x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Home is where the art is

My space Dipesh and Ayesha Depala have made artfully constructed home in Emirates Hills.

"We wanted a home that would be comfortable and feel a bit as if you are on holiday," says Depala.
"We wanted a home that would be comfortable and feel a bit as if you are on holiday," says Depala.

"My wife, Ayesha, is incredibly creative, though I suppose I am too, because I ended up being so closely involved with the design of this house," says Dipesh Depala, padding through the double-height entrance hall of his luxurious Emirates Hills home. In between helping run his family's food distribution company and acting as the managing director of his wife's fashion house, Depala nurtures a passion for the arts. He's also a bit of a dab hand when it comes to designing and decorating; that much is clear as soon as you step into his stunning house. The interior, a sea of rich neutrals, expansive whites and elegant beiges is the perfect background for his collection of colourful contemporary art.

"The house itself is very neutral as the art collection I have built up is really bold work," he explains, motioning towards two huge, semiabstract pieces by way of example. Their thick brush strokes and bright colours dominate the decor of his living room, a large space inhabited by deep sofas, sculptures and a huge wooden coffee table. "This would definitely be too much for a busy home, but with the neutral palate, beiges and creams, it works well."

He points to another oversized riot of colour. "The painting by the far wall is my favourite. I got it in Paris and as soon as I laid eyes on it, I had to have it. Some pieces are from Dubai, but that one is by Rokni. He is a fairly new artist who has become very established and popular. But that's not something I look for; I really look at for the piece itself. I do not think about how it's going to appreciate. There is another one by him on the other side of the room and what is interesting is that it is actually the same subject matter as the first one, except one is painted in the day and the other one is in the night. The painting is about Iranian royal women bathing at the lake; the women play while the men are away."

A sparkle of bright purple glints beyond the curved archway that divides the living room and dining area. It is the light from an enormous mauve and purple chandelier. "Oh yes, we had that made." says Depala with a smile. "Funnily enough, we bumped into a visiting glass maker who makes them, and it was just great timing as we had not been able to find one exactly right. The cranberry plum colour with the neutral walls makes it really come alive. The one in the hallway is also by him. We designed them ourselves and had them made in Turkey."

Depala was very much involved with the design of the house. "In fact," he says, looking around, "it's completely my design." Sunlight streams in from an enclosed courtyard and highlights the gently sloping arched doorways that separate the living room from the dining and office spaces. "The arches are Moroccan in style. The house itself, we wanted to feel fairly eclectic. We wanted everything to just flow together. We're of Indian origin and we love Moroccan architecture. We wanted to feature these elements without being gimmicky. We've used them in a way that flows and becomes part of the house without it feeling 'themed'."

Equally passionate about furniture, Depala has collected the items in his home from around the world, from India to London via Sri Lanka and France. "A lot of furniture I had made and amassed over time. Some pieces are new and some I refurbished, like this table." He points to a substantial coffee table, a hulk of dark wood covered with glass and topped with design books. "I designed this table. It's very solid but had a style element to it. The delicate lamp in the corner I bought in Dubai at an exhibition. It was hidden away in the corner and I spotted it. It was almost as if it wasn't meant to be part of the exhibition."

Dotted around the surfaces of the coffee tables and the heavy mahogany desk that is Depala's study space are large crystal animals and sculptures. There are delicate Lalique pieces and some stunning horse heads. "The animals are my father's collection. He loved those, they're a collection of pieces that were commissioned for artists all over the world, so each one is different. I am horse mad; Ayesha's wedding gift to me was a triptych of charcoal sketches by a famous Indian artist. By the time we got married, he'd stopped doing these, so it was quite impressive that she managed to convince him to come out of retirement and do these.

"I have art all over the house," he continues. "There are statues from Thailand, like this big Buddha, and pop art style portraits of famous Arabic singers. Here, by the door, is a set of sculptures called The Whisper. I met the artist by chance and he had an exhibition in London and I just loved them. They sit next to each other and one head whispers to the other. The Indian elephants are antique. I have spent many years collecting art. There are some interesting artists coming to Dubai in November. Ayesha is curating an Indian art exhibition of iconic Indian movies."

The pieces now keep Depala's other canvasses company along the walls of his living room cum art gallery, but the house manages to feel restful and serene despite its extensive collection of colourful artworks. "We wanted it to feel like you're on holiday," Depala says. "I'm not a trained architect, but I literally drew out the entire house, right down to where all the sockets should go. I was incredibly involved. Ayesha and I wanted a home that was very beautiful but we also wanted a home that would be comfortable and relaxing. After all the hard work, I think we've achieved that."