A white-on-white colour scheme and carefully selected treasures turn an old Dubai villa into an airy, soothing space. Words by Sandra Lane. Photos by Duncan Chard
Inside Moira McLeod's villa the traffic and noise of one of Umm Suqeim's busiest roads seem a world away, not a mere 10 metres from the windows. The moment you step through the front door you feel completely enveloped in the serenity of her white-on-white colour scheme.
In the living room, off-white sofas piled with snow-white cushions sit on a heavily textured cream rug; the reflective surface of a glossy white cabinet makes a virtue of the shiny white stock ceramic floor tiles, while the transparency of glass tables and lamp bases adds an ethereal lightness to the space.
"I don't like dark spaces and dark things; I need light," says McLeod, who runs a business importing high quality bed linens and carpets from niche European companies. "Every house my husband and I have lived in has been a bit different, but it has always been done in creams and whites."
The only exception in this house is the hallway ("my husband's look"), which has a zebra-weave rug, a dark wood console ("due to be painted white") and several wooden tribal artefacts, brought back from trips to Africa.
"We love picking up unusual things," says McLeod. "I think the trick is never to get too much of anything, and to mix things up; I hate the idea of a themed house or one that's full of souvenirs."
There's not the slightest sense of clutter here - yet look closely and you'll see all manner of pretty and unusual items dotted about: hand-crafted shells trimmed in silver, a big chunk of rock crystal, delicate mirrored tea-light holders, an unusual hand-carved candle-holder in golden-blonde wood. "That's from Thailand - it cost nothing."
The remarkable thing, you discover, is how little McLeod has spent to create such lovely surroundings. The sofa covers in the living room, for instance, began life as a Zara Home bedspread picked up in a sale; the fringed cushion covers were off-cuts.
McLeod's talent is in seeing the potential in things that most of us would walk straight past. Take, for instance, the dramatic oxidised copper disc mounted on the wall of the second living room, which McLeod says that she found at Pier Import "years ago", adding that she has never seen anything like it since.
"When you see something and get a gut feeling about it, buy it right away. If you go back later it won't be there. You may not know how you will use it but if you have that feeling about it, get it."
Another example: the mirror on the opposite wall of this room, which McLeod found in Singapore - a series of mirrored circles joined together to create a retro-modern piece. It's very different in style from the copper disc, the light golden-brown Moroccan leather poufs and pale-coloured Persian rug, yet it all adds up to a harmonious whole. Warmer and more creamy in tone than the other living room, this is the "afternoon room", at its best when the sun moves across from the other side of the villa, says McLeod.
It was McLeod's love of the unusual that led to her starting her business.
The villa's master bedroom is a beautiful blend of the things she works with: silk pillowcases, blankets and bedspreads, a hand-tufted, made-to-measure carpet - all, once again, in her signature white-on-white look. It takes a moment to realise why the bedroom is unusual: there are no wardrobes or heavy pieces of furniture - just a mirror-fronted cabinet and console. "I don't believe in cluttering a bedroom with storage," says McLeod. "We keep all of that in a separate room - we're lucky enough to have the space."
Space, she adds, is one of the best things about the house - a classic old Dubai bungalow.
"These old villas, with their high ceilings, are lovely and airy, and the spaces flow so nicely. Not many of the modern houses here are as liveable as this."