x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Home of the Week: Contemporary cubism in a Jumeirah villa

The interior designer Julia Dempster's home was designed by the architect Hamed Anoobi – and Dempster knew that she wanted to live there the first time she saw it.

Photographs and artwork line the stairway, which leads to the office. Jeff Topping / The National
Photographs and artwork line the stairway, which leads to the office. Jeff Topping / The National

"I love the stimulation of moving house," says Julia Dempster. "Once they are finished, I am inspired to move on to the next one. Designing a home always goes back to designing for you and for now."

To say that Julia is a veteran of packing and unpacking is an understatement - she's moved 13 times since arriving in Dubai 15 years ago.

This may be because she's inherited what she refers to as her father's "gypsy gene"; the family constantly moved throughout her childhood in the UK, following her father's passion for buying dilapidated properties and renovating them. "I think the fact that he transformed shells of properties into amazing homes probably influenced me as a child," she says. "I had no idea that our lifestyle was different to anyone else's."

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Her current home, a contemporary, double-storey villa in Jumeirah 3, is a minimalist cube designed by the architect Hamed Anoohi. "When I saw it being built I knew that I wanted to live in it," she says. "The detailing was exceptional and Hamed and I were on the same wavelength."

The property is one of two villas that are noticeably different from the classic Dubai-style family homes that surround them. "I love the simple, clean lines of the architecture. It is the perfect backdrop. I love the full-height glass and the fact that the doors slide open on to the pool."

There's a definite Miami vibe to the property, and it seems to be the sum of Julia's diverse experiences and travels. She spent two years travelling the world, living in Los Angeles and Sydney before settling in Dubai. Her company, Interior Motives, is involved in a series of projects for international hotel groups, including the Conrad and Novotel hotels in Dubai, the Hyatt and Crowne Plaza in Riyadh, the Holiday Inn and Express Hyderabad and the Crowne Plaza Muscat, along with several villa projects on The Palm and in Emirates Hills.

It's no wonder that her home, which she shares with her young son, Miro, needs to be serene and relaxing. This is achieved through ruthless decluttering, muted tones and a backdrop of white paint. "When I moved in I didn't have to make any amendments at all. Unusually, I didn't even paint a wall."

Julia describes her style as comfortable, graphic and contemporary, and cites B&B Italia, Meridiani and Maxalto as her favourite design brands.

If guests feel a sense of harmony in the property, it may have something to do with the feng shui recommendations that she has implemented. "I have used a consultant, Vicky Moane, for the past eight years. I moved into one property without consulting her and it had devastating results," she says. "I had not realised the importance and my life improved dramatically within a week of moving out. I now recommend Vicky to every client or friend."

Most of the elements are subtle, such as the scent of vanilla and a feeling of airiness. "A home is a combination of all of our senses," says Julia. "My friends comment that whenever they smell the aroma of vanilla they recognise it from my home."

Another noticeable feature is a collection of petrified wood blocks, which lend an organic feel. "They are millions of years old and are probably my most treasured possessions. They have extraordinary depth and every piece is unique. I was also advised that they have powerful healing qualities."

Another fundamental design element is the villa's open-plan structure. "Change is constant and right now, I knew I wanted a large, open living space that led to the kitchen, dining room and garden. Having several guest rooms was not a priority when my son and I are the only ones who use the house all year round. I wanted a large walk-in dressing room. My bathroom is the optimum in luxury; I particularly like the skylight with a view of the stars while I lie in my bath."

Light, both natural and man-made, is an important feature of the interior. There are several statement light pieces from Flos and Aqua Creations (sourced at Caspaiou) as well as recessed floor lights, low-level lighting and numerous Bika candles, which have become another of Julia's signature accessory touches.

"I love the incredible open-plan architecture and the indoor-outdoor feel, with the constant stream of sunlight during the day and the proximity of the pool illuminated at night. The one thing about this house is that every room gets used."

While Julia's former homes on The Palm and Emirates Hills have been profiled in local and international magazines, this house is noticeably different to the others, which is in keeping with her belief in design evolution. "Our subconscious is constantly taking in new influences and the subtlety of the process still amazes me," she says. "I learn something new on each new project. I am very fortunate to live out my design dreams on other people's properties."

Fortunately for Julia, she can also indulge her love of design on her own portfolio of properties, including two homes in England, a chateau in the south of France and a second property in Dubai. While all have different decor styles, she uses the same formula when purchasing properties. "While my father is a great believer in 'location, location, location', I choose homes for their interior spaces. I buy property with my heart rather than my head."

However, she admits to struggling with the pressure of creating a real home rather than a show home, and finding balance in her life given her high-profile job. "We all have a vision of how we live and I constantly question that. In an ideal world I would spend it with my son and family, but in the real world we have to fulfil a large number of commitments and obligations and it is very difficult to get the correct balance. I set my own parameters and make my own decisions, and have no regrets."

Julia Dempster can be contacted at imotives@dubaimediacity.net