It's an ear-popping rise up to the 41st floor to the penthouse apartment at Executive Towers where I meet owner Freyan Bieri, a soft-spoken interior designer and mother of two young boys. She greets us with a modest smile, inviting us into the duplex penthouse. Her gentle and diminutive stature seems to belie the style of her home, which is quite bold. Indeed, the first impression is somewhat gallery-esque, with an entrance hall of white walls soaring up to the high ceiling, and large, colourful statement art pieces in all directions fighting for our attention as soon as we walk in the door.
When Indian national Freyan and her Swiss husband Cyrille, a designer for yacht interiors and, more recently, residential properties, purchased their penthouse apartment from Dubai Properties in 2010, it was their first design project together.
'It was just the two of us then,' says Freyan. 'We wanted an apartment, but we chose this one in particular because we wanted some outdoor space. It was one of the few places that had a good amount of outdoor areas. My husband is from Switzerland and has grown up with so much nature around him, and I think he was missing that here. So we try to create a feeling of nature.'
From the open expanse of the entrance, we are guided into the living room area, which is flooded with natural light from several floor-to-ceiling windows, as well as a large terrace complete with sofa seating and a plunge pool. 'One of the major changes we made when we moved in was to replace the access to this terrace with bifold glass doors. We wanted to open it up to flow into the living room,' explains Freyan. This inviting additional space is filled with greenery - large potted plants creating a tropical escape feel, while the plunge pool and custom-designed carved stone feature wall offer a spa-like ambience. Combine this with the surrounding city landmark views and it's a stunning asset to this home.
'The biggest change we made was ripping up all the flooring,' says Freyan. 'We decided on travertine limestone for the main hall and living room space, which we got from Glaze in Sharjah - they have amazing marble,' she says. Other major changes included pulling down a wall in the kitchen to make it open-plan. 'My husband has joinery so most of the furniture pieces are custom made. He designed the dining table himself. He does all the cooking, so he designed the kitchen to his specifications and to create an open entertaining space.' The open-plan kitchen is further expanded by the Jumeirah-facing views.
To keep the open flow feel, the couple also removed the metal railing from the wide marble stairway. They wanted to replace this with glass but the curve of the staircase meant that Perspex was a more practical solution. 'We like the open, clean feeling in this apartment. There is a lot of light and it creates a very spacious flow.'
Freyan says her preferences for interiors has evolved. 'I don't think I have a particular style, but I do like the base to be quite clean and then add big pieces. Originally we were going to do everything in white and then decided it might be too much. I tend to think if the foundation is simple then you can mix in pieces and change the look when you want and that way you never get bored,' she says. 'I find in Dubai there are a lot of patterns going on everywhere and to add more to that can be overwhelming. So I guess I would say my style is clean - well, it was, before children. We started with very minimalist - that was the intention - but after having kids I think our style changed a bit, the artwork got more colourful and we added more fun to the interior.' The best example of this is a table with carved dinosaurs made by a local artist in Dubai, Sameera Ameer from Wild Child Designz. There's also a polar bear bookshelf and of course, very colourful art abounds.
Freyan says some of the art is from local galleries including XVA and Ayam Gallery, but a lot of pieces are from their travels - an urn from Morocco, a bronze chair designed by a Lebanese artist was purchased in L.A. and other pieces from India and Indonesia. 'We have a wooden bowl on the living room table that we got in Bali recently. I like natural products. I love raw wood and fabrics that have a natural texture, so no velvet or synthetics. I love organic shapes and raw finishes. I also like things that are a bit industrial too - not very polished.'
Freyan describes the property as an ideal location, with an excellent layout and great views - from the Burj Khalifa to The World.
'New Year's has been great with the fireworks' she says. But in terms of her design style? 'Essentially, it's clean and natural, with an eclectic flow,' she smiles.
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Explore the Dubai home of an entrepreneur whose business and home decor reflects her love of Indian artistry