"In hindsight, if I'd known the cost of furniture here I probably wouldn't have spent the money shipping it from Sydney," says spa entrepreneur Sharon Moore, looking around her long, sunny dining room. Avoiding the temptations of flat-pack means that the space definitely doesn't look like your average IKEA-bedecked expat home. A lot of the furniture, including a rather fierce looking statue, has been imported from Thailand and the culture of the country that characterises her business - a Thai spa located in Khalidiya - infuses her airy, elegant home.
"I knew a lot of the suppliers in Thailand and really wanted to surround myself with things that had 'made the journey' as it were, rather than buying things everyone else has," says Moore. The passion for authenticity is reflected in the assortment of quirky furniture in the room. An ornate dresser cabinet is filled with an assortment of knick-knacks including antique goblets, trinkets from her travels and mementos from friends, all jumbled together behind the glass. Beautiful diaphanous curtains frame the large windows in rich gold and russet fabric that hangs to the floor. The accents in the room are gold, yellow and orange. A favourite colour scheme, perhaps?
"It's decorated with oranges and yellows because these are loving colours that are good to have around kids and families," she explains, pointing out some brightly coloured abstract paintings resting against the walls. "Yellow is love, orange is for family. I have three children including a teenager and trying to keep a teenager's mood relaxed is also important and colour therapy does work." Less fey new-ager than determined career woman, Moore has been in the spa industry for 15 years and having only recently put the finishing touches to her spa, is finally turning her attentions to her own home. Most of the collected photos and artworks in the room are still lying on the floor, because she is waiting to get the room - currently painted a golden yellow - wallpapered.
"The framed photo of me and my husband is of us on my 21st birthday. We'd been together about six months." She points out another painting - one of the few that has actually made it onto a wall. "The small painting over there is from my dad; it's about 55 years old. He lives in Thailand; he gave it to me when we moved here. He loves his music and his art even though he's actually an industrial chemist. It was him that developed the brand we have in the spa, the Spa Siam range. But now that the spa is open, my focus is finally on the house."
Though Moore clearly revels in colour and warm decor - a profusion of dried and ornamental flowers sprout from an oversized vase at one end of the room - a keen business acumen has always underpinned her passion. "I introduced the Elemis range into Thailand. I was working from six o clock in the morning to nine at night and never saw my husband or three children. So I changed tack. I bought a building in Bangkok and was going to open a spa there."
But when her husband was offered a job here in the UAE, the family decided to move. First to Dubai, and then to Abu Dhabi. "The dining table's actually from a family who was leaving Dubai, it was one of our first furniture purchases here," she says. The long wooden table gives the room a focus, that is offset by the charming transience of the unhung paintings.
"We've had a few friends round already. I found it so much easier to make friends here than in Dubai; I had people I'd never met helping me look for a villa before I even moved here. There's a really nice community feeling in Abu Dhabi. The dining room is my favourite room now, because we've put the grass down outside and the doors open out onto that. We normally tie the curtain back," says Moore. "There's a nice light in the room and it's peaceful."
While Moore waits to bring a sense of completion to her spacious Thai dining room, she's also keeping one eye on expanding her business. "I've got so many plans. I'm opening a chain of Sharanis spas in a few months. I'm always busy, but as a mother of three children, I like the chaos of my life. When I get home and I'm really tired, just to sit at home with the kids and everyone's buzzing around, I find quite relaxing. There's no pressure. At work I have to look nice and look out for customers who are always right. Here, I don't have to be anyone but myself."