After meeting in 2001, long-term renters Alex Charawani and his wife Victoria waited 16 years before investing in a family home, with their two children Luca and Lara and Maltese dog Dexter. They finally took the plunge onto the property ladder buying a spacious villa on the outskirts of Dubai, in the peaceful, lushly landscaped suburb of Green Community, and have created a beautiful home that is perfect for family life, entertaining friends and business meetings.
‘When you live here [in the UAE as an expat] you realize it’s a transient place but there are also people like us who live here in a transient state,’ says British national Alex Charawani, the managing partner of Gebal Group, a leading supplier and installer of play areas, shade structures and street furniture in the UAE. ‘We had rented for a long time in Abu Dhabi even though the UAE is definitely home for us, and knowing this prompted us to buy a more permanent place.’ Despite the headquarters of Alex’s business being in Abu Dhabi, he and Victoria chose Green Community for its convenient proximity to the kids’ school in Barsha, and the friendly atmosphere of the area, where Luca and Lara can ride their bikes and visit friends in the neighbourhood.
Even while renting, Victoria expressed her passion for home styling and design by upgrading the interiors of their apartment or villa beyond a mere lick of paint. Over the years they have renovated kitchens and bathrooms, replaced flooring, and added a pool to the garden; they never let ownership stand in the way of feeling at home. With this kind of homemaking experience, Victoria and Alex knew exactly what they wanted from their new property in Green Community and spent just three months transforming it into the perfect residence.
‘I have always been passionate about interior décor, and even when it was just the two of us in an apartment I would do things to make it feel like home,’ says Ukrainian national Victoria. ‘Before we bought the house we had a clear idea of what we wanted to do. We love open-plan, straight lines and natural light, so the more windows the better, and we wanted funky, cool bathrooms. When we stay at hotels we always judge them by their bathrooms, and we wanted this kind of luxurious look.’
They set to work upgrading the interiors by replacing the standard small and beige floor tiles with large, sleek white tiles from RAK Ceramics; they widened and squared the rounded archways in the entrance lobby creating contemporary open doorways that take you through to the crisp, sophisticated set-ups in the L-shaped reception rooms beyond, which offers dining, a formal morning room and a family TV lounge; the bathrooms now have a fashionable industrial look to them with floating units, concrete-look tiles and mosaics, while the kids’ en-suite bathrooms sport fashionable subway tiles – mature navy blue for Luca and a bold red for Lara.
There is a distinct air of elegance, all the while imbued with comfort for everyday family life, when you look upon the reception rooms, which are chicly furnished in white, pops of cobalt blue, a mix of Ethan Allen and custom-made furniture. The couple designed the glass-topped dining table with an asymmetrical criss-cross dark wood base, complementing the smaller version in the entrance hall, while the dining chairs, reupholstered with button tufting and nailhead detail, match the classic tailoring of the sofa in the adjacent formal lounge. Opposite, two beautifully crafted custom wingback chairs with nailhead detail steal the scene in cobalt blue. This scheme is all about comfortable glamour, and the Charawani’s use this area to entertain friends and to enjoy the morning sun which floods in through multiple French windows. ‘The light in the morning is amazing in this room,’ says Victoria. ‘The Ethan Allen sofa was the inspiration behind this space, so we had Everest Furniture Factory reupholster the dining chairs to match and had the wingback chairs made because we knew exactly what we wanted.’
With the scheme so carefully considered, it’s easy to miss the small white piano hiding behind the sofa. So the kids can practise with fewer distractions, glass-panelled white doors have been added to seal off the TV room. Here, Victoria reupholstered their 10-year-old leather sofas from IDdesign in the same cobalt blue velvet as the wingback armchairs, giving them an instant luxe lift, updated a brown pouf with button tufted linen, kept to the same tones of white and silver, and featured the same ceiling light Ω from Huda Lighting - as in the morning room. A fun black-and-white photo shoot of Luca and Lara in Hollywood-glam style are framed on the wall, lending a personal touch that’s still in keeping with the sophisticated décor. ‘Our home is "us"; it’s a really good expression of our character,’ says Alex. ‘I love that at any time of the day I can have people over for business meetings because with a house like this it’s always immaculate and presentable.
‘Because we had such a clear vision, when we moved in the villa felt exactly like home for us, as if we had lived here for a long time already. A year before we bought, we knew what kind of kitchen we wanted, something timeless and light, and a long island because it’s also a room where we gather as a family and we use the kitchen so much. As a contractor, my business builds public parks and play areas for schools, so I recognise quality and the experience we had with Goettling, who provided the kitchen, was brilliant and they really tailored the kitchen to suit us. I’m glad we didn’t compromise here.’
Outside, Alex made use of his industry experience and created a large yet unassuming mashrabiya-esque pergola over the barbecue area, which casts ambient patterned shadows on the patio. The seating areas with blue upholstery tie in with the interior scheme and are perfectly positioned so they can be seen from inside through the French windows. Next to this, a putting green is a novel addition but one that’s frequently used by Luca and his father, who is a former Abu Dhabi and UAE golfing champion. ‘I love having this shared hobby with Luca and having a putting green at home means we can have this quality time together,’ he adds. ‘We have been very lucky to find this plot, it’s spacious and it’s very private, lined by hibiscus which is where the street gets its name from. It suits us perfectly'.
The owners: Alex and Victoria Charawani have been in the UAE since 1993 and 2000 respectively, and they have two children, Luca, 9, and Lara, 7. Alex is the managing partner of Gebal Group, founded by his father in 1979, a supplier and installer of play areas, shade structures and street furniture.
The home: After many years renting in Abu Dhabi, in 2016 they bought their first family home in Green Community, Dubai. The four-bedroom villa has an entry foyer leading to an open-plan dining/morning room, a family lounge, a home office, a closed kitchen, contemporary bathrooms throughout and a garden with a barbecue, putting green and a pool.
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