This sprawling Spanish-hacienda-style villa in Arabian Ranches is a statement of craftsmanship, luxurious natural materials and treasured pieces that take guests on a journey through the homeowners’ travel adventures and periods living abroad. From Miami to Marrakesh to the Maldives, inspiration has been taken from many corners of the world, mixing with pieces from their previous residences and original custom-made furnishings and finishes, many of which have been crafted from a huge slab of quarried Calacatta marble that the Sajans’ invested in especially for their new home.
Rahim and Zahra bought the 25,000-square-foot plot of land fronting the polo field in April 2016 – choosing the location for the view and because their daughters Sufiyah and Zeynah-Jaide love to ride. Knowing what they wanted their perfect family home to look like, with space and the views taking precedence, they stripped the existing property right back to its shell and used the structure as a starting point.
‘We took the walls out, the floors, the plumbing– everything,’ says Canadian national Zahra. ‘We spent 17 months working with a variety of contractors and designers to develop a home that had lots of space, natural light and took advantage of the views of the polo field from every room.’
The project itself took the couple on a whole new adventure of challenges and unexpected ideas. ‘A big thing we learned on the journey was to be open to possibilities,’ says the founder and CEO of The Blossom Nursery. ‘While we started with wanting to reuse certain pieces from our previous house and we had particular ideas of how we wanted to do this, we then went through a complete 90-degree change.
‘When we discussed putting our dining room lights in the downstairs bathroom I thought, ‘what? That doesn’t make sense to me!’ But it worked out really well. I think having a different eye and being open to possibilities and open to change is part of how you should approach any design challenge.’
While Rahim has a background in engineering and Zahra has experience of commercial design and build projects with 11 nursery centres set up since she formed The Blossom Nursery soon after moving to Dubai in 2006, a residential project of this scale was a completely new enterprise.
They worked with an interior design company for part of the project yet undertook much of the attention to detail themselves, working closely with the contractors and suppliers so that every detail was perfect. From the 45-degree angle of the custom marble kitchen countertops, to hidden AC vents in the undulating Spanish-style ceilings, bi-fold doors for uninterrupted views, and commissioned mosaics aligned to the colour scheme, no detail was overlooked.
‘We are lucky because Rahim’s background meant he could understand CAD drawings and he speaks Urdu so he could work directly with the contractors to explain our ideas,’ says Zahra. ‘A lot of our inspiration came from magazine clippings and hotels that we’ve stayed at. We love Morocco, which you can see from things around our home.’
The master suite – with a huge walk-in dressing room and a marble bathroom – is designed as if in its own wing, with a grand entrance of two ornately carved doors complete with a replica of a knocker from the Ksar Char-Bagh Relais & Chateaux in Marrakesh, which had taken pride of place on the front door of their former home, also in Arabian Ranches.
‘All the rooms started with pieces that we already had and wanted to incorporate into the new house. This is where the design journey really started for us,’ says Kenya-born Rahim. ‘I always had this vision that the master bedroom should have a statement entrance, and we wanted to make a feature of the knocker in some way.’
They extended the first floor level for the master bedroom and topped it with a pitched roof in line with the Spanish architecture of the villa. To soak up the view they positioned their bed in the middle of the room with its headboard facing the doorway, partially disguised with a chain-mail curtain hanging from the ceiling – a scene straight from a luxury hotel.
‘The design of these rooms was inspired by a holiday to the Maldives,’ he adds. ‘It’s very peaceful and we love the view.’ The first floor features the bedrooms and nursery on one side while the more creative areas are on the other. These include a crafts room for the kids and Zahra, who loves to make mosaics, a library looking out over the polo field and a home cinema.
‘The set-up was important for us, so we had rooms for all the things we love to do, as was having a view from each space,’ says Rahim. ‘For example, we knew we needed separate studies as I need a nice office space for meetings at home, and Zahra needs somewhere where she could be creative – and messy,’ he laughs.
Rahim’s office across the hall from the dining room is a masculine den inspired by Tom Ford’s offices, with dark wood and brown textured wallpaper. Its piece de resistance is a beautiful sliding door clad with Calacatta marble laid in a chevron pattern. The doors slide open to give Rahim a stunning view of the swimming pool and polo field seen over a luxurious bespoke 14-seater marble dining table.
Marble and wood are the common denominators that tie each room together. While pale wood floors run throughout in a chevron pattern, designed to direct you from one space to another, marble is displayed in both prominent and subtle features, from the large kitchen island custom-made by Snaidero to the marble borders that frame the wood floors and doorways downstairs, marble basins in the guest bathrooms and bespoke cabinets and tables topped with the natural stone.
‘Because the colour can change if you buy lots of separate marble tiles, we bought a large slab from a raw supplier,’ explains Rahim. ‘We knew how much we needed from the slab and then we figured out what other pieces we could make, like our dining table, so none of it went to waste.’ Even the off-cuts have been carved into small pentagon pieces, engraved with grooves to hide any imperfections, and used to tile a guest room bathroom.
The garden – once a sandpit – came under the same attention to detail to turn it into a holiday-at-home haven, with a stunning swimming pool designed with acrylic see-through panels for a cool underwater view, barbecue and entertainment areas, and a Miami-style pool house complete with an industrial-style basement games room – all of which is hooked up to the automated AV systems that feature throughout the house, installed by Archimedia, so the music-loving family can listen to their favourite songs wherever they are.
The owners Zahra Sajan, founder and CEO of The Blossom Nursery, and her husband Rahim, founder and CEO of financial trading company Altacus Limited, have three daughters, Sufiyah, 15, Zeynah-Jaide, 10, and Malaika-Rose, aged 1.
The home This beautiful, bespoke Polo Home property in Dubai's Arabian Ranches features a large formal living room and dining room, an office, a kitchen, a family room plus a guest bedroom. Upstairs, there is a crafts room, library, home cinema and five bedrooms. Outside, there is a pool house with a basement games room.
Styling Eleanor Joslin
Photography Stefan Lindeque