9318acf85fa58210VgnVCM100000e56411acRCRDapproved/thenational/Articles/Migration/2009-Q4A home to call their own8318acf85fa58210VgnVCM100000e56411ac____A home to call their ownGenerous spaces, natural light, plenty of privacy - the owners of this recently constructed villa in Abu Dhabi knew exactly what they wanted when they set out to build it.<p><embed src="http://multimedia.thenational.ae/pic440_new.swf?xmlfile=http://multimedia.thenational.ae/ssp_director/images.php%3Falbum=1969&xmlfiletype=Director" quality="high" bgcolor="#FFFFFF" width="440" height="360" name="The National" align="middle" allowScriptAccess="sameDomain" allowFullScreen="true" pluginspage="http://www.macromedia.com/go/getflashplayer"/></p>
<p>After more than 30 years in Abu Dhabi, living in rented apartments and villas, the owners of this recently built villa can finally call this house their home.
The wife, Nidhal, recalls with a smile the pleasure of at last being able to commission an architect to work to their own brief: "My first priority was having lots of open space - that the rooms weren't closed off - and I also wanted lots of natural light."</p>
<p>The result is a three-storey house that wraps around a large courtyard with a swimming pool, where the family enjoys entertaining guests during the cooler months. Sail-shaped strips of canvas fan out overhead, providing shade and privacy, while allowing plenty of sunlight through the large windows and glazed doors of the rooms surrounding the courtyard.
Nidhal worked closely with the architects and monitored every step of the 18-month construction to ensure that she got what she wanted: "Yes, I did ask them to change several things that I wasn't completely happy with," she says. That included opening up the stairwell to create a double-height ceiling and changing a wall above the front door from brick to opaque glass to bring in more light. She also had a double set of magnificent wood-and-glass bifold doors installed between the entrance hall and formal living room to create more flow throughout the ground floor. Opening up the space this way has also brought a relaxed and welcoming air to the classically elegant decor of this part of the house.</p>
<p>While the house was being built, Nidhal collected objets d'art from countries she visited around the world, including Lebanon, Iran, the US and UK. "I wanted a mix of old and modern looks. And, although I have many pieces that are inspired by antiques, all that I bought is contemporary," she says.
Taking Nidhal's Italian vases and urns as her starting point, the Abu Dhabi-based decorator, Reem al Mitwali, translated the colours into fabrics and trimmings to make the intricately detailed sofas, curtains and cushions that add richness and warmth to every room: pale yellows, pinks and aqua tones in the formal living room; a golden-beige palette in the formal dining room; deeper, jewel tones in the TV room, and rich greens, pinks and aubergine in the master bedroom.</p>
<p>Nidhal's love for the particular shade of turquoise that is traditional to Islamic culture is evident throughout the house, from the elegant vases in the living room to rustic ceramics in the kitchen and a magnificent custom-made console in the guest bathroom, which was carved from a single piece of Italian marble. It's there in many of the paintings, too - among them one she commissioned specially from the Iraqi artist, Nashaat al Alusi - as well as the large mural in the courtyard that she commissioned from his brother, the sculptor, Natiq al Alusi.</p>
<p>A keen cook, Nidhal spends much of her time in the huge, light-filled kitchen, preparing traditional Arabic dishes. "I depend on myself when I cook; that's why it was important to have my space here," she says. But this is a kitchen quite unlike those in traditional Abu Dhabi homes: it's a social space as well, where her guests often gather - especially in the mornings. Friends and family sit around an informal dining table in front of double glass doors, which are flung open to the courtyard and pool whenever the weather is cool enough.</p>
<p>For Nidhal, who has always had an interest in design, and decorated her previous houses, this really is a homecoming: "It's so different when you decorate a house you own," she says, with a huge smile.</p>