x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

In My Place: All about the details in an Al Barsha villa

Whether it's for her home or her design business, Jake and Gigi, Michelle Roberts always keeps an eye out for little treasures.

Michelle Roberts was attracted to the sense of open space in her Al Barsha home. "It's full of light and very welcoming," she says. Randi Sokoloff for The National
Michelle Roberts was attracted to the sense of open space in her Al Barsha home. "It's full of light and very welcoming," she says. Randi Sokoloff for The National

Travel is a huge inspiration for me both personally and professionally. I've lived in six different countries. My father is in the oilfield industry so we moved around a lot while I was growing up. I've been fortunate to live in Texas, Chad, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Canada. I love that I've grown up in so many different countries. The actual moving task, though - the packing and unpacking - is the part I hate.

I live in Al Barsha and I was attracted to this villa because of its size and sense of open space. The house is full of light and very welcoming. Fortunately I didn't have to do anything to the house because it was perfect to start with.

I'd describe my decorative style as eclectic. I have many antiques and I also decorate with my own Jake and Gigi designs. I've sourced their vintage components and accessories all over the world - from estate sales to travel finds. I've always had an eye for details and been a very visual person.

My sense of style used to drive my mum crazy when I was growing up and I think that cycle is repeating itself with my own daughter. My company, which I set up in 2004, is all about the little details and mixing vintage and the new, which I carry though to my home decor style, too.

I'm definitely a collector and hoarder rather than a declutterer. My studio is crammed with boxes of beads, mood boards, posters and work in progress. I've always been interested in vintage jewellery and have got a great collection of pieces from Trifari, Coro, Haskell and Weiss, to name but a few. I mix these elements with vintage Swarovski crystals that were discontinued in the 1950s. I've got a very organised system of storage and can't work in chaos.

Like designing a home, how I design pieces for Jake and Gigi is very similar. I first find pieces I love and then arrange them to complement each other. That's what makes it fun and challenging. Decorating a house and designing are both like solving puzzles - but ultimately rewarding.

I've embellished and added the Jake and Gigi touch to everything from wallpapers, safe deposit boxes and Givori mobile phones to car fenders of every size and shape, and furniture items such as lamps and tables. I enjoy being inspired by design but more importantly I love to make people happy.

I get commissions every day and it's the variety that inspires me the most. The bonus is that when you are passionate about what you do, the actual work is a labour of love.

Like decorating a home, I believe in working with what you have to get the best results. You can't always have the best location or internal layout for houses but you do your best.

For furniture and accessories I go to The One and Crate & Barrel. I also think Marina has had some really great collections over the last couple of years.

My last home in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada, holds the fondest memories for me.

My most treasured possessions are my Barbara McGivern paintings. She's a Canadian artist and her canvases are very energetic. Her work gives colour to sentiment and I love the dense shades and vibrancy of her paintings, the depth and light. Beyond this, though, her use of gold leaf in the paintings adds an empowering element and richness.

Kitchens seem to have special resonance for me. My kitchen is my favourite room. It's bright and it's filled with some of my favourite things. And, again, my kitchen in my last home was my favourite room ever. I think the kitchen is the heart of the home. It's the room I always decorate first. I love to cook. I make a mean Caesar salad and lasagne.

I love gardening, so any outdoor space I fill with as many different kinds of plants and flora as I can. I have a huge backyard and a menagerie of pets to go with it - currently six dogs, a cat and two turtles. My dream home is wherever there is fresh air, trees and nature.

My family is what makes my house a home. Otherwise it is just a building, really. For me a home is defined as an escape, a work studio, a social place, a roosting spot and a creative haven.

Luxury at home boils down to three things. My mother always told me to make sure to invest in good dishes, great mattresses and high thread count bed sheets.

For more information about Jake and Gigi, visit www.jakeandgigi.com or e-mail Michelle at jakeandgig@gmail.com