When Kristina and Mauricio Douglas moved to The Meadows three years ago, they soon called upon the help of Dubai-based stylists Karen Pissarra and Emilie Jacobs, who effectively reworked the lovely furnishings, collectible artwork and travel mementoes the couple had to create a beautifully decorated home.
‘When I went in search for a stylist I didn’t really know what I was looking for,’ admits Kristina, who worked as an HR and recruitment specialist within the engineering industry before she had Valentina. ‘I knew I needed somebody to help me find the finishing touches to our new home, someone who could make the most of what we already had, to put it together properly and freshen it up.’
After seven years living in an apartment in Dubai Marina, the couple had the challenge of creating a family-friendly home for their new-born and maintaining a garden that needed some care and attention.
‘We looked at a lot of villas in the area but as they’re approximately 10 years old they’re not all in good shape,’ says Kristina. ‘However, we were lucky finding this villa; it’s been upgraded by the owner, the pool had been properly walled in with glass and re-tiled, there are nice finishes with new doors and wooden floors instead of cold tiles. We haven’t had to renovate it ourselves, just decorate, which was pure luck.’
In 2016, Karen and Emilie worked on styling different areas of the house independently. While Kristina liked Karen’s softer aesthetic for the bedrooms and the garden furniture, Emilie took a bolder approach downstairs.
‘I would say 99% of my clients already have most of the furniture they need but they get stuck styling it,’ says Emilie, French styling expert and voice behind the blog Stella + the Stars (named after her daughter). ‘Kristina was in that rut and had lots of lovely things around the house but they didn’t go together. She has beautiful taste so it was a question of rejigging what she had and accessorising in the right way.’
The handwoven Afghan turquoise rug from Chuk Palu in the living room is a scene-stealer and was found by chance when Emilie took Kristina to Dubai Creek’s Old Souq looking for artisanal accessories. ‘We both saw it and loved it,’ says Emilie. ‘It’s one of those pieces that you can’t look for but you just stumble across it. It really makes the room and gives it oomph.
‘I also wanted to make a statement with the lights as the existing spotlights didn’t add a design element, but I didn’t want to take away from the abstract paintings.’ She chose the ever-fashionable Vertigo shades by Constance Guisset for Petite Friture, which sway in the breeze when the doors to the garden are open. In the dining area, Tom Dixon’s signature copper pendants were sourced from Dubai Design District and add a sophisticated touch.
This space offered the biggest challenge because the arches separating it from the living room created a narrow area for a dining table. Emilie guided Kristina on commissioning a custom-made table from The Line Concept, complete with a beautiful marble top.
‘A material like marble can be risky for a table top, however, Kristina is very house proud and I knew she was the sort of person that could look after a piece of furniture like this, giving it the right care and attention.’ While the Douglas’ use this space for dinner parties, on a daily basis they have their meals in the informal family room, open-plan to the kitchen.
Emilie came back in the spring of 2017 to style the family room, the second phase of the project. ‘By then we knew each other a bit better and I could trust her to be quirkier here with colours and accessories,’ says Kristina.
‘I could be a bit more irreverent here,’ adds Emilie, who took inspiration from Valentina’s love of birds. Cushions from Amara Living and Etsy sport herons and parrots, while a parrot ornament perches on a side table. ‘It was a lovely process working with Kristina, especially as she was open to new ideas and to being creative.’
‘I would say I had some degree of fear about how to put things together,’ adds Kristina. ‘I needed someone to come in with a level of confidence about it, to make our home look finished and like it had been put together properly.’
She liked Karen’s subtle and classic approach for the master and guest bedrooms upstairs, as she wanted these rooms to be less accessorised, and the garden furniture, which is chic yet comfortable.
‘My style is modern-contemporary, with a soft touch to it,’ says Karen, a South African expat and the founder of Dubai-based interior design studio Design K. ‘I went to Marina Home and Crate & Barrel for many of the bedroom accessories as they also have a contemporary feel, which is what Kristina likes and what I wanted to create.’ As Kristina’s Crate & Barrel beds and bedding from American brand Restoration Hardware were already in the villa, Karen chose the colour scheme and accessories to complement these items. Valentina’s bedroom needed more attention, and she reworked the entire floorplan, moving the bed and artwork and adding pretty accessories from Zara Home.
Kristina also called upon Karen’s expertise styling their art collection, creating interesting vignettes of artwork in different types of mediums, sizes and colours above the master bed and in the study area at the top the stairs.
The Douglas’ have an interesting tribal mask collection from their travels around Asia since they moved to the UAE 10 years ago, and they have bought the rest of their artwork from Saatchiart.com. ‘We are not collectors but we are in a phase of our life where we appreciate art and like bringing new art into our home,’ says Kristina. ‘I like abstract artwork and street art, for me that’s more important than whether it matches with other things I have.’ She met her husband Mauricio, from Mexico, in Texas in 2002 when they both worked in the civil engineering industry, so architectural drawings, which are hung in the stairway, also appeal to the couple.
‘Our artwork was all over the house and didn’t necessarily look right where they were,’ she recalls. ‘Karen really helped put our artwork together upstairs; it’s an art in itself putting different mediums, sizes and frames together on one wall and we love how it looks.’
Proving that their different tastes work well together with this family villa, the two stylists are now working on a lake house property the Douglas’ have in Canada, Kristina’s home country, helping to create a home-from-home feel when they travel back there.
The owner This modern villa in The Meadows, Dubai, has been home to Kristina Douglas, her husband Mauricio, a partner at the management consultancy firm A.T. Kearney, and their three-year-old daughter Valentina, since 2015.
The house There is an open-plan kitchen and family room, a large living-dining room that opens onto a garden with a swimming pool, and three bedrooms upstairs. Stylists Karen Pissarra and Emilie Jacobs helped the Douglas’ achieve the look they wanted.
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Photography by Stefan Lindeque