Recently, “mumpreneur” has become an inspirational portmanteau buzzword coined to celebrate successful working mums, and it’s certainly an apt way to describe Olivia Corsi, mother to two beautiful girls, Stella and Romy, the founder of homegrown kids’ concept store Caramel and Sun, and the new owner of Pomme Kids, which specialises in creating handmade children’s furniture.
‘I love what I do and you can’t put a price on that,’ says the French native, who has lived in Dubai since 2007 with her Greek husband Chris. ‘I had been thinking of the business idea for Caramel and Sun for a long time and now I wish I had started 10 years earlier! When we had Stella I shipped her nursery furniture over from France because I couldn’t find what I wanted here, and that’s where the idea came from. Back then there was nothing like there is now, so there was a gap in the market and an opportunity in the kids’ area; even now, there is still so much missing from the global trade shows.’
While clients can avail of her styling and interior décor advice on their children’s rooms, her four-bedroom home in The Lakes proves she has a broader flair for contemporary home fashion. A beach-chic, holiday vibe emanates from the downstairs living spaces, inspired by Chris’ Greek heritage and Olivia’s passion for design-led pieces from her home country. ‘We holiday on the Greek islands in the summer so I wanted to have this holiday spirit at home, mixed with French style, for a modern yet cosy look,’ she says. ‘I love to have a base that is white and then accessorise with colour. In Paris, if we were in an old apartment I would have antique parquet flooring, but an industrial loft design would not suit a home in The Lakes – you need to adapt your style to where you live.’
The holiday cottage ambience comes to life in the open-plan living-dining room, with custom-made plump linen sofas in a white-sand shade accented with black piping, tables and storage boxes made from natural wood, and hints of turquoise-blue in the cushions and customised handles of the TV unit, set against an off-white parquet flooring and crisp white walls.
‘I wanted a sofa that was quite contemporary and would last a long time – even though white doesn’t stay white for long with kids! I like to have one or two designer chairs, and as they aren’t always comfy it was important that the sofas were. I designed them with a simple look, adding pillows and shawls so the outcome is very nice. I love Al Quoz for carpenters, tailors and drapers as they can make many things that you cannot find in Dubai, and this makes you more creative.’
With the dining area, Olivia has created the illusion that it’s situated apart from the rest of the open-plan space, within it’s own recessed alcove, thanks to a small but effective wallpapered partition wall and the back wall painted contemporary shades of dark grey and black.
While Olivia’s use of wood – seen with the mirror, dining chairs and the long dining table made from recycled rails – helps tie the scheme to the living area, the painted walls give the dining room its own character. An inviting dining area is important as French people like to be hospitable, Olivia explains.
‘In general, French people like to invite their friends to their home to have a nice dinner rather than going out. We have an open room so I put up this divide and used wallpaper and paint to create a cosy atmosphere.
‘When you own a property you can do what you want but even if you rent like we do you should make it feel like home. I think wallpaper makes a big difference and so does the parquet flooring, which I found in Dragon Mart – you can find many gems there if you take the time to walk around.’
Paintwork and wallpaper are key anchors in each room of the Corsi’s home. Upstairs, Stella’s bedroom has a wonderfully romantic wallpaper by Les Gambettes from Caramel and Sun, which features pretty birds and pink petals against a pencil sketch of leaves and flora. The other walls are painted grey to match the dusky pink and grey accents in the drapery, bed frame and bedding. White and grey form a calm base palette in Romy’s room, while yellow gives a bright lift to the bedroom and wooden accents add warmth.
The office-cum-guest-room has a contemporary Scandinavian aesthetic, with a base palette of white, blonde wood and blush. A statement pink and black frieze by Maison Sarah Lavoine from The Den is the anchor for the colour scheme; Nadia Sallustio, a close friend and the owner of the concept store, helped Olivia with the inspiration and décor for this room.
‘The office is my most recent project, and used to be more of a store room than a guest room,’ says Olivia. ‘Everything is white with accessories in pink, blush, grey and black because I wanted a place where I would enjoy working but that also has a fun, childish side so the kids can use it as a playroom. The main pieces of furniture are from IKEA – I find taste has nothing to do with money or expensive brands; if you have good taste you can do amazing things with furniture from IKEA simply by changing the handles, for example.
‘I am really into things like DIY and craft,’ she adds, pointing out the leather handles added to the IKEA Hemnes daybed in the office, the funky knobs from Zara Home on the girls’ Jacadi chests, and Romy’s storage box which is made from an old wooden crate salvaged from the streets of Al Quoz. ‘In France I love the flea markets and salvaging, however it is not commonplace here. I like how small touches and additions can add personality and make a big difference.’
Styling Eleanor Joslin
Photography Stefan Lindeque
The owners Olivia and Chris Corsi have two daughters, Stella, 5, and Romy, 4. Olivia founded the Dubai-based kids’ concept store Caramel and Sun four years ago, eight years after the couple moved to Dubai.
The home The Corsi’s have lived in this rented four-bedroom villa in The Lakes for six years. There is an open-plan living-dining room, a separate kitchen plus laundry rooms downstairs; upstairs, one bedroom has been redecorated into an office.
Get the look
Read more from InsideOut magazine: