Amy & Michael Romkey
Canadian nationals Amy and Michael Romkey have two girls, Harper, 5, and Dylan, 3. Amy is a sales director for a software company and Michael is a business consultant. They bought their five-bedroom villa in Damac Hills off-plan in 2013, and proceeded to give the property a complete renovation when the keys were handed over, creating a sleek space with quality finishes and a beautifully landscaped garden exuding a tropical-holiday-at-home feel.
Their improvements included: knocking down interior walls to create more light and space, new floor tiles from RAK Ceramics throughout, a remodelled staircase with glass and marble, a new kitchen with a Silestone surface from Cosentino, upgraded bathrooms with savvy space-saving ideas, plus a variety of zones in the garden, from al fresco dining to sunken seating by the pool.
The Romkey’s style is clean and uncluttered. Most of the furniture is from BoConcept, while the kids’ bedrooms have furniture from Pottery Barn. Amy is an avid art collector and the paintings add character and colour to each space.
Victoria & Alex Charawani
Green Community, DIP
Ukrainian national Victoria and her British husband Alex have two children, Luca, 8, and Lara, 7. The Charawani family live in Green Community. They moved to Dubai in 2016 from Abu Dhabi, where the couple had lived since meeting there 20 years ago. Alex is the managing partner of his family’s business, Gebal Group, which specialises in engineering play equipment, shading and street furniture.
Victoria and Alex renovated their villa by opening the dark, closed entrance hall onto the L-shaped reception rooms beyond, laying new floor tiles, installing a Goettling kitchen and landscaping the garden. Their kids’ bathrooms have been redesigned with colourful metro-brick wall tiles – dark blue for Luca and vibrant red for Lara – which add contemporary character without dating. Outside, Alex designed a contemporary aluminum pergola with laser-cut leaf patterns providing dappled shade over the barbecue.
Victoria upcycled a number of pieces to suit their new home, including sofas and chairs, an ottoman, and a 20-year-old mirror, reupholstering and painting them to match the scheme that now surrounds them. She and Alex designed a few key pieces and had them custom made, such as two blue velvet wingback armchairs and their asymmetrical wood and glass-top dining table.
The Charawanis remodelling of the property has created a more open, light-filled layout, while their furniture and décor presents a consistently crisp white palette with bursts of colour.
Kate & Ross Smith
British couple Kate and Ross Smith met and married in Dubai; they have a 15-month-old daughter called Sadie. They moved to Damac Hills last year and rent the property. Ross founded the point-of-sale company iPad POS Middle East two years ago, and Kate works with him as a business development manager.
The Smiths’ style is clean and minimalistic, with a largely monochrome colour palette. Kate shows flair for this contemporary style, dressing their home with accents of wood, which adds warmth, and accessorising with stylistically framed family portraits, which adds a personal touch. The neutral tones complement the natural light that floods in, which attracted the couple to the area.
As renters, Kate and Ross looked for styles of furniture that would be versatile in case they move, while also matching their taste. Their home features a mix of brands, including IKEA, The One, Marina Home, Crate & Barrel, IDdesign and Jysk, while all the bedding and many home accessories come from British brands that Kate favours and has brought to the UAE. Adding accent wallpaper in the bedrooms, keeping the scheme consistent, and landscaping the garden have helped make their rental property feel like home, without making costly changes.
Claudia van der Werf & Michiel Schröeder
Fairways West, The Greens
Dutch couple Claudia van der Werf and Michiel Schröeder have lived in Fairways West, The Greens, for six years. Together, they founded the furniture rental company Desert River in 2004. They display an eye for quirky collectibles and vintage pieces, creating an eclectic home full of character.
While Claudia and Michiel bought the three-bedroom apartment six years ago, they have made improvements gradually, finishing it last year by remodelling the bathrooms and adding the crittal window in the home office (which was formerly a bedroom). Originally featuring a narrow hallway that led to the living space and a closed kitchen, they opened the kitchen onto the living and dining areas to soak up the panoramic views of Emirates Golf Club from the moment you enter.
The couple transformed the WC (off the hallway) and the master en-suite into contemporary hotel-at-home shower rooms, with statement handcrafted geometric floor tiles from Mosaico adding colour – infused with a vintage patina – to the atmospheric spaces.
