The highlight of the Siddiqui's family home in Dubailand is the first floor library, with rich teal bookshelves and heavy mustard drapes, a vintage mirrored table top, a decadent chaise and soft rugs underfoot. The family are avid readers and the shelves display books as well as mementoes and photo frames, plus musical instruments that Humera and Fuad's two sons, Saif and Shamir, play, while a brass ladder completes the carefully styled scheme.
This charming reading nook was created by Humera, who shows not only passion but also skill and imagination when it comes to designing and making furniture and producing artwork for her family's home. In the library she's upcycled IKEA shelves with decorative mouldings to cover the joins and to add a period grace, and painted the remodelled units a jewel-tone teal in a distressed effect to create the air of much-used space and to match the upholstery of the armchairs.
'We're all big readers, especially the kids,' says Humera. 'It's such a nice cosy room and we relax there, read and talk to each other; we use the library a lot. 'When I saw this house I thought it had great potential because there are many rooms and, as a creative person, I knew I could do something with them. I get a lot of satisfaction from doing things myself and I try to do what I can.'
The British-Pakistani mum-of-two moved to Dubailand from Kuwait with her family in 2016. While the couple married and had their sons in England, where Fuad's from, they've previously spent four years in the Emirates. 'I love Dubai, I feel at home here, in spite of the hot weather in the summer,' says Humera. 'This country has everything, it's so modern and a great place for a family. And we love Dubailand as it's near the kids' school and it's a nice place to live.'
The landscaped garden is one of the family's favourite areas of the property. They enjoy dining outside with the soft tinkling of water from a fountain providing serene background music. Humera says her love for nature and al fresco living helped transform the garden from a dusty sandpit into an inviting extension of the house, with multiple lounging and dining areas on terraces surrounding a manicured lawn. 'The garden was a complete mess of sand and I put lots of work into this to transform it,' she adds. 'When you put your own effort, love and affection into your home you cannot beat that feeling.'
As well as landscaping and planting the flowers, Humera also paid great attention to the finer details. Creating a pretty installation in one of the outdoor lounge areas, she filled recycled glass jars with dried flowers and suspended them overhead. 'I was insired by something I saw - I look for ideas in magazines, on Pinterest, in nature - and sometimes I see things in a different light. I always try to make the things I see and imagine how it could look nice in my home.'
French windows lead to a large living room where Humera's created two formal seating areas furnished with a series of complementing camelback and cabriole sofas that she's reupholstered and painted to add a modern twist to traditional Pakistani furniture. While the frames show off shabby-chic paintwork giving them a vintage look, the creamy-coloured upholstery has subtle contemporary features, such as her use of velvet, tufted linens and fringe details.
'When we were still in Kuwait and knew we would move here I thought I would try something new because I have never had Pakistani furniture before,' she says. 'I had always thought of the traditional styles as old-fashioned and dark, so I experimented with lighter materials and distressed paintwork to give the furniture a modern look; it was a project I really enjoyed. In Pakistan these chairs and sofas, with this kind of upholstery and finishes, would not be traditional. At first, Fuad didn't like the frames when I showed him photos, but after I changed them he loved the new look.'
She tarnished a new mirror to add the effect of age spots and had it framed in a custom-painted wood surround with detailed mouldings to complement the furniture. Faux fireplaces - in the living room and the master bedroom - from their home in Kuwait are an uncommon accent in the UAE and add a cosy, homey atmosphere to each space. The mum of two also shows a natural talent for drawing and painting, and many of her artworks are framed on the walls of their home. A cluster of abstract line drawings in the living room depict her family, and are framed in gold to match the elegance of the space. 'I like to use modern art and accessories so the combination with the furniture is contemporary,' she says. 'I really enjoy painting because it's something I am good at and something I know I can achieve myself.' While she's had some gallery interest in her work, there's no better showcase for her natural talents and creative flair than this lovely home she's made for her family in Dubai.
'Of course, a home is never finished,' she laughs. 'I still have the kids' bedrooms and playroom to do, and these will have a modern look. I like to have variation so our rooms have different styles - some are country, some are classic or contemporary - and it takes time to decorate them this way and to make the things that complete each look.'
The owners Humera Siddiqui, her husband Fuad, a senior banker at Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank, their two sons Saif, 14, and Shamir, 13, and their two Persian cats Ollie and Teddy, live in a rented four-bedroom villa in Dubailand.
The home This spacious villa has a large living room with two formal seating areas, an informal lounge open with the kitchen, a home office, plus four bedrooms, a playroom and a library upstairs.
Styling Robin Collingwood
Photography Stefan Lindeque