Interior design students win top prize at prestigious competition

A biophilic design, aimed to create spaces connecting humans to nature, has helped a team of students from De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) win a competition to find the UK’s best designers.

Each year, the British Institute of Interior Designers (BIID) invites Interior Design and Architecture students from across the UK to its three-day Student Design Challenge.

BIID comp

Teams must follow a brief and race against the clock to prepare their proposals from scratch before presenting their work to a panel of industry experts, including BIID President May Fawsy.

DMU Interior Design students Ayesha Rangara, Jiwon Jung, Marina Gutierrez Jimenez, Roqaya Ed-Denguir, Saynab Warsame and Zainab Zacky Mohamed had just two days to design a comfortable and functional multigenerational two-storey family home in Wimbledon, London, before presenting to the judges.

By minimising partitioning walls and extending the courtyard, the team maximised the flow of natural light around the home. Recycled steel, eco-friendly timber-crate (the mixing of concrete and sawdust) and sheep’s wool insulation are all used throughout the property to make it more sustainable.

A video of the DMU team’s winning pitch is available here.

Saynab said: “We hadn’t realised we won. They announced the highly commended entries first and we congratulated them on winning – and then we heard our names, so it took a few moments to comprehend.

“Our course tutors at DMU are very keen for us to utilise sustainability in our designs. We went with a biophilic design to create a link between the family and nature, and to focus on the mental wellbeing of the family that would use the space.

“First, we looked at sustainable, locally produced materials as a baseline and once we established our preferences, we focused our attention on assessing whether our choices might have adverse effects on any member of the household, including the seven-year-old child.”

Zainab added: “Our brief challenged us to connect the spaces for all the family members together and I think the open, green courtyard is a good example of that.”

The team from DMU edged out students from Cambridge School of Art, Anglia Ruskin University, the University of Portsmouth, the University of Wolverhampton, the University of Lincoln, Falmouth University and Arts University Plymouth.

Judges praised the DMU team’s ability to “reconfigure existing space that was sympathetic to the needs of all the family members” while using materials that “pulled together a cohesive, sophisticated interior with subtle continuity of detail flowing throughout.”

This year’s success marks the third time that a team from DMU has won the BIID Student Design Challenge. Previous teams from DMU have won for their designs of a new HQ for a youth radio station and a hub for older people looking for employment opportunities.

Helping the team along the way was Susie Rumbold, the Creative Director of London-based Tessuto Interiors, to give the DMU students guidance and feedback throughout the challenge.

Zainab said: “Susie was an ex-president of BIID, so we wanted to draw on her experiences in the industry to help shape our designs. She was really positive about our ideas and asked us to elaborate on them, which improved our confidence.

“One of the reasons I believe we won was because Susie pushed us to take risks with the brief. Originally there was a recreational space at the back of the house, which we thought we had to keep, but she encouraged us to change it.

“We instead created the curved courtyard to ensure the back of the house and courtyard didn’t feel like two separate spaces and that became one of the vocal points of our design.”

Commenting after the ceremony, BIID President May Fawzy said: “The BIID Student Design Challenge is a fantastic way for students to not only sharpen their skills but to put their acquired knowledge to the test under pressure, while under the watchful eye of our BIID mentors.

“The varied and interesting brief was carefully developed to reflect similar, real-world projects which the students could potentially work on, in their future careers.”


Posted on Wednesday 20th December 2023

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