When redoing an interior space, it helps to look in as many stores as possible and to bring along a tape measure and digital camera.
House Doctor: Shop with a detailed plan
During my short time in the UAE, my furniture resource list has been limited to what I have seen in malls and a few stand-alone shops I pass while en route to another destination. This means that a significant part of the initial hunt for furniture will be to discover what resources are available locally. Since I worked full time with a busy, international practice before my relocation here, I am accustomed to having every source of furniture and decorative items accessible at my fingertips. Now, I have the daunting challenge of building a new network of vendors, suppliers and fabricators in this market.
Since I arrived here last summer, many colleagues and acquaintances have told me that furniture options in the UAE are limited. However, with an extensive knowledge of furnishings, I am confident that a little detective work will help me discover where the variety is hiding as well as who sells what. I won't limit myself to the obvious choices of goliath retailers who sell only one style of furniture, which is definitely not what I am looking for.
Being unfamiliar with the local market, my plan is two-fold:
1) Start with easily accessible vendors in malls.
With me in my bag are my furniture plan, a file folder of images from my research, a tape measure, digital camera, notebook and a list of the furniture stores in each of the large shopping centres. The adventure begins.
The challenge of furniture shopping for my apartment is not simply finding things to purchase, but to develop a whole new contact list of resources in this region. By compartmentalising the major shopping centres into manageable areas, I can explore resources strategically. Starting in Dubai, my goal over a couple of weekends is to scour Dubai Mall, Mall of the Emirates, Mirdif City Center, JBR and, finally, the surrounding areas to discover what small, independent stores are out there. In addition, there are numerous furniture retailers along Sheikh Zayed Road, clustered in Deira and near downtown Sharjah.
2) Research online those manufacturers who produce the style of furniture I like, and find out whether they have local vendors or retailers that carry their lines.
As previously described, my first challenge is to find the largest pieces, which will anchor the main living areas. Once I find that, it will be much easier to establish the guidelines for the smaller-scale furniture and accent items. For the lounge and dining areas of my apartment, my initial search will include the sofa, lounge chairs, dining table and dining display cabinet.
Robert Reid is a professor of architecture, art and design at the American University of Sharjah. House Doctor can be read every week in House & Home.