Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 28 January 2020

Even though many of us rent in the UAE, it's still worth turning your house into a home

Many UAE residents make the mistake of not investing in our homes because we don’t know how long we will be here

Expats in the UAE can feel more at home by investing in their living space. Reem Mohammed / The National
Expats in the UAE can feel more at home by investing in their living space. Reem Mohammed / The National

Ingvar Kamprad, the founder of Ikea, died this week at the age of 91. It is not an overstatement to say that he was responsible for democratising decent design, making it possible for people around the world to fill their homes with expertly engineered, attractive-looking pieces of furniture that are both affordable and easy(ish) to assemble. Inadvertently, he also contributed to the proliferation of generic-looking, cookie-cutter interiors across the globe – but that is probably our fault, not his.

Ikea is something of a lifesaver for expats in the UAE. I daresay it was one of the first places most of us visited after arriving in this country (even if it did lead to arguments with spouses, and countless wrong turns as we tried to navigate the maze that is Festival City). Whether we were looking for candles, crockery, carpets or those ubiquitous box frames, Ikea delivered.

Home is where the heart is, as the saying goes. But it is also where the bed is, and the TV is, and the sofa is. In the wider, macro sense, home is where you come from, or where you feel you belong; in the micro sense, it is the four walls you reside within. But the two are inextricably linked.

In the UAE, many of us make the mistake of not investing in our homes, because we don’t know how long we will be here, or because we don’t want to have to cart a whole load of furniture with us when we leave. It might feel like an indulgence or an unnecessary expense, particularly when many of us live in rented accommodation. So we make do with those staples from Ikea.

It is a vicious cycle, though. By not taking the time to turn our houses into homes, we never feel entirely settled, which just adds to an overall sense of transience – which, in turn, makes us less likely to invest in the spaces we inhabit.

I remember the first time I actually invested in a piece of furniture. I had been living in Dubai for about three years when I came across a tiny company called Antika Dubai, which was basically a one-man band specialising in furniture made from reclaimed wood sourced from old, demolished houses in India. Each piece of wood had its own tale to tell, carrying a piece of history in peeling paintwork and multi-hued grains.


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I bought a table and two chairs that, seven years later, still take pride of place in my living room. Those pieces have moved house with me twice and will come with me when I leave these shores. They will act as a reminder of my time here and a marker of a certain point in my life.

Our homes, wherever they are, should evolve with us. They should contain objects we have accumulated along the way – things long coveted that we save up for, or that we buy on a whim on our travels abroad. Your home, above all else, should be a reflection of who you are – more so than the car you drive or the clothes you wear.

From a purely practical perspective, think about how many hours a day you spend in your bed or on your sofa, compared to how many hours a day you spend in your car. Now think about how much you spent on your car and how much you spent on your bed. Does the maths add up?

So by all means buy your basics from Ikea, but don’t be afraid to complement them with treasures, trinkets and genuine investment items. However temporary, it always pays to turn your house into a home.

Updated: February 4, 2018 10:34 AM