x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Best of both worlds

My space Fitriani Hay's study combines office space with elements of family life. Welcome to the new living.

The study is Fitriani Hay's favourite room at her residence in Emirates Hills.
The study is Fitriani Hay's favourite room at her residence in Emirates Hills.

We are sitting upstairs in Fitriani Hay's beautiful pink study. Like the woman herself, it's compact, elegant and feminine. "It used to be just a cosy sitting room for me, but as I started to get busier and needed more space, it became my office," says the businesswoman, wife and mother. A heavy, dark desk and matching bookcase packed with boxfiles give the decorative space a sense of order and purpose.

"Because it's annexed to the bedroom, it means I can come and work here at night." It's no wonder she needs to work all hours. As well as being co-director (with her husband) of the JMH Group, a holding group encompassing sport, construction and financial advisory interests, she is also about to launch Fitriani in London, a fashion boutique of which she is creative director, as well as Ray Ward Gunsmith, a sporting gun shop at the Emirates Palace hotel in Abu Dhabi.

Not for Fitriani a life of shopping and parties. "Being joint shareholders, I have to know what's going on in our business. Every day I have to keep informed and I try to be there at all the meetings." Then there are their horse racing interests. "My husband is crazy about horses and we own about 50 in three stables in the UK and South Africa. I like to get involved with them too. In the winter, I'll often get up at 5am to go with the children and watch them gallop," she says, referring to her two young daughters, ages six and 10.

Born and raised in Indonesia, Fitriani moved to the UK with her Scottish husband in 1998 and then to Dubai in 2003. "We designed and built this place from scratch; it's been a very exciting project for me," she says of the eight-bedroom house in Dubai's Emirates Hills. "We have an office in town but we usually end up working from home. If there's an important meeting, everyone just comes here." The warm pink walls are a world away from the cream and gold grandeur of the ground floor.

"I wanted this area to be casual, modern and simple. At night time with the light, the colour is beautiful," she says, pointing to the cluster of star-shaped wrought iron Moroccan lanterns that hang from the ceiling. "It's not fancy like crystal, but I like the patterns they make." A rattan day bed lines the side wall. "I didn't want a specifically Indonesian look; I had enough of that in my house in Jakarta, but I brought this back from there," she says. "It's hard to find good rattan furniture here. I think it's quite different; a nice Italian sofa you can find anywhere. My daughter often curls up on it with a book while I'm working."

Two beautiful end tables in highly polished, gnarled wood, also from Indonesia, stand next to the day bed. The knotted branches, which act as the legs, bend and weave upwards to meet the smooth slab of the tabletop; they are crude and elegant at the same time, and strangely beautiful. "They're each made from one piece of wood," she says. "My husband and I were in a village in Indonesia and we saw a man carving from a huge log. We went to his shop and ending up buying these."

Fine, gauzy curtains flutter at the windows by her desk, providing glimpses of the view out over the velveteen greens of the Montgomerie golf course and the city beyond. "I can keep an eye on my daughters swimming while I work," she adds, showing me the enormous, Balinese-style pool that dominates the garden. "They do crazy things in there," she laughs. A zebra hide is spread-eagled across the floor, the tufty stripes of its mane sticking up to give it an eerily lifelike appearance; its extraordinary monochrome pattern adds a hint of masculinity to the room. Despite being the "control room" from which Fitriani juggles her many business commitments, elements of family life have found their way in. A wooden frame housing little gold animals sits on the desk.

"It's a Chinese zodiac and is meant to bring harmony to your home, but the children love playing with it. They choose different animals to play us." A miniature Big Ben waits in a watery dome for the next snowstorm to begin. "My daughter always likes to leave things here. My husband and I joke that she just wants to remind us that she's here. I can't keep sending the things back to their room, so some of them stay."

On the wall hangs a wooden medicine cabinet, full of trinkets and souvenirs from her travels. "I found this fairy in Oxfam in London," she says, pointing to a green porcelain figurine. "It's one of six; this is my favourite, so it stays out of the children's reach." A faded passport photograph of her husband in a decorated Victorian frame sits alongside two impossibly smooth marble eggs that she found in Singapore.

"I try to get things from wherever we go," she says, before opening a small silver bell, out of which spill 10 tiny teeth. "They're my daughter's - she doesn't know I'm collecting them!" The home office arrangement clearly suits the Hays' busy lives. "The fact that we work from home is great for us but it's also nice for the children. We can get our work done, but if they need us, we're just here. It's the best of both worlds."
kboucher@thenational.ae