x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

A locally sourced, Scandinavian-style hideaway

Simple design and modern Arabian motifs merge to create a quirky, functional apartment for The Hideaway Club's first city property in the region.

White metal dragonflies flitting across the living room wall help create a look that Dean and Alves hope appeals to discerning travellers. Antonie Robertson / The National
White metal dragonflies flitting across the living room wall help create a look that Dean and Alves hope appeals to discerning travellers. Antonie Robertson / The National

When the Dubai-based designer Pallavi Dean was invited to create a flagship apartment for the illustrious Hideaways Club, she found herself in good company. For its properties in New York and London, the company had worked with Philippe Starck's Yoo Furnish.

An international property investment company, The Hideaways Club manages two funds: the Classic Collection, which consists of luxury villas and chalets, and the recently launched City Collection, which features two- and three-bedroom apartments in some of the world's most vibrant cities. The premise is a simple, if not inexpensive one, open primarily to high net individuals and professional investors. Members receive equity ownership in the entire property portfolio, as well as a given number of nights a year in any one of the properties.

For its first City Collection property in the Middle East, The Hideaways Club opted for a two-bedroom apartment on the 29th floor of the Address Downtown Dubai Residences. The property is located in the same building as the Address Downtown Dubai Hotel, next to the Dubai Mall, with views of the Burj Khalifa and its famed fountains.

Because it was a flagship for the region, Dean and her long-time colleague and friend, the architect Angelita Alves, wanted to create an interior that was suitably striking and true to its context but that also communicated the global nature of the Hideaways brand. "If you look the Hideaways' New York property in Times Square and the London property in Kensington, they are very international. So when we took this on we wanted the narrative to be international and to have this global appeal but to also give it a sense of place - to bring in that local flavour and infuse the two," says Dean.

"Because all of the members of The Hideaways Club are discerning travellers, they lead a very cosmopolitan lifestyle. They are used to the Eames chair and Vitra furniture, so it had to be at that level to engage them but at the same time we had to keep it relevant to where it was," Alves adds.

The duo avoided creating a pastiche of traditional Middle Eastern references and instead opted for quirky, modern interpretations of Arabic motifs. On the sofa, a bright yellow Umm Kulthum cushion sits besides cushions covered in Arabic calligraphy. Next to the sofa, two tray tables from Bloomingdale's offer another representation of Arabic calligraphy, this time oversized, monochromatic and bold. There's also a Floating Stool by Nada Debs, which combines traditional Arabic imagery with a highly contemporary, boxy acrylic frame.

Instead of curtains, the duo introduced Roman blinds that complement the smoky moss grey colour of the walls. On the blinds, simple black detailing in the form of traditional Bedouin embroidery is another understated allusion to the apartment's Middle Eastern location.

Above the television, a row of framed black and white illustrations from the recently published Dubai Graphic Encyclopedia present typical scenes from the UAE in a simple, visually engaging format. From abras and eagles to the Mercedes G-Wagen, the images introduce a touch of lightheartedness and humour to the space. "We kept focusing on the art and furniture scene here in the region," says Alves. "But we've tried to do it quite subtly and quite carefully."

In the dining area, a piece from Gallery One's Metalliferous collection by photographer James Domine hangs above the table. An exploration of the architectural intricacies of the Burj Khalifa, the piece presents an alternative perspective of the view from the apartment.

While modern Arabian motifs figure heavily, the design also has a distinctly Scandinavian feel to it. Instead of a conventional coffee table, Alves and Dean opted for a cluster of tables by the Danish homeware brand Muuto, and placed them in the centre of the living room. One of the tables is bright yellow, which introduces an unexpected but not unwelcome pop of colour. An oversized wooden die sits on the table, adding another playful element and further contributing to the pop art style of the space.

Instead of a traditional television unit, the duo opted for irregularly shaped box shelves, also from Muuto.

There is plenty to catch the eye in this apartment. Dean and Alves have gone out of their way to ensure that there is something unexpected at every turn. There is the ladder-shaped coat rack in one corner, the wonderfully sculptural Acapulco chairs (available at The One) and the deceptively simple Cord Lamp by Design House Stockholm, a single oversized bulb held high off the ground by a steel tube ensconced in cord. Overhead, a cluster of wooden-framed mirrors suspended at varying angles presents an unusual take on the traditional light fixture. There are also the white metal dragonflies that flit delicately across the wall, and the row of oversized alarm clocks telling the time in London, Dubai, New York and Singapore.

To spice up the work area, the duo placed a selection of circular racks over a simple black console and filled them with coloured stationery, from bright pinks pens and bright yellow Post-it notes to a comically oversized yellow pencil.

The bedrooms, too, are filled with unusual design elements. Leading into the two rooms is a small entrance area, which Alves and Dean have transformed into a striking design feature. The back wall has been covered in a wallpaper from Kollektion & Co that makes it look like a bookshelf. "Is it a book shelf? Is it wallpaper? Most people have to stop and check before they walk in. And instead of putting a console piece there, we just propped a little Coca-Cola chair, which is made out of recycled Coca-Cola cans, against the wall and placed some books on it," says Dean.

The book theme has been carried into the second bedroom, where the duo opted for wallpaper that looks like it is made from the pages of an old book. A rug with text on it builds on the theme and is complemented by silver 3D lettering on the wall that reads "Sleep".

"The bedrooms are quite small and there were lots of functional things that we had to get in there. So originally the cupboard doors were solid but to give it a sense of space, we had custom-made mirrored doors made and added a chrome touch. In the second bedroom, we softened the feel with fur throws from Pottery Barn, and again, brought in O'De Rose's Umm Kulthum cushions to give it a sense of Arabia," Alves says.

In the main bedroom, the duo opted for a custom-made headboard that runs across the space. "We found a couple of cute Hand of Fatima tables, which have quite a local feel and to complement them. We picked some pictures of henna pattern designs and put them in frames to make a little composition above the bed," says Dean.

One important consideration was that the designers build flexibility into the space. Hence, the sofa doubles as a sofa bed and the bed in the second bedroom can be used as either a double or a twin, so that the apartment sleeps six. There is an array of seating options available and the white, glossy, oval dining room table can be used as a meeting table when necessary.

It was also essential that the design was able to appeal to The Hideaways Club's rather broad membership base. "It had to be young and contemporary because it's about Dubai looking forward, and they are going to have this apartment for the next however many years. So the design couldn't be about yesterday, it had to be about tomorrow. But at the same time, it had to appease your 40-plus audience as well. That balance was quite tricky," says Dean.

Ultimately, the pair seem to have struck exactly the right balance between global and local, and between comfort and quirkiness. It is a space that makes you feel at home, but is visually interesting enough to remind you that you are actually in a foreign country, in a home away from home.

"We just love it all," says Alves. "The pieces are all very quirky but they all came together nicely in the end."