, sustainable and awe-inspiring projects for the world to witness. New designers and firms have been popping up recently, providing a healthy abundance of new ideas and approaches to the growing region. The CID awards 2016 won’t disappoint.”


Working in London before moving to Dubai in 2008, Bartlett graduate Jennie Binchy worked as associate architect and later, head of interiors at AK Design. Under her tutelage, the ID department won several design awards and was highly commended for its fresh talent by Commercial Interior Design.

With 15 years of professional experience under her belt, she founded Binchy and Binchy, an architecture and interior design practice in 2015. She is currently working on two complex arts projects for the Dubai Government, a new restaurant concept and several residential projects.

“The submissions for the CID Award ambitiously exceed expectations every year and I look forward to witnessing the ever more sophisticated creative offerings the region has to contribute to the global design stage,” says Binchy. “I am looking forward to seeing submissions that hold true to their concept, respect local context and display a cultured attention to detail, design integrity and quality.”


Before joining the American University in Dubai as chair and associate professor, Dr Albert Fakhoury was teaching architecture and interior design courses at internationally recognised universities. Under his leadership, the ID Department at AUD, he received institutional membership with the Interior Design Educational Council and the CIDA accreditation, becoming the first and only program in the world outside the US and Canada accredited by CIDA.

As a senior design manager and design director at two design firms based in the UAE, Fakhoury has been in charge of many landmark projects in the Middle East and Europe, ranging from hospitality to commercial and the residential sector.

He says: “I will be looking forward to reviewing projects targeting all generations, exploring different aspects of design and implementing smart solutions.”


Louise Duggan is the owner of two Dubai-based companies: Ophelia Art Consultancy, which opened in 2013, followed by Maloto printing and frames in 2014. The companies provide artwork, sculpture and accessories for leading hotels in the region, notably the Palazzo Versace, St. Regis and the W hotel, as well as many food and beverage outlets and private residences.

Having graduated in Art and Design, Duggan worked as an FF&E interior designer for some of the major design companies specialising in 5-star hotel design in London and Dubai. She has built up considerable local knowledge having had 17 years’ experience in the region and has travelled extensively around the world.

“I am honoured to be asked to sit on the judge’s panel for this exciting compettiton and will look forward to examining the level of detail and finishes in each submission,” says Duggan. “The growth of hotels in the region will lead to tough competition and the designers are constantly creating amazing spaces.”


Dutch designer Maja Kozel graduated in spatial design from the Willem de Kooning Academy in Rotterdam. Since then she has worked in Europe, Asia and the Middle East, before moving to Dubai in 2008. Specialising in commercial and residential interiors, two years ago she established Maja Design. The scale of her projects varies from the design of a bus stop to the interiors of an office to the master plan of high-rise towers.

Kozel says: “The UAE has become a pioneer in the Middle East when it comes to design and I am expecting quality and care for projects and products. And more individuality in designs which means a certain way of experiencing a space. This can be either through innovation, durability or working with a space more efficiently with high standards on the quality of living and working in the space.”


Linsey Thomson was appointed in 2011 at Heriot-Watt University Dubai Campus ( HWUDC ) to the School of Energy, Geoscience, Infrastructure and Society Department for the Interior Design programme as a part-time teaching fellow. In January 2012, she joined the team full-time and currently teaches on the varying range of interior design and architectural courses.

Having moved to Dubai in 2006 from her native Scotland, Thomson has successfully worked on a diverse mix of commercial, high-rise residential and hospitality projects during her career at RMJM, where she held the position of senior interior designer until 2010.

Before joining Heriot-Watt University, Thomson worked for a private construction developer based in Dubai to oversee all interior construction projects in the Gulf region and Europe.

“It is great to see all the newly completed interior design projects from the last 12 months competing against each other at the CID Awards,” she says.


Esra Lemmens is a designer, art director, author and lecturer. In her book titled ‘Conceptual Commercialism Commercial Conceptualism’, Lemmens describes the future interface between conceptual designers and commercial companies. She now leads the Esra Lemmens Agency and the Pop Up Academy in Dubai, which she describes as an educational platform for contemporary design. Among her clients are the leading names in design industry, such as Marcel Wanders and Maarten Baas.

As a judge, Lemmens will be looking for projects that go beyond established theories. She says: “I would like to acknowledge the search for that magical balance between business and art; art and craft; intuition and reason; concept and detail; playfulness and formality; client and designer; designer and maker; and maker and audience, which is where good design comes to life.”


Renae Hewitt currently holds a position of managing director of the Association of Professional Interior Designers (APID). After completing her BA Arts from Curtin University, specialising in fashion and textiles, and with an Associate Diploma in Fashion and other studies in Fine Art, she won the Waves Future Fashion Designer, and had her work displayed in various print media and exhibitions throughout Australia.

Hewitt moved to Dubai in 2005. She worked with Studio HBA in the new Dubai office, working in business development, where she gained her insight and appreciation into the interior design world.
As APID director she is presently engaged in projects to assist with the growth of the interiors community regionally as well as establishing Dubai as the design hub of the Middle East. Hewitt was recently invited on to the jury of the China International Interior Design Association Awards in Beijing.


Paul McElroy is a partner of British design agency Kinnersley Kent Design with over 25 years of experience in the field of design. As a studio of architects, designers and branding experts,they work across the fields of interior, graphics and branding design, having a diverse portfolio of clients in retail, leisure and hospitality sectors, alongside private clients.

Commenting on the CID Awards, McElroy says he is extremely interested to see the calibre of work in each category and how the selected projects are contributing to the development of the Middle East region.

The studio’s projects are spread across Europe, North America, Asia and the Middle East.
McElroy’s work varies from large scale commercial clients, to creating smaller local brands, alongside introducing new brands to the region.