Anyone who is a fan of contemporary European design will love statement wallpaper, artisanal accents, colour play and unique curios with quiet character, blended in a way that pops without trying too hard. Not many people can conjure this type of chic yet distinct style effortlessly, yet the home of Nadia and Fabio Sallustio showcases a discerning eye for this type of scheme. At a time when raw industrial and Bali-inspired décor are being embraced by the trend-watchers, their cosy home is rich with a personality that is refreshingly unique and aspirational. ‘I do not follow the tendencies,’ says Nadia, owner of the boutique home store The Den in Dubai’s City Walk, an interior designer, mum of three, and a former art educator in her native country, Belgium. ‘I am a very creative and visual kind of person. When people ask me to work on their interiors, it’s because they like the style of The Den, and this is my style, too, it is not the trends.’
Since the launch of the boutique in 2016, a decade after the couple arrived in Dubai with their firstborn Maya, then just five months, it’s become a source of inspiration for the villa the Sallustio family now call home in Dubai’s leafy suburb The Lakes. With thick, woollen Berber rugs underfoot, eye-catching mid-century-modern furniture, bold wallpaper, handcrafted ceramics, natural materials and a contemporary palette of blush, grey, charcoal and wood tones, this home blends a number of styles, statement pieces and tactile accents seamlessly that creates a look that’s quite inimitable. There’s an attractive mix of industrial accents, chic Belgian notes, family cosiness, holiday-at-home vibes, loft-apartment-bedrooms and contemporary artwork that fill the home with charisma.
When the Sallustio’s moved from The Meadows to The Lakes to be nearer to the kids’ school, they gutted the villa and spent three years transforming the property into a home they would all love, finished with Nadia’s panache for niche décor. ‘Because we moved and launched the business at the same time, The Den came first, before the house décor,’ laughs Nadia. In reality it had to, because the villa needed upgrading before the furnishings and paintwork could be finalised. ‘We broke everything – the windows, the doors – we just kept the four walls! We made a huge transformation, with extensions, floating ceilings, new windows and doors, and putting in the swimming pool.’
A highlight of the restructure is a conservatory-style breakfast room that used to be a backyard patio area. With a striking ceiling and wall of glass and black framework, this custom-made room is flooded with natural light and basks in the sun. In the summer, they cover the glass roof with bamboo, which sends dappled shadows over the sleek marble Saarinen table and industrial-chic grey resin floor. A rustic pop from the basket-weave pendant lights shows Nadia’s knack for blending styles seamlessly.
In the adjacent dining room, the resin floor flows through to a long wood and metal table. On one side, a Sarah Maison Lavoine cabinet in moss green lacquer and raffia poses against a striking honeycomb patterned wallpaper by Cole & Son, creating a beautiful mid-century modern vignette that contrasts well with the industrial centrepiece.
The living room is a warm retreat for the family of five, with feminine tones of white and blush, and soft textures from the white Gervasoni sofa, Berber rug and heavy drapes mixing with a charcoal shelving unit and black, angular tables.
Upstairs, Nadia shows her creative eye for colour and a sense of adventure. Her son Sam Lion (so named after Fabio’s favourite Jean-Paul Belmondo movie character) enjoys a bed fashioned from a wood palette, while a jungle print wallpaper from Pierre Frey and a safari-style director’s chair complete the scene. I got creative with Sam’s bed because I couldn’t find a nice one in Dubai that suited him,’ says Nadia. ‘Even his name Sam Lion has a strong personality, and he likes to build and make things so we didn’t want him to have a boring bedroom.’
The landing features a number of framed Maison Sarah Lavoine posters, a Parisian brand Nadia showcases in her store and has peppered throughout her home – the maison’s pieces are wonderfully bold and playful and add a defined sense of style. From furniture to lights, artwork to paint, she strives to introduce unique brands and statements from Europe to the UAE, offering customers a creative sense of play and colour through design at home.
Nadia’s idea for an independent boutique home store evolved as she matured in Dubai: arriving as a young mum she was initially inspired to create a concept store for children. ‘Somehow the idea stops for a reason – perhaps I wasn’t ready, my English wasn’t good when we moved here and I was only 30. But the concept to bring niche brands from Europe was there. We had three babies and Dubai became home; then when I was 40, I finally said it was time to do something for me.’
With The Den acting as a catalyst, she’s become known as an interior designer with an inimitable European style, and has brought a number of residential, commercial and hospitality projects to life with her distinctive look in the three years since the boutique launched. Now, with her own home a wonderful showcase of how uplifting statement pieces from The Den can work to create a cosy, characterful space, she’s planning on evolving the boutique into a villa-based concept store, with an authentically-decorated homestaged showroom, a holistic café, design studio and even a Pilates studio. This sounds like an immersive design haven, and one we look forward to experiencing.
The owners: Nadia Sallustio is an interior designer and owner of The Den home décor boutique, while her husband Fabio owns a steel trading company, also based in Dubai. They have three children, Maya, 13, Sam Lion, 10, and Jack, age 6.
The home: The Belgian family live in a renovated four-bedroom villa in The Lakes, with two additional dining rooms downstairs added by extension, all decorated in Nadia’s distinct style.
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