Christmas really is my favourite time of year,’ enthuses Louise Mamarbachi. ‘I love everything about it – from the anticipation, preparations and traditions to the big day itself.’ Indeed, as early as September, this enterprising mother of three is busy hand-making cards, picking up little gifts for family and friends (‘my poor husband Jade is always the last one I buy for!’), and making lists in anticipation of the approaching festive season. By early December, the scent of pine fills the air in the family home as the huge Christmas tree takes pride of place in the living area, and the house is decked with garlands, decorations and festive greenery.
This year promises to be extra special for the family, because not only will 10-month-old baby Jack be celebrating with his parents and big sisters Milla and Emilie for the first time, but it will also be the Mamarbachis’ first Christmas in their new Umm Suqeim home.
‘We moved here from Jumeirah 1 in August because we needed more space for our growing family, and liked the fact that the children would be able to enjoy the community pool,’ says Louise. ‘We were especially attracted to this villa because it has such high ceilings and an open layout that makes it feel really light and airy, yet the garden at the back is very quiet and private.’
While no major renovating has taken place, Louise’s signature colour palette – muted, soft, calm tones – is much in evidence throughout, apart from at Christmas when splashes of red and green bring a festive flavour to the scheme. ‘I want it to feel especially warm and cosy for all of us at this time of year,’ she explains, and indeed the decorations incorporate an easy mix of grown-up silver and white baubles and bows with cute decorations that the children love.
‘We’ve already established seasonal traditions that are special to us,’ she continues. ‘Jade’s family is originally from Syria where the main celebrations take place on Christmas Eve, so now we have special presents for the children to open on that day as well. They each get something to wear, something to read, something to eat and a decoration to hang on the tree.’
On Christmas day itself, the family join friends for breakfast on the beach, before heading back home for a big lunch (‘either turkey, goose or beef – and always Brussels sprouts, roast potatoes and all the trimmings!’). Later on, the family open presents, Skype far-flung relatives overseas, play games and visit friends, before settling down for a quiet evening at home.
And once the children are tucked up in bed, another tradition takes place. ‘I always insist Jade watches Love Actually with me on Christmas night,’ Louise laughs. ‘It’s something I used to do with my sisters, and to me it’s the perfect end to a perfect day!’
Louise Mamarbachi is a freelance writer with a blog called The Gift Paper (thegiftpaper.com), which seeks out unusual presents. She is married to Jade, who works in financial communications, and they have three children – Milla, five; Emilie three; and Jack, 10 months. They moved to Dubai from the UK in 2008.
This Umm Suqeim villa has an open-plan layout downstairs incorporating a hall and office space, sitting room and dining area, with a separate kitchen, and cloakroom. Upstairs are four bedrooms – one of which is used as a playroom – a family bathroom, and en suite leading off from the master bedroom.