With a passion for upcycling furniture and an eye for complementing textures and tones, mum-of-two Kenza Bekri wasn’t afraid to go several extra miles to create the look she wanted for her family home in Dubai’s leafy Arabian Ranches.
After several creatively challenging projects involving sanding, painting, designing and customising, her rented three-bedroom home now features unique pieces that fit perfectly with her French-Moroccan scheme.
‘I’ve realized that I am blessed to have grown up in two different countries, each with their own strong cultural legacy,’ says Kenza, who moved to Dubai with her husband Naoufal five years ago. ‘I have this cultural heritage from Morocco which gives me a lot in terms of sensory inspiration and feelings from patterns, fabrics and textures, and this is very different to the classical French style that I also love. When you take a little bit of Morocco’s Oriental style and polish it with European clean lines then you create something different, which is always an advantage.’
We see this clearly in the family’s dining room, where the rough texture of sisal rugs are felt underfoot and mix with classic Louis XVI dining chairs and chic wooden furniture from Flamant. ‘Sisal is a challenging material but I chose it because it reminds me of Morocco,’ Kenza adds. ‘Even the French furniture in this room has a roughness to it which you find there. I like that it looks French but feels Moroccan!’
Once black, the honey tones and untreated, raw finish of the dining table was achieved through a long process to find a table that was spot on, one that would match Kenza’s caramel-coloured classic sideboard and antique-style wood features of the dining chairs. After a fruitless hunt in the UAE, she bought a black table from Flamant carved in the correct style but in the wrong colour, with the aim of sanding the wood to bring out its natural hues. The simple idea soon became a much bigger undertaking, as the wood was stained deep into the grain.
‘I had to go through a long process of painting the table to soak up the dark stain and then sanding it to reach this honey colour that I was searching for. A lot of work went into this!’ recalls Kenza, who is adept at upcycling and salvaging pre-loved furniture. Next door in the family room, she has a beautiful pre-loved wooden desk that now boasts an artisanal look, which she achieved by sanding and painting to reveal a more rustic character. Outside, the pergola features a coffee table fashioned from an old cable spool salvaged from a construction site. She’s also designed the master bedroom’s bespoke bed in a low-level Japanese style after another fruitless search for what she wanted.
It’s this kind of passion and zeal to find or create the perfect piece that’s led the home enthusiast to offer her talent for upcycling and transforming furniture to others, through her fledgling business Dubai Luxury Hunters Home. ‘You can’t find everything you want on the market and the outcome of upcycled furniture or a custom-made piece is always 10 times more unique,’ says Kenza, who worked as a sourcing manager before having her two sons, Nael and Leith. ‘You won’t find the kinds of chair, desk, cabinet, and table that I have at home readymade in a store, because I’ve altered and upgraded them to fit my home and my style. The idea of Dubai Luxury Hunters Home is not about luxury being expensive but about the concept of luxury being unique and comfortable.’
This is the family’s second property in Arabian Ranches, chosen for the layout and the ample natural light that floods in through large windows. In the living-dining room she’s accentuated the warm, airy brightness provided by the wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling windows with a soft, creamy colour palette and natural wood tones. Large indoor plants add a tropical touch and an interior wall of rough brickwork breathes an outdoor-indoor appeal around the room, which creates a calm, soothing space, emphasised further when the sheer curtains are drawn back to reveal the abundance of greenery in their garden. ‘I love neutral tones and I didn’t want to go crazy with the colour palette here,’ explains Kenza. ‘The main point is for the room to look soothing and relaxing, not aggressive.’
Elsewhere, she’s experimented with concrete styles, strong patterns and trending home fashions. In the family room she’s papered the wall with a bold concrete breeze-block look for an industrial warehouse effect, while the master bedroom features a wallpaper with a smoother concrete finish for a softer ambience. ‘I love the concrete wallpaper in the family room because it really took me out of my comfort zone,’ she explains. ‘For me, concrete has an energy that is very positive and active, and when I enter a warehouse for a workshop I feel like it really engages me. I also like how it can be a blank canvas, encouraging creativity. In the family room, the concrete wallpaper makes the space look bigger and gives it another dimension, it’s very effective.’
She’s used wallpaper to create a sense of space and height in the stairway, too, with a distinct black and white geometric climbing the walls, drawing the eye up the stairs with its shock of pattern. ‘The stairs are like a junction in the house, yet even so there is flow with the lines in the pattern driving the design and the journey up and down the stairs,’ she says.
On the landing we see another side to Kenza’s character, with a wall of framed Vogue covers and icons such as Marilyn Monroe and Frida Kahlo. The kids’ rooms also show off pops of personality, decorated in trending home fashions that create cute yet chic spaces, balancing both child and adult sensibilities.
Consistency is very important to Kenza, not just between the boys’ rooms but throughout the house, so even here the base of her sons’ rooms is neutral and layered with natural textures.
‘For Nael’s bedroom I wanted to do something that would match his age and be quite fun, so the idea of tribal was very deliberate. However, I didn’t want everything to be in this trend, and with the natural rug and textures I think I have mixed the style of his room with the main elements of our house – Moroccan and Parisian and tactility – in a harmonious way.
‘I am really happy with the kids’ rooms – because they are happy! This was the goal but it wasn’t expected because at their age they don’t need to appreciate the décor in their rooms. When they said, ‘wow, I like it’, then that was amazing. If I can reach the heart of my kids then I feel like I can reach anything.’
Take a video tour...
Kenza's creative home become one of only seven shortlisted for the InsideOut Home of the Year 2019 award earlier this year. Check out all the homes and the awards night here and watch this Home of the Year video tour to see more of her home:
The Owners Kenza Bekri, pictured, and her husband Naoufal have two boys, Nael, age five, and Leith, who is nearly three. The French-Moroccan couple moved to Dubai five years ago. Naoufal works in the banking industry and Kenza is an interior creative and stylist, follow @dubai_luxury_hunters_home on Instagram.
The Home Their rented three-bedroom villa in Arabian Ranches features a harmonious mix of French and Moroccan décor, with key pieces of furniture upgraded or designed by Kenza.
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