Drawing inspiration from the mundane, and exploring cultures and destinations while translating visual cues into true masterpieces are just some of Sabina Torres’ talents. As co-founder and director of Inndor, an Interior Design company in Bahrain, Torres has put her name on some iconic locations on the island such as Bahrain Financial Harbour, RAK Art Foundation, The Ritz-Carlton, and Gallery 21 among others. We got in touch with the talented designer to learn more about her and the work she’s well known for.
Tell us a little about yourself, your work and what brought you to Bahrain.
I am a luxury interior designer who finds beauty everywhere while pursuing my passion for photography and travel. Half Spanish, half Colombian, I was born and raised in the Catalan pre-Pyrenees by a family who loved to travel. From a young age, I visited marvellous places.
After studying English in NYC and Boston, followed by earning a BA in interior design from Spain’s oldest school of design (attended by artists like Picasso), I accepted a job as an interior design manager for a 5-star resorts and hotel chain in Egypt. Directing the interior designs of large construction sites as a young woman in an Arab country was both challenging and exciting.
I ventured to London (UK) in 2011 to explore new opportunities driven by my love for interior design. There, I had incredible experiences including designing the 4th most expensive mansion globally and working on high-end properties worldwide – from Russia to China.
After ten years based in London, Bahrain became one of my top choices for my next move. The island’s unique blend of modernity and tradition coupled with magnificent beaches and warm-hearted people inspired this decision and brought me here.
With plans to start locally and later expand operations throughout the Middle East and worldwide, this exciting new chapter is just beginning.
What inspired you to become an interior designer?
Born and raised in the Spanish mountains near the French border, I developed an interest in interior design at the early age of nine. This fascination grew as I observed the interiors of people’s homes and noticed unique design elements. Even then, I began drawing and planning my ideal bedroom, creating collages with furniture cut-outs from magazines.
As I grew older, I naturally gravitated towards art-related subjects in my studies. When it came time to choose a university major, my parents encouraged me to pursue engineering, architecture, or business. However, driven by my passion for interior design, I remained steadfast in my decision to follow my dreams.
My enthusiasm for interior design was evident in my academic success. Before even completing my studies, I had the opportunity to work on numerous interior design projects during Spain’s construction boom in 2008. In retrospect, becoming an interior designer seemed like a natural progression as everything fell into place while pursuing what I truly loved.
Tell us about your creative process – from an idea to the final result – while designing a space.
The creative process for any project begins in our daily lives, even before receiving a new project brief. We draw inspiration from various sources such as observing the details of places we visit, keeping up with design trends, learning about manufacturing techniques, travelling, acquiring new skills, engaging with people of different mindsets, reading, meditating, and connecting with nature.
After receiving an inquiry, the first step is to comprehend the client’s needs, desired style, space functionality, timeline, and budget (if any) to determine how we can best assist them. Our scope of work depends on the client’s requirements, ranging from consultations for thoughts or solutions on specific matters to full turn-key projects where we address all aspects including styling and accessorization.
Our creative process involves numerous considerations such as building regulations, material suitability, maintenance, quality lighting, and more. As luxury interior designers, we strive to create not only aesthetically pleasing and functional spaces but also elevate designs by thoroughly examining every detail and aspect.
What’s your favourite venue/location you’ve designed so far and why?
While every project is unique, the fourth most expensive mansion in the world holds a special place in my heart. For three years, I had the opportunity to work on its interior design, styling, and decoration— a dream come true. Collaborating with top professionals in the industry, our creative process never took a hit even when we were faced with budget limitations.
The exceptional quality produced was evident in even the smallest details, from custom leather upholstered clothes hangers to exquisite silver and gold cutlery and fine bone china. As an interior designer, I found myself involved in tasks I had never imagined, such as selecting coloured fish and corals for an aquarium to complement the spa’s interior design.
Each area showcased a distinctive style according to the client’s wishes, ranging from art-deco, neo-classical, modern, and Edwardian to baroque. This project was both a steep learning curve and an incredible opportunity for career growth.
What are some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned as an interior designer in Bahrain?
After working on large projects in prime locations, I became accustomed to working with highly skilled professionals. However, the transition to Bahrain and working with local suppliers and contractors required me to adapt and understand their way of working. Unfortunately, I have encountered situations where incorrect information was provided, schedules were postponed, communication issues arose, and there was a lack of knowledge, skills, and poor quality of work.
As a luxury interior designer, I hold high standards and refuse to compromise on quality. Thus, I have learned to be cautious of delays and lack of expertise. I have to closely supervise and meticulously inspect every detail, even when working with reputable contractors.
Project management in this region takes longer compared to other countries, and clients often underestimate the effort we put into our work. This has been an important lesson for me.
What are some upcoming projects you’re excited about?
Gallery 21’s Courtyard Lounge will be transformed into an Italian extension of the main restaurant, inspired by the beautiful Amalfi coast in Italy. This project has been a long-awaited endeavour, as it was the first conceptual project I designed when I moved to Bahrain in 2022. Due to various external reasons, the concept couldn’t be executed until recently. Now, I am thrilled to witness the stunning transformation of this space.
During the Ramadan period, we commenced making small changes to Trader Vic’s bar. We have also meticulously designed the interior of the bar extension and we are gradually working towards a complete refurbishment of the existing bar and restaurant. The implementation of the design will present its own set of challenges since the outlets will remain fully operational. However, I am eagerly anticipating the positive outcome of our efforts.
Additionally, we’re excited about expanding to new geographies with some upcoming collaborations in Saudi Arabia, the UK and the US. We have big projects lined up in Adliya, including the creation of a couple of lounges with different themes. We are also involved in enhancing the interior of the Ritz Carlton Nail Salon and Spa boutique, as well as contributing to the design of a newly built hotel in Seef. Last but not least, we are thrilled about the opportunity to refurbish a rental apartment building in our own distinct residential style.
What do you do outside of interior designing?
I keep my creativity flowing by exploring nature, traditional homes, trendy restaurants, and luxury hotels. I also find joy in travelling, having visited 43 countries so far and spending extended periods in one country or returning to a country multiple times to fully immerse myself in the culture, traditions, craftsmanship techniques, and local communities. The countries I’ve explored the most are Egypt and Greece, both of which I love deeply and always yearn to learn more about.
I had the opportunity to work on a travel photography project for a private jet company in the US, capturing unique and captivating images of various destinations. Additionally, I was offered a chance to contribute to social media influence campaigns for the Ministry of Tourism in Egypt. These experiences not only brought attention to my work on social media but also allowed me to expand my knowledge of marketing and social media strategies, which has become one of my keen interests.
When presented with the opportunity for creative photography and social media influencing, I began designing my own clothing for photoshoots in collaboration with talented tailors and craftsmen. I also formed partnerships with other creative professionals in the industry, further fueling my passion.
On a personal level, I prioritize disconnecting from the hustle and bustle of daily life. I engage in daily meditation, practice yoga, and recently started taking bachata and kizomba dance classes. It’s quite intriguing for a Latina to learn dancing from Arab instructors. Additionally, I have taken an interest in horse riding as a way to find peace and connection with nature.
Bahrain, with its excellent work-life balance, offers a wonderful environment to make the most of my free time. Bahrain allows me to fully embrace my hobbies, develop new skills, travel, and find the rest I need.