Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 12 November 2019

Discovering the homeware shop, Nook, in Dubai’s Beach Centre mall

Tucked away as it is in a hidden corner of the lesser-known Beach Centre mall in Dubai, Nook – a tiny but beautifully curated homeware store – is aptly named. It might take some effort to find it, but it’s well worth your time.

The brand is the brainchild of Ayah Halawani and Nada Albahri, two enterprising architecture graduates in their late 20s. The duo both grew up in Dubai and met while studying at the American University of Sharjah.

“We studied architecture but also did a few interior design courses and both minored in urban design, so we covered all those different scales,” Halawani explains. “But we always had a thing for the smaller, more hands-on, more tangible scale.” she adds.

Nook is a manifestation of their experiences since leaving university, as well as their individual but complementary areas of interest. After graduating, Halawani started working in event management, where she developed a taste for flower design. While she didn’t see a future in events, she wanted to “take the flowers” with her, she says. “I thought that combining the flowers with home accessories would create an interesting concept.”

Albahri, meanwhile, got married and had a baby. But when she came to decorate her daughter’s room, she couldn’t find what she was looking for in the UAE. “Everything that I found online and found interesting was generally Scandinavian,” she says. “I kept sharing these things with Ayah and we realised that we’d found a gap in the market. We added the concept of the flowers because she had such an emotional connection to them, and that’s where Nook came from.”

It’s not that products in the Scandinavian style were not readily available, it’s just that they were either priced at the lower, Ikea end of the market, or the higher, Bo Concept end. At Nook, meanwhile, you can pick up pieces for anything from Dh35 to Dh800. “We want to be affordable. In Scandinavian design, they have that mid-range offering that wasn’t really available here. Also, in terms of design, they have a lot of cosier elements – it’s not all cold, sharp edges. We wanted to offer a mix. That’s also why we have some regional elements, like rugs from Morocco, to create some warmth,” says Albahri.

“We’ve learnt that people don’t want to go completely minimal and cold, or completely Bohemian. I think that’s reflective of the lifestyle we lead here, where it’s a mix of very traditional and very modern. So we’ll get people picking up a very sharp-edged vase, and then a nice, soft Moroccan rug to go with it,” says Halawani.

Nook offers an utterly charming mix of tableware, adorable accessories for children, throws and cushion in statement fabrics, sumptuous rugs, marble-effect boxes, pared-back lighting and quirky accessories – from oversized copper nails that serve as hooks to the 60-centimetre-long, handmade Frida dolls by the Dubai-based brand Vinny. There’s a sense of fun to a lot of the pieces, as well as an intriguing mix of textiles and materials.

The duo built the concept from scratch, and have been responsible for everything from branding and product sourcing to the design of the store. In the future, they hope to start designing and producing their own furniture under the Nook brand.

A dedicated flower bar is due to open soon and will offer a range of unusual blooms sourced from the Netherlands. “We are also looking into offering a weekly subscription for flowers. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a traditional bouquet; you might just want a few flowers that you can put in your kitchen or living room, just to accessorise your home a little,” Halawani says.

It’s all a work in progress, the duo admits: they are constantly trying to figure out what people like and what they don’t, and how they can appeal to a broad range of tastes without compromising on their initial vision for the brand. Their mothers are an important testing ground. Both initially came in and declared that there was nothing in the store for them. More recently, Albahri’s mother came in and bought three cushions – a real triumph.

“We weren’t really addressing that market,” says Albahri with a laugh. “But we want to make sure there is something for all kinds of different needs and tastes.”

In addition to the brick-and-mortar store in Beach Centre, Nook sells its wares online at www.nook-concept.ae. Whatever platform you prefer, it’s the perfect place to buy an unusual gift (with a card, wrapping paper and a bouquet of flowers thrown in for good measure). We just challenge you to leave without picking up something for yourself too.

sdenman@thenational.ae

Updated: February 2, 2017 04:00 AM

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