There is no indication from the road that behind the unassuming cream facade of an Al Barsha compound villa, a riot of colour is waiting to greet you. A sunshine yellow bench, hot pink cushions, multicoloured shoe rack and neon tubes spelling out the word ‘disco’ give the entrance a punchy first impression. Home to Elena and Yan Danici and their two children Maya and Maxim, every corner of this three-bedroom villa has a quirky accessory, eye-catching artwork or carefully curated decor collection.

The couple moved to Dubai in 2003 and, like many, assumed it would be a one-year adventure. Twelve years later, they’ve settled in the family-friendly compound in Al Barsha. ‘We were living in a great townhouse in Media City, but when I was expecting Maya we wanted to move somewhere with more space and by chance drove past this compound one day: the main gate was open and we glimpsed this wonderful oasis of greenery and really liked it. We didn’t even have a chance to look around the house properly before we agreed to take it as someone was already living here, so it was on a bit of a whim, but it totally paid off!’

Only after moving in did Elena and Yan realise the beauty of the villa – balconies attached to every room, views over the garden and pool from the master bedroom, floor-to-ceiling windows in the living and dining area, and copious amounts of storage, ‘although you can never have enough!’ Elena laughs.

Originally from Moldova in Eastern Europe, Elena met Quebec native Yan in France at business school while they were studying for their MBAs. After graduation, they went travelling, soaking up experiences from around the world, which is what Elena credits for her eclectic approach to decorating. ‘Because we met each other quite young, we were able to explore many countries, which has definitely influenced our outlook,’ Elena says. ‘I was blown away by the independent design stores in Demark and Sweden and I never visit Paris without going to Le Marais and always find something unique there.’ Thankfully, she admits, Yan is also quite open-minded to non-conventional, unusual things: ‘Although I would say that I’m the creative force who always drags some new great find back home, Yan is the voice of wisdom, reminding me from time to time that things need to be practical – otherwise we would end up sitting on weird-shaped one-legged stools and eating off our laps!’

Most of the rooms have a neutral backdrop, with grey and white walls forming the base around which Elena can create her room schemes. The only exception is the feature wall in the living area, which has been painstakingly put together brick by brick, and the Japanese manga comic wallpaper in the dining room.

‘I try to make as many dramatic changes as I can within
the confines of having a rental property,’ she says. ‘I dream
of changing the floors or having a brand new kitchen, but
we are restricted on that front – maybe that’s why I go a bit
crazy for accessories!’

Candidly describing her home as a ‘hot colourful mess that works for us,’ Elena is a self-confessed ‘object-lover,’ never adhering to one style or school of design.

‘I need to fall in love with whatever it is, whether it be a painting, a pillow, a pattern or a colour combination,’ she says.
‘I then either build around that piece or move things about
until I find the perfect space for it.

‘Yan calls it “someone’s nightmare delirium” but he seems to have got used to it over time!’


The owner Elena Danici, a sales director for IT company HP, and her French-Canadian husband Yan, live in this colourful home with their two children.


Styling by: Charlotte Butterfield / Images by: Stefan Lindeque/ANM