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Meet the Expert: Dahlia Mahmood

Adam Graham

Published on February 12, 2024


Meet the Expert: Dahlia Mahmood

From luxury U.S. homes to cultural halls of Saudi kings, Dahlia Mahmood shares her inspiration, experiences, challenges, and successes in the interior design industry.

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Meet Dahlia Mahmood. She is named one of Fixr.com’s top experts year after year, and for good reason. With 25 years of experience as an interior designer, she is one of the most exciting leaders in the industry. Completing projects for the likes of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, her expertise is unquestionable. 

Therefore, we wanted to understand what drives, inspires and also challenges her as a top interior designer. In an ever-evolving industry, we find out what it takes to remain at the top of the game, how to work with clients (royal or not), and advice she has for anyone looking to embark into the world of luxury design.

... in my design process, I am often influenced and inspired by music.

Museum-worthy Design

Mahmood heads up her own design firm, Dahlia Design, LLC, out of Washington DC. “We provide design and construction services nationally and internationally” she explains. And speaking of her international work, one of her most standout projects to date was carried out overseas.

“A project I am particularly proud of is King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia’s cultural hall and museum.” A unique project for an interior designer, Mahmood shares her experience, saying “It was by far my most challenging but most rewarding experience. It was such a tremendous honor to design and construct this museum to tell his story, his legacy.” It speaks a lot about how her company is progressing, and what it is capable of achieving. “That project was truly life-changing. There was a lot of pressure on my shoulders and the Dahlia Design team. I’m so profoundly proud of the outcome of that project.”

Image by Dahlia Design

Inspiration From ‘The Happiest Place on Earth’

Could she have ever imagined she would be working on such high-profile projects when she first started out as a teenager? “I started the company at 17 years old,” she tells us. Yet she was first inspired by design in an unlikely place. She recounts “As a very young girl, I knew I was destined to be a designer from the moment I was mesmerized by Walt Disney’s creations at Disneyland.” Design inspiration can come in many forms but for Mahmood, it was “The magical environment with such attention to detail and its effect on people from all around the world sparked something inside me.”

This way of design having an effect on people stayed with her throughout her career. When asked about her inspiration for each new project, she explains simply “My clients are my inspiration.” After all, everyone’s tastes are different. Mahmood goes a step further than just listening to what they say; “I pay attention to every detail in our conversations, from body language to emotional investment and triggers so I can properly tell the client’s story. I strive to bring beauty and comfort into their lives.” She goes on to add “Also in my design process, I am often influenced and inspired by music.”

Image by Dahlia Design

“An Artist or Creative Mind Never Rests”

Interior design forever requires a delicate balance between what a client wants and needs and a designer leaving their mark. Being adaptable is essential. But what is Mahmood’s style? “My style is simple, elegant, and timeless with a touch of glam,” she states. “No matter the wants and needs of a client, I encourage [them] to make timeless choices and invest in pieces that can stand the test of time, no matter the expense.” She goes on to add “Some of my favorite designs are large statement pieces, handcrafted, custom design features, and timeless elegance.”

Like many designers, Mahmood finds joy in a job well done; “The most fulfilling part of my job is bringing beauty into people’s lives, it’s the most rewarding feeling. To see and often surpass their dream, and their expectations is truly gratifying.”

In some professions, it is easy to switch off at the end of the day. However, when it comes to designers, Mahmood highlights how tricky it can be; “The most difficult part, that I don’t think people understand, is that an artist or creative mind never rests, it is constantly creating.” There is a need to be constantly open to inspiration, and this means having a creative mindset on the go at any time of the day, anywhere. 

Image by Dahlia Design

Changes and Challenges in the Industry

When you have a wealth of experience in an industry as much as Mahmood has, you are going to have experienced changes over the years. We asked her what the biggest change has been: “If I’m going to answer this question honestly, the biggest changes and challenges I have seen are that we have an abundance of resources; more than I’ve ever seen.” Materials make up the fundamentals of interior design. She comments on the evolution of material options: “Materials are constantly evolving in the design industry. However, this year I saw something quite different, a disconnect in the industry. We are losing compassion and kindness. With endless possibilities, there is an uptick of miscommunication, unrealistic demands, more frustration, and little to no patience.” 

Image by Dahlia Design

In a line of work dependent on many moving parts, communication and understanding are key. And it’s something Mahmood makes sure to prioritize. “To continue a unified relationship between design and client, we cannot lose kindness and compassion towards one another. I will never compromise when it comes to that and I will continue to create and design with an open and pure heart.” 

Having faced 25 years of challenges, experiences, and successes, Mahmood offers a new generation of budding designers this advice: “For those entering the design industry: Be authentically YOU and lead from your heart. Stay centered there and it will always set you apart!” 

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Written by

Adam Graham Construction Industry Analyst

Adam Graham is a construction industry analyst at Fixr.com. He has experience writing about home construction, interior design, and real estate. He communicates with experts and journalists to make sure we provide the most up-to-date and fact-checked information. He has been featured in publications such as Better Homes and Gardens, and written for various outlets including the National Association of Realtors, and Insurance News Net Magazine.