A beautiful sense of serenity greets guests as they enter Poonam and Avi Bhojani’s exquisite villa in Emirates Hills, designed with entertainment in mind. Large wooden doors with beaten steel handles open onto a majestic entrance lobby, where a striking custom-made series of pendant lights hang clustered overhead from the vaulted ceiling, while on each side a velvet, silvery-grey bespoke bench is set against a scalloped-edged alcove painted a softly textured pale grey, prettily inlaid with an Indian-inspired pattern.

Further on, a back-lit snow-white onyx platform draws you in, proffering custom creamy-coloured sofas around a pink onyx table, bordered by four columns delicately inlaid with mouldings featuring the same ethnic pattern from the alcoves, and framed by a dark grey mirrored wall, elegantly embellished with carefully designed lighting details.

This luxurious, shimmering chandelier hangs delicately from the vaulted ceiling over the custom seating in the formal entertainment lobby; designed by XBD Collective and made by Four Seasons Ramesh Gallery.

This sophisticated scheme and level of high-quality craftsmanship and materials sets the scene for the rest of Poonam and Avi’s show-stopping home, which flows into several open-plan formal entertaining areas, including a luxurious bar area with an illuminated white onyx counter, a double-height formal entertaining lobby with a stunning six-metre chandelier suspended overhead, a spacious living room with dual seating areas, and a large formal dining room with a four-metre white agate-topped table.

Thanks to the level of detail and elegance from Dubai-based interior design and architecture agency XBD Collective, their villa won the award in the “Interior Design Private Residence Dubai” category at the International Property Awards 2018.

The striking entrance has an ethnic pattern designed by XBD Collective that features throughout the villa.

‘I want them to live here for the rest of their lives,’ says XBD Collective founder Ellen Søhoel, who oversaw the interior design with her team, transforming the property the couple had designed and built with Architectural Corner and City Diamond Contractors into this pristine haven. 

‘The design brief was nostalgically touching, after living in Dubai their whole lives, the clients had reached a point where they missed their culture profoundly,’ she explains. ‘The “typical” Indian design look was too colourful and busy for their personal taste, therefore they requested a scheme that would allow for ethnic touches, whilst also keeping all areas of the home light and open.’

Left: This bar area is the first of the formal entertainment rooms, designed with an onyx counter in front of upholstered wall panels that slide back to reveal a discreet floor-to-ceiling bar. Right: The informal family room features a dining area with a kitchen, furnished predominantly with Roche Bobois furniture.

Inspired by a design Poonam admired, Ellen developed an ethnic pattern to be applied throughout the home in a variety of sizes and derivatives. The rounded geometric pattern can be seen cascading over feature walls and across the dining room ceiling, delicately detailed on wall columns and mouldings, patterned on glass door panels and cushions, etched into seating bases, and applied in the elevator, amongst other places, lending a subtle consistency between the spaces.  In a number of rooms, serene seating nooks with sumptuously upholstered silver and cream cushions have been inset into thick walls, topped with a temple-shaped white surround, and back-lit, casting a beautiful aura.

‘It was understood that they sought an ambient mood one would associate with a traditional Indian temple, so we were asked to bring peace and serenity to their home by keeping the palette neutral and creating a warm atmosphere using creamy tones,’ adds Ellen, who was a member of the InsideOut Home of the Year 2018 judging panel. 

A tufted velvet wall feature with banquet seating, plush custom-made sofas, marble-topped tables and silver details creates a luxurious scheme in the formal living room.

‘I wanted anyone who walked into the house to know that an Indian family lives here,’ says Poonam, CEO of Innoventures Education. ‘I didn’t want anything that was very traditional or heavy, but contemporary and in these light colours of white and cream, accessorised with our bright paintings. Ellen has captured this side of things so beautifully.’

Poonam and her husband Avi, Group CEO of Bates PanGulf, bought the 22,500-square-foot plot in 2009 after nearly three decades living in Dubai and sharing an aspiration to design and build their own home.

The formal dining room features a beautiful four-metre long table topped with white agate stone, sourced from India. Note the detail on the ceiling, which adds a softness to the room. In the dining room, the shape of this beautifully back-lit seating alcove draws inspiration from a temple silhouette.


‘Once the architecture was finished we planned to move in but then we walked around the empty rooms and wondered how to set it all up,’ recalls Poonam. ‘Looking back, we should have worked on both the architecture and interiors at the same time, however, we wouldn’t be where we are now. I often come home and think “wow” and our sons love it too.’

A TV lounge on the mezzanine landing enjoys views of the stunning chandelier hanging in the formal entertainment lobby, through an interior window XBD Collective added.

As a wonderful testament to the homey feeling XBD Collective achieved, when their son was on his summer break from studying at Harvard, both he and his brother urged their parents to cancel their family vacation to France in favour of savoring their exquisite new home in Dubai.

The sons’ bedrooms have a more masculine edge; here a partition wall acts as a headboard on one side and creates an office space on the other.

And is it any wonder, with multiple formal rooms for entertaining, a laidback family room with a working show kitchen, a first-class gym, and spacious bedrooms designed exactly as each occupant requested, the villa is like a hotel at home. While the sons’ bedrooms are designed with more masculine flair, Poonam and Avi’s master suite continues the peaceful scheme from downstairs with soft tones throughout the generous bedroom and private dressing room with his-and-her washrooms.

A quilted headboard and mirrored wall panels create a hotel-at-home feel in the master bedroom.

Upstairs, the architecture and interiors takes advantage of many spectacular views. Aside from the spacious balconies that soak up the scenic lake behind the house and the twinkling Dubai Marina skyline, the mezzanine landing is quite impressive, with interior windows and balconies overlooking the exquisite lighting installations designed by XBD Collective and made by Four Seasons Ramesh Gallery. As you ascend a wonderfully wide staircase, there is a glass-domed roof that floats over the space catching light that dances across the white onyx floor in the entrance foyer below.

‘The feeling of spaciousness, with the high ceilings and windows and the colour palette means we feel so relaxed wherever we are,’ says Poonam. ‘We are so happy here and it really is the dream home that we have aspired to have for so long.’


The designer Ellen Søhoel is founder of the Dubai-based interior design and architecture practice XBD Collective, which was commissioned to transform a shell-and-core villa into a contemporary Indian home for the owners, Poonam and Avi Bhojani, who have lived in Dubai for almost 30 years. 

The home This award-winning seven-bedroom villa, with a 25,000-square-foot built-up area, is home to Poonam, CEO of Innoventures Education, and Avi Bhojani, Group CEO of Bates PanGulf and their two sons.

Get the look

Clockwise from top left: La Hacienda Moroccan Globe Lantern, Al Futtaim ACE, Dh129; Marble top side table, Zara Home, Dh699; Lightyears by Republic of Fritz Hansen Juicy pendant lamp, Houseology, Dh1,845; Classic collection cushion, H&M Home, Dh65; Regents Park Sofa, Marina Home, Dh6,500; Sebaz bedside table, THE One, Dh2,495.

This article was first published in January 2019

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