Anna and Rudy Bier have been living in Dubai for 15 years. Rudy likes to say he met Anna ‘fresh off the boat’, as she had been in Dubai for a month when they met, (despite the fact that he had only been here for three months himself!). Belgian-born Rudy grew up in England and Anna is Russian but grew up in Uzbekistan. Both worked in hospitality when they first arrived in Dubai, but Anna eventually shifted to real estate, where she has been working with Edwards and Towers for the past 13 years. Through this role she developed an interest in interior design.
‘Obviously I visited a lot of homes furnished and unfurnished, and have come across homes with beautiful, tasteful design and some crazy ones too, but the real interest came about when we finally decided to buy a house and planned the renovations and interiors for our own home,’ explains Anna. ‘That took over my world and got me fully involved in the construction right from the beginning, from breaking down walls to furnishing every corner .’
The couple had lived in a few different areas in Dubai, with one thing in common. From The Springs to the Marina to The Palm, the areas were always brand new when they moved in, but as Anna explains, ‘when we imagined family life we wanted somewhere well established, lots of greenery, we didn’t mind an old build, which usually has more space, flexibility and a larger garden area, which they wanted for the children.
Enter Aster and Alex, a little girl and boy the couple adopted from Ethiopia in 2016. Once they became a family, the Biers wanted to move to somewhere that really felt like a home. ‘It was a long- term dream,’ says Anna. ‘I think it was a benchmark over 15 years to get to the Arabian Ranches and when it was time, we finally materialised that dream and bought a property here.’
The home was stripped down to the walls, so they could start from scratch and add an extension. Then they called on Marco and Cinzia Tedeschi of Smart Renovations to lend their expertise in the redesigning of the space. The kitchen was a focus and they redid it completely to open up the whole area. 'Marco was a genius at this point, finding ways to create space and design it to accommodate all of our requests. We cook a lot together, host a lot of parties and generally spend a lot of time in the kitchen. It’s a special space for us,’ says Anna. ‘We always hang around in the kitchen when friends come over, so we decided to make it a focal point and installed a double-sized white quartz counter top to sit around. This is where so many memories are made, it’s really the heart of the house.’ They also extended the kitchen to place the dining area alongside it – rather than in the next room. ‘This is better for cooking and serving, and the kids have their play area and seating area in here too.’
Anna admits from the start that she mostly sticks to blues and greys, which is reflected in the colour choice for the kitchen cabinets, adorned with different brand handles to add some charm. 'The kitchen is IKEA but with recommendations from Smart Renovation we managed to execute finishings that made the kitchen more bespoke and more to our taste.' While the flooring across the entire home is Circle Wood Grey from RAK Ceramics, the kitchen floor tile, which Anna sourced online, was a departure from her comfort zone to make a fun statement.
There’s also a style contrast with an antique sideboard that Anna picked up with the intention to apply chalk paint and adapt it to their style, but she changed her mind. ‘That was supposed to be one of my upcycle projects but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I really love the history it brings to our home. I have lots of glassware and crystal from family and I was always running away from that style of old cabinets filled with glasses, but now I guess I’m at the age that I appreciate it.’
The adjoining kids’ eating area is decorated with colourfully woven baskets from Ethiopia, which adds a real pop of colour to the overall space, as do the original Tin tin posters hanging gallery-style over the dining table. Rudy’s father was a big collector and the life-size wooden Tin tin greeting guests at the front door proves it. ‘Through our travels we have tried to collect lots of things. We brought pieces back from Ethiopia to incorporate the children’s heritage into the design of the home – as well as the Belgian posters, rugs from Uzbekistan and art from England and Bruges – to reflect our multicultural family roots.
You get a sense of what she’s talking about even more in the living room, where a series of classic paintings are arranged above the sofa. ‘When my husband’s parents passed there was a collection of paintings in storage, so once we got the house we brought them back to Dubai,’ says Anna.
