Nihal Zaki’s recent multiple victories at the International Property Awards have given her incredible design work the global critical acclaim that it has long deserved. With a sparkling career, from styling Abla Fahita to creating the perfect wedding environment to her extensive work in residential and commercial property design, Nihal is a powerhouse of creativity. We went to visit her in the Nihal Zaki Interior showroom, a veritable treasure chest of wonders, to delve deeper into the intricate world of design.
How did you get into design in the first place?
I was born into it; being heavily influenced by my family who were very into antiques and vintage styles. Then when I graduated, I got an offer to handle the styling and art direction of a furniture showroom. I decided to pursue it further, going to London to do a diploma at the Inchbald School of Design. When I finished and came back I was ready to launch my own office, Nihal Zaki Interiors.
What exactly does Nihal Zaki Interiors do?
We work in interior deisgn on a range of commercial and residential properties; doing designing, contracting, finishing, the furniture, everything.
“I don’t restrict myself to one style, I can do anything and everything.”
Personally you have a broad repertoire in many different types of design, tell us about that.
I cannot confine myself into one type of art, although interiors is my main thing. It is about creating a balance between my professional work and satisfying myself as an artist. I don’t restrict myself to one style, I can do anything and everything. For example, I worked with Abla Fahita, designing the whole campaign including the wig!
As a designer, do you see the world differently?
I see everything in 3D. When I go into a space, no matter how ugly it is, or if it is built or not-built, I become detached from everything and see what I want it to look like. It is a gift.
I get inspired by everything, the sky, fabric, colored paint in water. Sometimes you might be blocked and you have to force yourself to be inspired. I have a very good team, I discuss things with them and become inspired again.
How do you balance your creative vision with the client’s brief?
You are always limited to an extent because the client has certain expectations and they have hired you to meet these. However sometimes if you follow the client’s every idea and whim, they end up not liking the outcome. I work very hard on doing a lot of options, showing them what they asked for as well showing them what I want to do.
Does Egyptian style play a big role in your work?
When I went to Inchbald, my teachers were so fond of my work, they wanted me to stay in the UK to work. But I wanted to come back to Egypt and start my business and make a difference, to have my own iconic touch in my own country.
We live in the most ancient country in the world. I always walk around Downtown, visiting workshops looking at old houses, it has so much to inspire you; the fabrics, the brass, the glass, the textures.
“Motherhood was my hardest challenge ever because I am a very dedicated person.”
You have a three year old daughter, how do you manage your time between being a mother and running your own design house?
Motherhood was my hardest challenge ever because I am a very dedicated person. I just gave up on sleeping and having a social life! Luckily I am able to design my schedule around my child.
What is your most important piece of work to date?
The El Karma residency definitely. It was a huge five year project creating a home as big as a hotel. My clients were very well travelled and educated, big collectors. We started to work on the project just before the revolution, but he wanted to keep going with it. For me and my team this was a ray of hope in dark times. It was designed and the contracts were executed by us, we did everything ourselves. It wasn’t just so important because of the magnitude, it was the effort and the pain that went into it.
“I was on my phone and eating not expecting I would be amongst them and then they called out my name!”
Tell us about the International Property Awards?
The International Property Award is a certified contest for developers, architects and interior designers that happens in every continent. I entered the El Karma Residence to the Africa and Middle East strand of the awards in the Private Residence category which I ended up winning.
Later at the Gala Evening, they were announcing winners of the 5 stars award which recognises top designers in the industry. I was on my phone and eating not expecting I would be amongst them and then they called out my name!
Then they called me up again to say that I would be representing Africa for the Private Residences category in the next stage of the awards in Asia, Africa and the Americas.
Congratulations Nihal on your three amazing awards and good luck in the next stage!
Check out Nihal Zaki’s website, and follow @nihalzakiofficial on instagram!
Images courtesy of Nihal Zaki.