Cult shop Last year, O'Cocoon came to Abu Dhabi, offering dozens of gorgeous brands, primarily from Europe, Lebanon and Argentina.
China, crystal, linen and some very sweet treats
It was the quest for one perfect, fine bone china coffee mug that led to the creation of O'Cocoon. That was in Beirut some 17 years ago and that boutique has become a favourite of Lebanon's insiders. Last year, O'Cocoon came to Abu Dhabi - and beautiful coffee cups are just a small part of the offering. It's hard to decide where to start - Limoges place settings? Cristal de Portieux glassware? Lappas leather and silver desk and drinks accessories? Masina serving dishes or Haffke bronze photo frames? And if you can make it past that lot unscathed, a collection of custom-commissioned table linen from Lebanon lies in waiting around a corner. Hidden away in a villa near the Tunisian Embassy in Khalidiya, there are dozens of gorgeous brands, primarily from Europe, Lebanon and Argentina, in fine crystal and glassware, linen and cutlery, as well as chocolates and gift items, few of which are found among the 'same-same' stock offered by many shops here. The dynamo behind the business is Nada Onsi. She and her sisters, Randa and Zubeida, have always been surrounded by style: they grew up in a chic area of Beirut, with a poet for a great grandfather and a renowned painter for an uncle. Theirs was a home where manners mattered, Nada confides; where the family sat down together around a large table for dinner every night, with starched linen, silver cutlery, initialled napkins and engraved napkin rings all part of everyday dining. It's this refined heritage that the sisters bring to O'Cocoon; Randa helps to manage the Beirut shop, while Zubeida helps in Abu Dhabi. The choice of a villa rather than mall space for the Abu Dhabi store was deliberate, Nada says, part of the desire to create a space where the women of Abu Dhabi could feel at home. "My Arab women clients in particular appreciate the privacy of this location - they can browse at leisure, have a cup of coffee, even meet their friends here. It's much more personal than being in a mall, and I'm able to display everything in a way that reflects how it might look in a real home." Not that every home has the striking Murano chandeliers found in this villa, of course. "We aim to offer a selection to suit all tastes, from classic to contemporary," says Nada. And while many of her clients are well-to-do local and expat women looking for beautiful objects that will last a lifetime, others just want to find special but reasonably priced gifts. Many pop in frequently just to see what's new. And then there's the chocolate: "They eat a lot of chocolate in this part of the world and they are prepared to pay for quality. So we've established a factory in the UAE to produce chocolate to suit local palates, using the best Belgian and Swiss couverture. A lot of our clients first come just for the chocolate, but then they see what else we have and often go on to find something for the home as well."