The Owners South African interior designer Karen Pissarra has been in Dubai for ten years and her practice DesignK offers residential interior design solutions. Karen and her husband Carlos bought this three-bedroom villa in The Springs, Dubai, in June 2017, after moving from Downtown Burj Residences.

The Home In 2017/18, Karen spent four months renovating the then 10-year-old property. The villa now features an open-plan kitchen-living-dining room, a study, laundry room, powder bathroom, plus three bedrooms (one en suite) upstairs.

Interior designer Karen Pissarra in her home study

As an interior designer, what potential could you see in the house when you bought it?

The house condition was your typical The Springs original build. It had an outdated look, with the bathrooms, kitchen and all areas tiled. There was great potential with this house, as the layout was perfect to transform the ground floor into a combined kitchen, dining and living room area, by removing the wall between the kitchen and the living area. There was well established greenery on both sides of the house, and the house faces north with a magnificent lake view.

Karen's villa features open-plan spaces and a home office designed in the same minimalistic Scandinavian style

What were the main elements you wanted your home to have?

The main element I wanted in the new house was to have an open-plan living, kitchen and dining area. Ample storage space was important to me, too. But, above all, I wanted this to feel like more than a house, it had to become our home.

Your home has a contemporary, minimalistic, calm palette throughout. What inspired your design choices?

I strived to create a very serene and calm space, as I believe your home is integrally connected to all aspects of your being and that your surroundings ultimately affect your mood, well-being and your experience of life.

The colour scheme I selected was mostly greys and whites, which was offset against the warmer wooden oak floors. The design and finishes are modern but by using the right materials I created warm and inviting spaces which are clean and uncluttered. I am exceptionally sensitive to spaces so I wanted to create a tranquil  environment to work in and also to unwind in after work, and entertain friends and family.

Balancing functional, aesthetic and psychical elements of design is key to the creation of appealing, nurturing surroundings. I love creating beautiful sanctuaries that exude tranquillity and joy, and I wanted nothing less for my own home.

The fashionable dining room ceiling light is from Coleurlocale Concept Store

What are your tips for others wanting to create a style like yours at home?

My key tip would be to use neutral tones for the main items and then accessorise with accent colours. Key brands that I’ve used are:

  • Muuto from DTALES for the Bedside lamps
  • Coleurlocale Concept Store for the pendant light in dining room
  • IKEA for the Guest bedroom Bed and Kitchen cabinitery
  • Bagno Design for all bathtoom and kitchen sanitary ware and accessories.
  • Casa Mia for the bathroom floor tiles
  • Floorworld LLC for the vinyl wood flooring elsewhere


Then I’ve accessorised with items from Urban Nest, Maria Magdalene artwork, Nook Concept, Emaan Home, The Bowery Company, JYSK, IKEA, Abode Mode and H&M Home.

The kitchen is a sleek statement in white, while marble adds a luxury finish to the IKEA kitchen units

Did you design and custom-make any pieces in your home?

Yes, I designed quite a few items. As I was unable to find the perfect bar stools for the kitchen in the local market, I designed the oak stools and had them made locally. The living room couch and TV unit, the dining table, the desk in the study as well as the headboard in the master bedroom are also my designs, which were then locally manufactured. These custom-made items really were integral to enhancing the limited space of this villa.  

Using simple shapes and lines, Karen's accessories are styled seamlessly around fixtures. These kitchen bar stools were made bespoke in Dubai

What challenges did you face and how did you overcome them?

The villa has undergone a full renovation with the floors, ceilings and everything in between being redone. The challenges, like any other renovation, were definitely keeping to the budget and the timeline. I think everyone assumes designers have it all sorted, but in reality there are always challenges. We had to change contractor during the process but in the end it all worked out brilliantly. One thing I realised along the way is that it is actually easier to make selections for clients than for your own home because the choices you make are so personal. Things like wiring and plumbing were actually a breeze in this villa and because we had no major problems with these I think we were lucky.

Rounded shapes tie furniture and accents together with organic harmony in the open-plan living-dining room


A simple colour palette creates a calm ambience, while wood adds warmth in this bedroom

How did you successfully create distinct yet seamlessly cohesively-designed areas in the open-plan living/dining/kitchen area?

Custom-made furniture is key to creating a successful open-plan area. Particularly in this case, where the space was limited, these custom designed items really were vital in order to utilise the space and in creating the right mood. The colours and overall look and feel of one area definitely has to complement the others. I also encourage ambient lighting with different light sources and dimmer switches, which look amazing at night.

Describe your favourite room or space in your home...

One of my favourite spaces is the open-plan kitchen as it’s incredibly social to be able to cook whilst entertaining! I adore the large windows overlooking the lake from the dining room and the kitchen.

The office is another room I absolutely love, as it is very calming and soothing and I thoroughly enjoy sitting and working in this space everyday. I must also mention the master bathroom with its unique free-standing bath – perfect for relaxing at the end of a long day.

Round shapes and marble also feature in this bathroom, creating a consistent energy throughout


Karen bought the bathroom sanitary ware from Bagno Design and the floor tiles from Casa Mia

Can you recommend any contractors to other homeowners and designers?

I would definitely recommend Taslih Technical Services Contractors as well as City Palace LLC for all the carpentry and upholstery works in the villa.

What key pieces of advice can you offer other homeowners who are thinking about renovating?

Prepare a mood board of images (Pinterest is a great resource for creating boards), so that the designer/architect has a clear understanding of the exact style you have in mind. Plan ahead and make your product selections early on to prevent any delays later. Contractor selection is very important; try to select the most recommended contractor if your budget allows, as this will reduce stress levels during the process. Be sure to request a detailed contract and do regular site visits, pre-empting any site mistakes to prevent delays for handover.

Photography by Natalee Cocks

Read more from InsideOut magazine:

Be inspired by the artisanal style of this Dubai architect's home

Tour the stunning home of this Indian expat family in Dubai

Check out the winner of the InsideOut Home of the Year award!