There is rarely a day that goes by without Natalia Vasileva feeling the sand between her toes as she strolls along the beach, or casting her fishing line into the sea to catch supper, so finding a house directly on the beach was top of her list of priorities when she and her daughters moved to Dubai nine years ago. ‘It’s not an understatement to say that I am a fanatic fisherman,’ Natalia laughs. ‘I adore swimming in the sea too... It’s a big part of my life.’
This passion for the sea is also a major inspiration for Natalia’s decor choices in her home. De Gournay’s hand-painted Fishes pearlescent wallpaper, used on a feature wall in the hallway, was one of her first investments. ‘That paper is amazing,’ says Natalia. ‘It’s like having my own aquarium in the house!’
But this home didn’t happen overnight: in fact, Natalia and her daughters lived in the house for seven years before she decided the time was right to make some structural and decor changes. Over the following five months, the house received a stunning makeover, and Natalia made sure she was on-site every day to oversee the work. ‘I love the process of property development,’ she says. ‘I’ve done it a few times back in Russia, and it’s especially rewarding doing it for yourself because you know it’s you that’s going to enjoy the end result, not someone else!’
First on the list was the kitchen, which was a dark, awkward space with two small windows and three entrances. Natalia closed off the windows and one of the doors, then knocked down the wall that separated the kitchen and dining room, replacing it with sliding doors, all of which made the space much bigger and more functional. She chose a solid wood kitchen by Italian brand Scavolini, teaming it with a cooker hood and bar stools from the US. She also opted for two-tone cabinets instead of matching units. ‘I like mixing things up,’ she explains. ‘I would never buy shoes, a bag and belt of the same material, style and brand, for instance. It’s about combining different looks, and I like to do that with interior design too.’
This approach to decorating is evident in every room. There’s a classical vase here, a contemporary artwork there – an eclectic mix that’s deliberate and painstakingly put together. The first item that Natalia bought for the living room was her cherished Ralph Lauren sofa – a tale of opposites in itself, with a traditional silhouette upholstered in a modern denim fabric. ‘It was this blend of super casual with a classic look that really drew me to it,’ Natalia says.
Upstairs in the master bedroom the story continues, with a huge, ornate Ralph Lauren solid wood bed as the room’s centrepiece, with custom-made white louvered cabinets bringing a much more New England coastal feel to the room. ‘I wanted to continue the colonial theme, to complement the bed, but I didn’t want it to be dark, or too matching, so I designed these cupboards myself and got them made by a local craftsman,’ she says.
Mementoes from her travels can be spotted throughout the Palm Jumeirah villa: most of the artwork is from Thailand, some vases are from China, the zebra rug was purchased on a trip to South Africa, as were many of the horns that feature in the decor. ‘We have two Capricorns and a Taurus living in this house so the horns seemed fitting accessories, and I love their power,’ Natalia explains. Other accessories include those by designers such as Jonathan Adler, Seletti, Missoni and Pols Potten.
‘I choose things that lift my mood and give a nice, playful atmosphere to the house,’ she says. ‘I’m not a fan of order and symmetry. I prefer to create my own space and I love to see people smile when they see some of the funny things I’ve collected for my home.’
The Owner Russian lawyer Natalia Vasileva moved to Dubai nine years ago from Moscow, and lives with her two daughters, Alexandra, 17, and Irina, 11. They also have two Biewer Terriers called Charly and Mia.
The Home Enjoying a beachfront location, this four-bedroom detached villa on Palm Jumeirah has recently been remodelled, and the garden extended. Downstairs, there is a TV room, cloakroom and open-plan living and dining room, which opens to the kitchen, while upstairs there are four spacious en suite bedrooms.
Get the look
Clockwise from top left: Banana leaf print paper from Etsy, from Dh95 per roll, Ceramic vase from Zara Home, Dh285, Dining chair from Marina Home, Dh1,450, Clifford Sofa from Indigo Living, Dh5,680, Carie mirror from THE One, Dh1,495.
Styling by Charlotte Butterfield.
Read about the winner of our Home of the Year 2016 here