‘I’m a lover of art – all kinds, and so when I unpacked the paintings I thought something has to be done with these. While they are very different to the rest of the interiors and atmosphere, I came across the idea of a gallery wall and thought instead of trendy pop art, I could try these. I had laid out eight paintings on the floor in front of me, so I just walked up the stairs and took a photo of them and that’s exactly how I hung them on the wall. Again, it’s a bit of heritage for us. We are a family that was built in Dubai – we don’t really have our original homes anymore. For us, the UAE is home so we wanted a bit of everything representing our multinational family here.’
A separate TV room is adjacent to the living room, which was designed by Smart Renovation specifically to be detached. They built an extra wall and a bespoke floor-to-ceiling entertainment unit so that the television is not in view of the living room, yet the open-plan feel is maintained. The sitting room highlights Anna’s favourite blue-grey colour combination with a sofa from Marina Home and a patterned carpet from West Elm. But it also showcases her creative approach. She wanted a Fornasetti wallpaper for the whole wall, but there were some obstacles to the installation so she improvised by cutting it into pieces and setting it in three frames for a very effective visual impact.
Upstairs in the master bedroom, ‘Evening Light’, an alluring Jotun shade of paint covers a feature wall behind the bed to make the ornately carved, over-sized headboard from Art and Craft really pop. ‘I’m always driven by shades of grey and blue, no yellow undertones whatsoever!’ says Anna, as she explains that she had the desk from Marina Home for a while but decided to paint it to match the walls. ‘There are pieces that you want to keep, maybe you’re attached to them or they’re good quality, but it’s a new interior style so you give it a new life!’
The guest bedroom has a very simple, classic white set up with some posters and accents reflecting the last few summer holidays spent in the south of France. Connecting the kids’ bedroom, also a simple affair with a majlis and reading corner, to the guest room is a Jack and Jill bathroom with a lovely relaxed, beachy feel. 'We worked together with Cinzia from Smart Renovations to choose the materials and combine some rarer items from Italy and items sourced from locally based retailers.' Ceramic tiles shipped from Italy cover the floor all the way up through the shower for a very European look. With a walk-in shower and standing bath from Bagno Design, it’s a really fresh space.
It’s all a bit if a whirlwind for Anna, who has learned so much through the whole process. 'Marco and Cinzia really inspired me during the renovation and design of the house, and fully involved me in the process to the point where they suggested I enroll myself in an interior design school. During the renovations, I came up with some ideas and I thought I had created something new – but then I realised it had all been done before,’ she laughs, ‘so you really need to study to get it right.’
‘The National Design Academy in Dubai came highly recommended, so I had no doubt that’s what I had to do and when I enquired I discovered that the deadline for applicants was the following day – so it all happened very quickly! I signed up and was lucky to have the great support of friends and family, studying for the first time after so many years! With a husband, two children and a full-time job, finding time to study was challenging, but it was fun. Alison (Senior Tutor Alison Grace-Gahan) was an absolutely amazing teacher, she’s so inspiring and I’m so grateful that I ended up in her hands. It’s been a great journey.’
The intense three-month course gave Anna an entry level certification for interior design. And after getting so involved with the rebuild and interior design of her own home, Anna is now launching herself into the interiors fold. ‘I’m putting myself out there, on social media and meeting a few clients for consultations. I have a few projects already and it’s very exciting.
‘I would say my own style is classic with a modern influence, but the huge impact of multinational, multicultural references here in Dubai influences me a lot too. When I am sourcing for clients with different briefs I come across so many new things – and now there are so many more unique shops in Dubai, as well as online, and it just stimulates my imagination and creativity even more.
‘It’s something that really excites me. Real estate has been great for 13 years and I’m not leaving it entirely, but working with interiors definitely brings a sparkle to my eye. It’s what makes me happiest – at least that’s what my husband says.’
The owners Anna, a real estate professional and newly qualified interior designer, and Rudy Bier, founder of Kinetic Business Solutions, live in Arabian Ranches with their two children Aster and Alex, both 4 years old, their cats Frankie and Lola, and two tortoises.
The home Their three-bedroom home in Arabian Ranches was stripped down to the walls and renovated exactly to their specifications in collaboration with Smart Renovations.