As an architect and a talented artist, Neda Kavousi could instantly see the potential that this five-bedroom villa in Victory Heights possessed when they choose it for their new family home in 2017. When they decided to move from The Springs to a larger house, the villa won them over with its gardens on all sides, a swimming pool, and its capacity for open-plan living.
'I could see that the building was in good shape, even though I didn't like the closed kitchen or the tiles,' says Neda, who has transformed the ground floor into a contemporary, light-filled, open-plan living space with natural tones and textured brick walls that have a rustic, inside-outside appeal. 'I started sketching my ideas to remove walls, open things up and push things back - and I knew I could make it more than it was.'
With a fresh base palette of white with warm wood tones, plenty of plants and artisanal accents, their home is now a welcoming space full of character and eye-catching details. In the entrance hall two tactile, artistic design features, made by Neda, are instant conversation starters. On the left, she's framed a mirror with corrugated cardboard that she salvaged from the packaging of a new bed that had been delivered. Painted yellow and set atop a slice of caramel-coloured mulberry wood that she sourced from her home country, Iran, complete with natural cracks in the grain, the first feature you see is a wonderful introduction to her sense of ingenuity and passion for texture and materials.
Ahead, at the foot of the stairs, the other half of the mulberry trunk is mounted on Perspex legs, while above white pieces of hand-formed porcelain flutter across the wall. 'I love these features, they have real depth to them,' says the amateur artist. 'The porcelain pieces look like they are flowering from the wall, especially once I added the greenery in between them. I love experimenting like this.'
Another highlight is the handcrafted concrete coffee table in the living room, a focal point with distinct chips that reveal the interior texture of the concrete top. 'I found a contractor in Al Quoz where they know how to work with concrete and they made this cast from my design,' explains Neda, who added paper to sections of the cement to make parts of the top weaker and easier to chip. 'They were shocked when I came in and started chiselling at the cast they had just made, but I love how you can see the texture inside. I had a lot of fun making this, playing with the design and letting the materials reveal their character.'
Neda and her husband Stephen Venney, who works as the operations manager on the project One Za'abeel, met in Dubai 17 years ago and soon decided to make the city known for its originality and inventiveness within the building industry- their home. While Neda left her job in architecture to raise their sons, now aged 8 and 6, her passion for design never ceased.'I enjoy designing furniture and I have so many ideas,' she says. 'My art pieces are very philosophical and very much a lyrical translation of a feeling or a thought I had.'
In the dining room, a yellow and blue ombre stoneware mosaic that she fired with sand in the kiln reflects an abstract view of beach and sea and hangs between a twin set of vintage cowbells from Iran; nearby, a sculptural piece she made is inspired by a famous poem by the 13th-century Persian poet Rumi; in the living room, the sculptural bust of a woman leans towards a bird perched on her shoulder, as if listening to its whispered song. Although the lightbulb overhead is bare, Neda has created a striking feature on the wall beside the bust, using the black flex to form the abstract outline of a face, fusing her artwork with the interior décor.
When they moved in, she also turned her attention to interior architecture. After removing the interior walls of the kitchen to create an open cooking space, the living room lost its only wall suitable for a TV, one without large windows bathing the space with light.
'I always hated houses - even our own home in The Springs- where you can see the untidy wires around a TV,' says Neda. Preferring a cleaner look, she designed a partition wall in front of one of the windows to house the TV and hide unsightly wires, with access to the controls at the back. 'I didn't want to block the window completely, and this design still allows the light to come into the room. I had this idea in my mind to have lots of space so the room feels open and comfortable.'
As well as the mulberry wood and cowbells, she's worked in other elements that are infused with a nostalgic sense of home. 'The brick walls downstairs remind me of my childhood, of my grandma's house, which had old brick walls with chipped plaster. I loved how you could see the texture of the materials.'
In the master bedroom, she's painted a mural of mountains with shades of grey fading into a cloudy haze. 'I grew up in a city where from any direction you can see the mountains, and this is something I miss here. I wanted to bring this into our home and create a view like the mountains are never-ending.
'For me, good design is not about how much money you spend but how creative you can be. I love all the things that we have in our home because every piece tells a story. They are not there because they are fashionable, but they are pure, honest pieces of design that bring peace and harmony to our home.'
THE OWNERS: Neda Kavousi and her husband Stephen Venney have two boys, Ethan, 8, and Arad, 6. Neda is an architect and Stephen is the operations director at Mace International.
THE HOME: The couple bought this five-bedroom villa in Dubai's Victory Heights in 2017. After remodelling, it now features an open-plan kitchen-living-dining room, a family room, Thai-inspired bathrooms, Neda's art studio and beautifully landscaped Asian gardens.