x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

In My Place: Swedish design in a hotel apartment

Michael Clattenburg moved from Stockholm to Dubai 12 years ago, and into The Address Dubai Marina in June.

Gold leaf, which is introduced in the living area, is continued in the study area. Jeff Topping / The National
Gold leaf, which is introduced in the living area, is continued in the study area. Jeff Topping / The National

I've been in Dubai for 12 years. I moved here from Stockholm, Sweden. In Dubai I have lived in many different apartments: in Bur Dubai, along the creek, next to Murraqabat Street. Also in Deira and now at Dubai Marina. I've always lived in an apartment because a villa seems to require too much time and care.

I moved into this apartment at The Address hotel, Dubai Marina, last June. I found it via a recommendation from a friend. I didn't really want to move but I thought I should experience living in this area and see how the change would affect my well-being.

I like living here, but after eight months I can say that I prefer the older areas because they feel more genuine. I prefer the real souq and not just an expatriate-secluded environment or the Disneyland areas of Dubai. During my first month, I had to return to my old neighbourhood of Bur Dubai to do the grocery shopping. I missed it so much.

My first impressions of the apartment were not overwhelming; I just thought it was nice. I visited the building three times and considered four different apartments. My final decision was based on the natural light coming into the apartment.

I believe that it is only after living in a space that you can truly know what is correct and what isn't. The view was the main attraction. I thought I would sleep with the curtains open at night so I could enjoy the nocturnal view but since the building is so high, they require safety lights for aircrafts flying overhead. Unfortunately, these blinking lights are very irritating when you are trying to sleep.

When the weather is good on a quiet Friday afternoon, it is wonderful to take a walk along the water. Since the area is still quite new, there is not too much life here but it is improving month by month.

As an interior designer, my personal style has evolved over time and I'd say that is part of the journey. I think it was Van Day Truex who first said "Good design is forever" but it is my mantra. Whether my personal style has changed, I always strive for good principles of design. We all evolve and I can hardly wait to see our interiors in another 10 years.

I came to Dubai to work on Emirates Tower Hotel. I was the furniture, fixtures and equipment designer while employed at Design Division. I have worked on Microsoft's offices at Internet City and as a design consultant with Kinnarps of Sweden. I have worked on hospitality, commercial, retail outlet and residential projects. My favourite projects have been the residential villas for the many lovely Emirati families that we have had as clients and who have become friends.

My Dubai home differs from my Swedish one. I feel my home in Stockholm has a soul because it is an old building. The walls have paint that is made from an old Swedish recipe with no chemicals.

I love old windows because the unclear glass and delicate wooden frames are so charming. The genuine oak parquet is solid and makes creaking sounds when you walk over it - there are no 8mm constructed wood or laminate alternatives. In Dubai, all of the apartments I have lived in have power-coated aluminium frames and tinted windows.

The two homes are completely different styles. One is Swedish antique with modern touches, while the other is a contemporary, easy-going style.

In my early years I brought many things from Sweden to Dubai, but I have since taken almost everything back to Sweden. The reason is that I am so particular about preserving antiques and quality decorative objects. The European knowledge for restoration and conservation has not reached Dubai yet. Here most people would rather throw out a chair if it is old or slightly damaged or needs new upholstery. So the thought of a Gustavian chair becoming part of a landfill in Dubai horrifies me.

I define my style as "decorative minimalism". I like to start with a clean room without much decorative interior architecture, and then I start to add objects and furniture, mixing the past and the present.

My favourite shop was Port of Call Gallery, which had Chinese antiques, modern lamps and exquisite accessories, but unfortunately they have left Dubai and relocated to London.

I like to visit all the interior shops because I can always find something I like, and I like to challenge myself to see how I could change or customise a found piece of furniture. My regular haunts are B&B Italia, Selva, Aati, Crate & Barrel, Bloomingdale's, Stepevi, Pottery Barn, The One, Andrew Martin and so many more.

To make a home, the obvious functions need to be solved with practical furniture but it is the fresh flowers, candles, music, books, artwork, good food and people that make it a home. Just buying some expensive furniture and putting it into place is not a home for me.

I like to experience living in different areas in Dubai, so if I was to move out of my present apartment, perhaps I would move to Old Town, which I find is a really silly name since it was built two years ago. Every year I want to return to Sweden because I get inspired by walking the streets of Stockholm and looking at the architecture or visiting the National Museum or the design shops and auction houses. Otherwise, I have been contemplating whether it might be time to move to New York.

I edit my belongings all the time. You have to, otherwise all of us would have junk stacked to the ceiling. It seems like I am constantly giving away so many things. I recently gave away my four-poster bed and two Empire-style lamps.

I hate the word clutter because it sounds so negative. Instead I like to say I have a controlled amount of decorative objects. It is important for me to have pretty objects around me to beautify my life but not choke the environment I live in.

I collect Danish Georg Jensen silver, Swedish sculpture and late Gustavian mirrors and furniture.

I am always giving my home the attention it needs because living well is an art form and elegance is learnt and practised at home. Since stress is a part of our daily lives, I have made a point of not having a computer or telephone landline at home. I often switch off my mobile telephone and read. Books feed my imagination.

Michael Clattenburg was speaking to Penny McCormick. You can contact him at info@michaelclattenburg.com