This grand home in Khalifa City, Abu Dhabi, inspired by the mansions of Beverly Hills, is a dream come true for Eman and Taha Bani Hashim, who spent three years building the property after receiving a plot of land from the government in 2011.
'It was my dream to build our own house, one that would stay as the family home well into the future,' says Eman, who not only works as an Emiratisation Support Centre Manager at The UAE Academy but is also forging a following on Instagram as a fashionista, dispensing styling advice to women all around the world through her Instagram account, Mama Hepburn.
'I loved the architecture and open-plan layouts of the homes in Beverly Hills when we've stayed there', she says, referring to 15 years of regular holidays to the States while her two daughters studied in California and Massachusetts. 'The interior décor is also very much inspired by Ralph Lauren stores in the US as we love the way they look and we've tried to bring this into our home.'
The panel moulding on the walls, the staircase and the front door are all inspired by the boutiques of the luxury American apparel and homeware brand and were custom-designed by the couple. 'What I love most are the white, clean walls with no photos or art on them. We like a clean, quiet and simple look. When people come over they always compliment us on this as it's quite unusual.'
Knowing that she liked the design of Ralph Lauren's flagship store in New York, her husband used it as a source of inspiration for the entrance. 'When we went to New York a few years ago I saw the main door of the store front and I thought we could use it for our own house,' says Taha, COO for Al Dhafra Co-Operative Society. 'We replicated the design and added some touches to make it our own, like changing the initials RL to our family initials T, E, R and N.'
Their eldest daughter Al Amira Reem, who holds a degree in architecture and PhD in urban planning, assisted her parents with the garden landscaping and architectural plans of the house. Their collective ideas have come to life in a spacious, open home filled with natural light and stunning details, including a spiral staircase spanning five floors and the domed glass roof at the top, with a huge bespoke chandelier - designed by Taha - hanging majestically down over the bottom of the stairs.
'The architecture was challenging because we wanted different levels, and levels within levels,' says Reem. The formal open-plan living-dining room at the front of the house is elevated above the other rooms on the ground floor - the TV room, kitchen and casual dining area, two offices, two toilets, a back kitchen and the maid's quarters - which are down a short flight of concrete-style tiled steps, while on the first floor the two en-suite bedrooms are situated off to the side of the mezzanine library by a few steps. 'This seemed to be a totally new concept to contractors here, and it was difficult to translate our ideas properly as they were much more modern than the traditional villa style,' continues Reem. 'We wanted to break from the norm and create something different. As a family we are very creative and do-it-yourself; we like getting our hands dirty with upcycling, chalk-painting and making our own pieces of furniture.'
The formal living room is the perfect showcase for this, and yet looks tailored and far from DIY. Here, a pair of Home Centre sofas have been elevated in new white and grey upholstery, the coffee table is made from an old door salvaged from Pinky Furniture in Sharjah, painted grey and mounted onto legs, a bust of a tiger's head has been painted black to match the monochrome scheme, and the family made the industrial-looking concrete side tables by pouring cement and sand into a mould and fixing furniture truckles so the heavy pieces can be moved.
'I love being creative, and I have a habit of making nice things from scratch for my home, and also customising my clothes. It's something I really enjoy,' adds Eman.
The Bani Hashims live by the adage "one man's trash is another man's treasure". After their house was built they salvaged pieces of wood from the construction site to use as cladding for their garden room. "We created the pool house walls by picking up crates from the garbage in the Mina Zayed Port [in Abu Dhabi], pulled them apart, cleaned them, hammered them to the wall and painted them to create that texture; it was a really fun process," says Reem, who has co-founded the boutique creative consultancy The Native Bohemians with her husband Arsalan, in Dubai. The family often spend time in the garden throwing tea parties or swimming, and they have a projector screen outside for al fresco movie nights.
A true family affair, Eman and Taha's youngest daughter Al Amira Noor, who has a master's degree in urban planning from Harvard University, also had a hand in the interior design process. The clean, pared-back, uncluttered aesthetic has become a signature look for the family and for Noor's exclusive, invite-only secret dinner clubs and her business the No. FiftySeven Boutique Café in the capital's Al Bateen Harbour.
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Some of the elements that form their now trademark style can be seen in the dining room with the mismatched chairs gathered around an industrial-style dining table from Marina Home and in the mezzanine library, which feature wrought-iron and wood shelving units from Pier Import quirkily styled with secondhand books from Thrifty bookstore covered in brown paper and vintage trinkets from antique shops in America and London's Portobello market.
This bespoke family home exudes a distinct interior style, one that's quite inimitable, drawing upon influences from abroad and the family's own creative flair. With a palette of grey and white, cement-tiled floors, warm touches of wood and wrought iron adding an architectural accent, they have been at the forefront of what is now a sought-after "industrial-chic" design for residences, and they showcase wonderfully how a minimalist and largely monochrome aesthetic can create a livable, comfortable home full of character.
The owners Taha Bani Hashim is COO for Al Dhafra Co-Operative Society and his wife Eman is an Emiratisation Support Centre Manager at The UAE Academy.
The home This six-storey house in Khalifa City, Abu Dhabi, took three years to design and build from a vacant plot. It includes four bedrooms, a library, an open-plan living-dining room, TV room, kitchen-dining room and two home offices plus a pool house and basement.
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Photos by Stefan Lindeque
Styling by Robin Collingwood