With their work in aviation taking them all over the world, Jorg and Michele Fahr-Becker longed for a holiday-at-home haven when they bought a four-bedroom villa in Arabian Ranches in 2013, seven years after moving to the UAE.
While Michele works in operations and crew training, Jorg has been a pilot for 24 years, with postings that include many countries in Africa, as well as Afghanistan and the UAE. Admitting that the industry is quite rigid with little room for creativity, they both relished the challenge of their personal interior design project, transforming the villa into an open-plan home flooded with natural light, with views of their tropically landscaped garden from every vantage point on the ground floor.
The couple were very hands-on and took control of every aspect of the redesign, including opening up the living room with bi-fold doors, zoning the garden, and designing their Thai-inspired ambient en-suite bathroom.
The colour palette throughout conjures up lazy days at a sun-kissed beachfront villa, with crisp whites, natural woods and shades of “Fahr-Becker blue” – a term the family coined since Michele has accessorised their home with ornaments and knick-knacks either bought or repainted in the bright blue of a cloud-free sky.
‘I’m so pleased with the interiors,’ says Michele. ‘We did it all ourselves, with no interior designers to helps us. I picked the colour scheme and repainted our furniture in a lighter shabby-chic style, and spray-painted accessories in the “Fahr-Becker blue”; Jorg would come back from a flight and there would always be something new for him to see.’
‘It’s a very light, fresh palette, and when we come home we sigh one of those big satisfied sighs, which is exactly the type of feeling we were looking to create,’ says Jorg.
Leaving no detail overlooked, he wanted this sense of satisfaction to start from the moment they approach house. After a fruitless search for the perfect front door on a pivoted hinge, he custom-designed one to his own exact specifications, finished with narrow horizontal glass panels to let more light in. ‘We wanted a big feature doorway so the first time you lay your hands on the house you’re touching something different and high quality, to give you the right impression of our home,’ he explains. Even their two Scottish terriers are happy with the door design, as the bottom glass panel perfectly matches their eyeline, so they can see the family returning home.
This artisanal doorway opens onto a double-height hallway that draws you into a spacious, light-filled living room, with an inviting coastal-chic scheme of soft off-whites and grey, cool blues and large potted plants. The couple knocked through the exterior wall to install glass-panelled bi-fold doors that transforms the space into an al-fresco lounge, fronting the beautifully landscaped pool that’s like a snapshot of a lush Balinese garden.
‘We wanted each part of the garden to have a purpose so we could use all the space, so we designed smaller, compartmentalised areas,’ says Jorg, who landscaped the garden to make them feel like they were on holiday in the tropics. ‘The idea is that no matter where you are there is something visually pleasing to see.’ Because the property had been tenanted for 12 years, the garden hadn’t been landscaped and they took it back to its original sandpit status, keeping only three trees that they replanted.
While the outdoor lights came from Global Light & Power, Jorg undertook the installation. ‘We are very handy with things like this,’ says the Johannesburg-born pilot. ‘Because we know what we want we like doing it ourselves.’ The couple sourced and planted all the fauna, and designed and built the shaded pergola and the al fresco bar, which features a laser-cut front and white concrete counter.
Michele adds: ‘We use the garden so much, and it’s nice for the kids to have somewhere they can play and we can sit outside and see them. We entertain a lot, too, and the garden is designed so it’s sociable yet has distinct areas for seating if you want a quiet spot.’
There are several Asian influences, including a Thai-style door from Lucky Furniture & Handicrafts in Sharjah by the pergola, and a Buddha water fountain outside the kitchen. A large window in the sleek grey and white IKEA kitchen overlooks the water feature, creating a striking yet meditative focal point, while also maintaining the inside-outside feel that’s prevalent in the other rooms. ‘At night, lights shine on the water feature and it’s lovely, it’s one of my favourite things we’ve done,’ says Jorg. The Fahr-Beckers have a flair for upcycling and recycling and the Buddha head, sourced from Ras Al Khaimah, is framed by salvaged wood leftover from the floor-to-ceiling wall décor in the stairway.
Much attention has gone into making the staircase a design-led feature. Salvaged wood from Netherlands-based Wonderwall Studios runs up the full height of the wall, which stretches up to the ceiling of the first floor. The rough strips of wood applied in such a large format is a simple yet effective feature, accentuating the open, airy ambience of the entrance, exuding warmth, and bringing a hint of nature inside.
To complement the feature, Michele sanded and repainted the mahogany stairs in a light grey-brown wood effect, the same finish she used on the furniture in the dining room, which she’s upcycled to go with their beachy palette.
‘You name it, I’ve painted it! We’ve had the dining set for at least eight years but it was a dark brown which didn’t match our new scheme, so I repainted it and reupholstered the chairs, too. The stairs were hard work to do, but I like the consistency throughout the house,’ she explains.
This is evident upstairs, where their master bedroom (below) is awash with the same sea- and sky-blue tones found downstairs. They created added depth to the room by setting the bed within a custom-made recess, finished with a large laser-cut wall feature sporting a statement leaf print.
‘We saw these panels in Dragon Mart, so we put several pieces together, sanded them down, painted them at home and then fixed them to the wall,’ says Michele. ‘We painted the wall behind a dark charcoal grey so the white leaf pattern would pop out nicely. I like how this creates a feature in the bedroom and makes it interesting.’
Their hotel-inspired bathroom is a wonderfully relaxing area with caramel-coloured stone-style tiles, with uplighting on the floor, a luxurious oval bath, and a large walk-in shower concealed behind a mosaic wall. Michele says her husband takes all the credit for their spa-at-home bathroom, which she loves. He says: ‘We found that no one else had the same kind of imagination as us and couldn’t quite grasp our concept for the bathroom. I’m good at drawing and I enjoy it so I drew everything exactly how we wanted it – where the bath should be, the shower, the ornamental sculptures, the mosaic wall – and the contractor simply copied my design perfectly.’
‘We’ve often said that the only thing missing is the sea view,’ laughs Michele. ‘We’re very happy with how our vision has turned out, and it’s been a very rewarding process turning our ideas into reality. I’ve loved doing the interior decorating and it would be something I would love to study and pursue.’
The owners South African expats Jorg and Michele Fahr-Becker both work in aviation; Jorg is a VVIP corporate pilot and Michele works in flight operations for DC Aviation Al-Futtaim. They have two children, Savannah, 9, and Joshua, 6, plus two Scottish terriers, Abbigayle and Hamish.
The home The Fahr-Beckers rejuvenated a 12-year-old property in Arabian Ranches by making adjustments to the interior architecture, landscaping the garden, and decorating with a fresh, coastal scheme. There are three bedrooms and an office upstairs, a guest bedroom on the ground floor along with a playroom, kitchen and an open-plan living-dining room.
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