When homeowner Sarah Paterson says that she’s brought some pretty strange things back from her travels for her home, she’s not exaggerating. Since she and her family moved to Dubai in September 2009, baskets, lamps, a rowing oar and even a stag’s head have been packed in their luggage from holidays.

‘I’m always on the lookout for interesting things for the home, and as we love travelling, we’re building up quite an eclectic collection,’ she explains. ‘My husband Stuart had a tough time explaining to airport security why he was carrying a stag’s head in his hand luggage last year, but when he explained that his wife keeps buying odd things, they let him through. I think they were quite sympathetic about what he must put up with!’

Indeed, this six-bedroom Arabian Ranches home has proved to be the perfect setting for the growing collection of mementoes. The couple bought the villa last year after moving from The Palm Jumeirah. ‘The children moved schools and although we liked life on The Palm, we wanted a bigger garden and that’s what really sold this house to us.’

In fact, Sarah says her first viewing was on an open-house day, and her agent showed her the garden first, while other potential buyers were shown inside the house. ‘I’d only seen the garden when I made the decision that it was the right house for us!’

Thankfully the inside didn’t disappoint, although as soon as the Patersons received the keys, the first thing they did was whitewash every wall, surface, door and cabinet, transforming the once dark cluttered space into a light-filled family villa. ‘When we lived on The Palm, we had a very open-plan home with high ceilings, and it often felt difficult to decorateor arrange furniture in a cosy way, so I really like the smaller scale of the rooms in this house – it feels more Europeanand welcoming.’

An added bonus is the fact that the kitchen is located in the centre of the home – you have to walk through it to the home office, the playroom and the garden, so it’s very much a social hub, helped by the spacious breakfast area that’s perfect for casual family meals and homework time. ‘It’s quite unusual for the kitchen to be so open to the rest of the rooms, as it tends to be a very separate space, but this really suits our family life.

‘As we’ve only been here a year, I’m still changing things about, working out what direction the light comes in from, and what looks best where, but it’s so much easier to work with a blank canvas,’ Sarah says.

Having recently taken an interior design course and paint workshops, her enthusiasm for decorating is unabated. ‘I’ve now painted the kitchen island three times trying out different shades, and most of the furniture has been attacked by my paintbrush at least once!’ Attracted to quiet, classic shades – grey and blue are current favourites – Sarah is also drawn to painted wood and vintage styles. ‘I’m going through a bit of a French phase as well,’ she says. ‘We go to France most summers and I love rifling through their home stores. We’ve bought countless trays, baskets, throws, cushions and pictures back with us. In fact, I can’t actually remember a trip we’ve taken where I didn’t sneak something for the house into my suitcase!’