A new Dubai furniture shop specialises in customisable, high-end products
From the elaborate gold-leaf lamps to the sumptuous rabbit-skin throws, the new B5 showroom is nothing if not lavish. The space was designed to ignite the imagination of its visitors, and is a barrage of colours, textures and styles.
B5, The Art of Living gathers a handful of highly distinctive European interiors brands under one roof. It is the brainchild of Patricia Boettcher, a French-born entrepreneur with 25 years experience in the property and construction industries, and was born out of her frustrations with Dubai's interiors offerings. Arriving in the emirate three years ago, Boettcher set about renovating her Palm Jumeirah home and was stunned by the standard of services on offer. Not only did she struggle to find competent contractors, she was also largely unimpressed by the city's furniture suppliers.
"You have all the brands here, but you've got no service," she says. "Basically, they sell expensive products but the way these companies act and the way their staff is trained is of a very low level. There's no knowledge and there's no competence," she says.
Finding and installing the right kitchen was a particular challenge, she recalls. "We had a high-end kitchen built in. I was observing the whole time and there were a lot of mistakes. The fittings weren't very good and neither was the attention to detail."
Unlike countless other disgruntled homeowners, Boettcher decided to address the problem and has spent the past two years creating a collective of unique, customisable interiors brands. Her efforts culminated in the launch of the inaugural B5 showroom in Dubai's Sidra Tower on Sunday.
The concept, Boettcher explains, quickly expanded from kitchens and beds to include textiles and a host of high-end accessories. These range from handcrafted safes by Döttling to walk-in wardrobes by Schmalenbach and LCD mirror TVs by Ad Notam.
"I started off with kitchens and I wanted a German brand so I met with Eggersmann. Then I looked at beds and went with Jensen. Then it was a case of finding the right showroom and the right location, which is not always easy in Dubai. And then I decided to create a unique shop where everything can be customised," she says.
This is the common thread that ties all of the B5 brands together. Every item on offer can be fully customised, ensuring that customers walk away with an interiors solution that truly fits. According to Boettcher, this level of personalisation is often lacking in Dubai. "I think that housing should be very individual but still offer a certain level of sophistication. What often happens here is that people hire an interior designer and pay them a lot of money, but then end up living in surroundings that don't fit because the space is not theirs," she says.
Another commonality between the brands in the B5 portfolio is that they are all high-end, quality-orientated, family-operated companies. For example, the Norway-headquartered Jensen has been manufacturing beds and mattresses since 1947, and guarantees a unique sleep experience with each of the 150,000 mattresses that it produces every year.
Michael Wunram, the chief executive of the high-end kitchen company Eggersmann, likens his brand to a tailor-made suit. While customers may opt for an off-the-rack designer suit, they will ultimately get better quality and craftsmanship from a made-to-measure option.
Eggersmann's sleek, minimal kitchens are the cornerstone of the B5 showroom, and a kitchen island made entirely out of white cashmere granite steals the show. While granite is often selected for worktops, its weight and hardness mean that it is rarely used so extensively in a single unit. Elsewhere, dark quartz, backlit Corian and glossy lacquer surfaces act as further testament to Eggersmann's exemplary craftsmanship.
"We focus on minimalist designs with high-value materials," Wunram says. "You tend to keep your kitchen for at least 10 or 15 years, so our advice is don't make it too fancy. We focus on creating timeless solutions."
Although the kitchens in the B5 showroom are minimal, the furniture on show is anything but. Created predominantly by the German design house Lambert, seating options are, in the main, richly textured and heavily patterned. Lambert is also responsible for many of the smaller accessories that pepper the 6,000-square-foot space.
"Lambert became a way of life for me as a customer in the early 1990s," Boettcher says. "I was instantly hooked by its ability to combine individual, independent and technically perfect bespoke pieces that are as timeless as they are unique."
Underfoot, solid wood flooring by the Danish firm Junckers adds a sense of warmth to the space. Overhead, lighting fixtures by the Greek husband-and-wife team Fragiskos Bitros and Mania Soumoulidou of F+M Fos, introduce a touch of drama. In one instance, pewter wire is intertwined with leaf of silver and a sprinkle of Swarovski crystals to create a dazzling light sculpture that mimics the roots of a tree. Elsewhere, a fixture composed of 45 oversized gold-mesh flowers falls languidly from the ceiling.
This is the first international outing for the brand, which operates three showrooms in its native Greece, explains Bitros. "We create the kind of products that people either love or hate. There is no middle ground with us. Our designs are very theatrical and very chameleon-like; they can change to fit the space. I play with light and shadows, and I create products that interact with the user," he says.
F+M Fos's lighting is matched in extravagance only by the real-hide creations of Casador. Launched in 1993 by Pia Hiler-Hölzer, Casador creates handmade products from cowhide, sheepskin, goatskin and rabbit skin that are adaptable to almost any surface, including walls, floors, furniture, lighting and accessories such as cushions. Hiler-Hölzer also experiments with laser cut leathers to create a shimmering metallic sheen.
The B5 showroom offers a symphony of unique, high-end design. It was obviously designed to make an impression but Boettcher just wants people to come in and feel at home. "I want people to feel comfortable here," she says. "As I if they are at my place."
The B5 brands
Ad Notam mirror TVs
Casador soft furnishings
Junckers solid wood flooring
Döttling luxury safes
Eggersmann bespoke kitchens
Jensen beds and mattresses
Lambert furniture and accessories
Updated: February 23, 2011 04:00 AM