They own a number of unique pieces that add character to their home such as a pendant from a London Concorde hanger, a serving trolley from a defunct Canadian airline, an original Wurlitzer jukebox and vintage-designed Campbell’s soup tins. From Desert River, items from Fatboy, Fermob, Filini and Sirius pepper the apartment and display their love for pieces that are design led with a difference.
Neda Kavousi & Stephen Venney
The couple moved to Dubai in 2005 and have lived in Victory Heights for the past two years with their boys, Ethan, 7, and Arad, 5. Iranian national Neda Kavousi is an architect, while Stephen, from Ireland, is the MENA operations director for Mace, a consultancy and construction company.
When Neda and Stephen bought this four-bedroom villa, the interiors and finishings looked dated, so they renovated the ground floor, opening the kitchen onto the living room by knocking down an interior wall, adding brick-effect wall tiles, and replacing the floor tiles with a crisp white base. They transformed the bathrooms into Asian-inspired spa-at-home retreats and landscaped the garden with Indonesian and Thailand inspirations.
A keen artist, Neda creates sculptural artworks made from mixed media, displayed in her home as gallery-inspired installations or as a decorative accent on a wall. Other items of interest include cowbells from Iran, a wood bottle rack repurposed as a planter and large frames with the mirror removed.
A notable piece of furniture she designed is the living room coffee table. Once cast and set, she chiselled chips into the concrete top to add character. In the hallway there are two shelves made with wood from Iran: one features a mirror framed with card Neda repurposed from furniture packaging and painted yellow; the other features ceramic disks she made that flutter up the wall. Thanks to Neda’s talent for art and design, her home boasts handcrafted pieces, unique Iranian accents, plus a tropical Thai-inspired garden.
Valentina Piscopo & Michael Ogden
Italian Valentina Piscopo and her British husband Michael Ogden have lived in their rented three-bed villa in Arabian Ranches for one year. Valentina works in the design field, while Michael is a lawyer.
Valentina’s 15 years spent living in Kenya has influenced her home style, and many key pieces have travelled with her to Rome, London and now Dubai. These include a life-size Kuba-patterned engraved wood panther and the daybed sofa in the living room, accent furniture in the bedrooms, plus ornaments, baskets and juju hats used to decorate nooks and walls.
Valentina has designed a number of key piece, which have been custom-made in London or Dubai. These include: in the dining room, the shabby-chic table, matching cabinet and large round mirror; in the guest bedroom, the four-poster bed, the lamp shelves fashioned from wood and leather straps, the ceiling light wrapped with yellow yarn; in the master bedroom, the low wooden bed complete with a rattan headboard. Michael assisted with designing the office desk, inspired by an airplane wing. His photos of animals in Africa and drawings are framed in the living room.
A number of items come from the Dubai-based ethical furniture boutique Tribe, where Valentina was general manager for three years. She’s chosen pieces carefully, with natural materials and colours, handcrafted authenticity, and tactile richness, to complement her existing African furnishings and accessories.
French-Moroccan couple Kenza Bekri and Naoufal have two boys, Nael, 4, and Leith, 2, and have lived in their rented villa in Arabian Ranches since 2015. Naoufal works as a strategy director in a UAE-based bank, while Kenza has recently launched Dubai Luxury Hunters Home, offering furniture design and upcycling advice.
While chic French furniture is key to her overall scheme, Kenza shows a talented creative side with upcycled pieces and statement wallpapers, tied together with aplomb. Her French roots were a big influence when it came to her furnishing choices, especially in the family’s living and dining room, which feature pieces with classic French-style silhouettes and honey-wood tones. In these rooms, she says rugs lend a rough texture underfoot that remind her of the materials found in Morocco, while the Spanish café style set-up she’s created in the Pergola outside reminds her of family trips to Spain.
Kenza has an eye for upcycling; notable pieces include the pre-loved desk and the Marina Home cabinet in the family room, and the Flamant table in the dining room, which she stripped of paint to reveal the natural wood underneath, to match the scheme. Items she has designed and had custom-made include the Japanese-style bed in her bedroom.
While she prefers to have a serene, calm palette at home, she’s added character with statement wallpaper, seen in the family room and staircase/landing – stepping outside of her comfort zone, she says.
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