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The Top Interior Designers of the Future: NDA Design Award Winner’s Work

Each year we seek to find the top interior designers of the future by joining forces with global colour giant Dulux and tasking interior design students from around the world to utilise the Colour of the Year in a creative commercial or residential scheme. NDA Director of Design Studies, Anthony and Dulux Creative Director Marianne preside over the judging of this prestigious award. Here, Anthony takes us through the judging process and how they chose the winning designs of the 2020 Design Award.

Finding the Top Interior Designers of the Future

Hello again everyone

Back in January, I had the immense pleasure of working with the vibrant, charming and boundlessly energetic Creative Director of Dulux, Marianne Shillingford. We were co-judging the NDA/Dulux interior design competition to celebrate the launch of the Dulux Colour of the Year 2020; Tranquil Dawn and I have to tell you that it was the most stimulating, challenging and inspiring day that I have enjoyed for a long time.

The standard of work was exceptional! Creativity and presentation were evident throughout the two categories of commercial and residential interior design that formed the competition entry requirements. But first, a word about the colour itself, ‘Tranquil Dawn’ the reason for the competition existing in the first place and the reason for the outpouring of creativity that Marianne and I enjoyed looking through so much. Dulux explain it very well as follows:

‘As 2020 is the start of a new decade, it’s a fresh start. A new dawn. In an increasingly hectic and digital world, there is a desire for meaning and kindness. So, inspired by the colours of the morning sky, our colour experts have created an inspiring new shade, Tranquil Dawn. This versatile colour of 2020 seems to change according to the tones that it’s used with – it can work in different ways in a warm, neutral, soft or bright palette. Tranquil Dawn sits somewhere between green, blue and grey – just like the fleeting beauty of a morning sky – making it the perfect 2020 colour trend.’

Now for the key themes that ran through the work submitted for the Commercial Interior Design section:

There were three recurring themes and trends running through the commercial section; enjoyment, relaxation and wellness. All three were, I think, a reaction to the turbulent times in which we live and an antidote to the all to often disconcerting news bulletins with which we are bombarded.

The Winning entries in this category were a stunning destination bar and lounge and a relaxing café and bookshop. Both designs exuded the perfect antidote to glumness and left both of these judges with a huge vote of confidence in the ability of our young designers to harness the power of creativity as a positive force in the world.

Before we look at the work itself, one key trend clearly coming through was the use of Dulux Tranquil Dawn in unexpected ways, as custom-dyed upholstery for example, or as dyed concrete wall finishes or tiny fragments of tile embedded in bespoke terrazzo flooring. In addition, the referencing of diverse cultures was very much in evidence as, for example, where traditional French parquet flooring was successfully set adjacent to a Moorish ceramic tile pattern.

Commercial Category Winners

Phoebe Wright’s ‘Future Human’ Bar and Lounge is a real showstopper of a destination that left both Marianne and myself in no doubt that this was a winner. The sheer confidence evident in both the design itself and presentation made us wasn’t to go and visit this bar immediately simply to experience such a destination. We also wondered how the cocktails would look and taste as a complement to such a level of interior innovation!

BA Interior Design Degree Student Rand Jasim

After a whirlwind evening visiting The Future Human, a restorative breakfast visit to Rand Jasim’s ‘Coffee Beans and Books’ described as ‘a reading café where visitors comer to read whilst enjoying their coffee and cakes’ would provide an ideal balance. This café is soothingly calm in both it’s Tranquil Dawn-centred palette and use of natural materials, creating the perfect environment to relax and drift away into your favourite novel whilst enjoying a mint tea or double espresso.

Commercial Category Highly Commended

After breakfast, perhaps a few hours could be well spent in the cocooning space of the ‘Tranquil Spa Retreat’ by Molly Clayton. Once here, enveloped in the curving forms and immersive colour palette, naturally based around Tranquil Dawn, one would find it very difficult to leave. The high level of detailing and sophisticated product selection all conspire to create the belief that doing nothing but relax for a very long time indeed is the only possible option.

The inclusivity and openness engendered in Philip B. Caruna’s ‘Café d’Or’ links the colours and forms of its geographical location with the colours and forms of the architecture and interior design elements. The highly sophisticated café terrace would be the perfect place to begin a sunset dinner lasting well into the evening. Again, the innovative use of Tranquil Dawn is seen as upholstery and table-top materials all set off to perfection by the spherical globe lighting.

As can be seen in these Winning and Highly Commended designs, the standard of commercial interior design continues to rise through the energy, vision and commitment of our young designers. Long may it continue and a very large and heartfelt ‘Well Done’ to all applicants in the Commercial Category. They all truly showed promise to become top interior designers.

Residential Category Winners

As before, we will begin by exploring the key themes and trends which became apparent as Marianne and I looked through the competition entries. One noticeable trend shared with the residential section of the competition was the use of Tranquil Dawn in unexpected contexts such as upholstery, kitchen cabinets and ceramics. 

Winner Amelia Hunter, in her ‘From The Ground Up’ interior and terrace design, successfully integrated the colour throughout the design to great effect. Upholstery, walls, kitchen and rugs all incorporated Tranquil Dawn to a greater or lesser extent. Amelia’s very strong space planning was evident in her design, underscoring the harmonious integration of interior and exterior space. Her excellent presentation skills presented the judges with a well-considered and unambiguous project that fulfilled the brief on every level.

Nawara Adra

A completely different and equally successful approach was adopted by Nawara Adra in her very high-end interior and terrace which both Marianne and I immediately wanted! The sophisticated integration of Tranquil Dawn throughout the space coupled with clear space planning and zoning definition left us both in no doubt that this was a winner. Nawara even extended the spatial manipulation into the vertical, raising the ceiling to create clerestory windows, a light-filled living area and a cosy dining area resplendent with superb lighting design.

Residential Category Highly Commended

Both judges agreed that the wellness terrace within Eleanor Loring-Adams’ Highly Commended design was the star of this particular show and one which confirmed wellness as another strong trend coming through in interior design. This was a terrace on which to linger, extending the useable living area throughout the day and into the evening. The use of Tranquil Dawn on the terrace upholstery, as well as on all interior walls, cleverly extended the perception of space, visually extending the area from terrace edge to apartment interior.

Another beautifully orchestrated transition from interior to exterior was Michele Cronje’s design. The hand-rendering of this design emphasised the human-centred thinking that clearly informed all design thinking. The relationships between the interior seating, lighting and flooring strengthened this area whilst outside, confirming yet another trend in interior design, there were clearly defined areas for relaxation, cooking and eating. A very well presented study in space planning and product sourcing.

Both Marianne and myself had a challenging yet stimulating day selecting these designs from an exceptionally high standard of entries. We wish all those who entered the competition our very best wishes and a hugely successful career in this wonderful, absorbing discipline. Becoming a top interior designer requires passion, dedication and pulling out all the stops to succeed. We’ve no doubt that all of the student interior designers who entered have a great career ahead of them.

If you’d like to take part in next year’s NDA Design Award, sign up for our Newsletter to ensure that you are notified when the brief is released later in the year.

All the best,


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2 responses

  1. The sophisticated integration of Tranquil Dawn throughout the space coupled with clear space planning and zoning definition left us both in no doubt that this was a winner.

  2. Great university make great students inspiring work i would love too see video of this session

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