Since I was young, I have had a keen interest in my surroundings: the way space is planned, the furniture used, how it is placed, the integration of materials, light and so on. As I got older, I became much more aware of the world around me, and much more critical of my living space. I acknowledged that personal space has a powerful effect on its inhabitants' state of mind and sense of contentment. From this, I recognised that interior designers and architects have a great deal of responsibility. They can make spaces great or terrible.
In the numerous places that I have lived since my teenage years, I have always attempted to make the space mine. Even if it was just a bedroom in a rented house, I realised that little room was my sanctuary and I should do whatever I need to make it so.
I don't know what made me think prior to moving into a furnished flat in Sharjah that this would be any different. I thought that I was fortunate to be provided an apartment close to my work, and whatever furniture they provided would suffice.
That feeling did not last long. A couple of months after my arrival, I found myself moving furniture around to make the living space more conducive to the way I wanted to live. The overscaled furniture blocked the view and the little natural daylight in the apartment could not make it past the large chair in front of the window.
One morning as I walked through my dining area, I looked around and saw the furniture pushed up against the wall, the tables stacked and the remaining packed boxes towering off in the corner. I was living in a storage locker. I needed to do something. I started to sketch out the room plans and played with ideas of furniture layouts, thinking to myself, "How can I make this apartment function better?"
With limited resources, limited time and a lack of familiarity with what furniture was locally available, I decided to approach this project as my "own client", addressing all of the areas that needed improvement with the same methodology I would for a client. Of course, this project is strictly limited to furniture, lighting, applied finishes and decorative accessories, leaving the architecture the way I found it.
Over the next couple of months, I invite you on the journey with me, from the inception of the ideas for the design, through the planning, hunt for furniture, dramas and successes. From this experience, I hope to provide the outline of the process that anyone can use to make their place their home, regardless of whether it is a short-term rental or a newly purchased villa, as well as provide a list of resources in the UAE.
Robert Reid is a professor of architecture, art and design at the American University of Sharjah. His new column can be read every week in House & Home.