x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Simple, personal details in an apartment on The Palm

The architect Angelita Alves has filled her Dubai flat with "quirky little touches" that hold special meaning for her.

Angelita is a senior architect with Godwin Austen Johnson. Duncan Chard for the National
Angelita is a senior architect with Godwin Austen Johnson. Duncan Chard for the National
Dubai. London. São Paulo. There are three clocks in the entrance to Angelita Alves's apartment, showing the local time in each of these cities. Under each clock face, the name of the city is spelt out in bold black print. It's a striking design feature and a quirky allusion to Angelita's journey from São Paulo, where she was born and raised, to London, where she studied architecture and started her career, and then Dubai, where she has lived for almost three years.
The clocks set the tone for an apartment that is brimming with personal references. Piles of books jostle with mementos acquired during Angelita's extensive travels and periods spent living in New York, Lisbon and Paris; her own photographs and paintings adorn the walls, and unusual ceiling features speak of her architectural prowess.
Angelita, a senior architect with Godwin Austen Johnson, took up residence on The Palm in September. Having lived in Downtown Dubai since arriving in the UAE, she was ready to try somewhere new.
"To be honest, I hadn't considered moving to The Palm. But I'd been looking for a new place for about a month and I couldn't find anything that I liked because it's so difficult to find spacious one-bedroom apartments. So the estate agent asked if I had considered The Palm. And I hadn't, really."
Angelita looked at a number of developments on the man-made island, including the Shoreline Apartments and the Golden Mile, before settling on the Fairmont Residences. She was won over by a partial sea view - a rarity with one-bedrooms - and high-quality finishes.
"I like the fact that the apartment has natural stone on the floor. The detailing is good and so is the spec. That's very important for me. Because of the field of work I'm in, it really bothers me when I see things that are built in a sloppy way. The space is great, the finishes and amenities are really good, and you get a sea view. There are all these pluses."
When it came to furnishing her new home, Angelita wanted to create a cool, comfortable, neutral space and opted for a primary colour palette of grey, white and champagne. She acquired her basic furniture items from shops such as Ikea, The One and ID Design, and coupled them with unusual accessories.
"It's difficult when you are setting up because you need all your basic items in order to live comfortably. So it's good to have a go-to place where you can get all the basic stuff and then build on that by adding your own quirky little touches - all those little things that you find on your travels or in tiny shops somewhere. I like that philosophy. It means that you can always be building and adding things on."
For her living and dining area, Angelita coupled a tempered glass Ikea table with funky slimline chairs - four black and two transparent. Oversized silver letters spell out "Yo" on the wall, and paintings produced by Angelita herself hang over the television. A small wooden statue of a horse, bought on a trip to Nepal, sits on a mirrored coffee table next to a pile of books.
Overhead, Angelita has substituted traditional light fittings with circular mirrors suspended at rakish angles. Reflections of the room's white sofas and sumptuous white carpet bounce off the mirrors, introducing a new dimension to the design.
One of Angelita's favourite pieces is a side table made out of sawn-off branches. "I love it because it has this really rough materiality to it," she says. "It's from a great little shop called Pier Import in the Mazaya Centre, which not many people know about. It's the kind of place where you have to fish through everything and every now and again you'll find something amazing. I've bought a few things from there."
The bedroom is more masculine in its feel. Dark woods dominate, with white bedclothes and shelves for contrast. Overhead, undulating white fabric has been suspended from the ceiling to soften the space. It's a modern take on the four-poster bed, and proof that interesting design features don't have to cost a fortune. It's also a mark of Angelita's creativity. "The ceilings are quite high here and I find it difficult to find nice lampshades. I felt like the ceiling needed a bit of focus. It needed to be brought down a little and this just softens it. It's a very simple thing to achieve."
Elsewhere in the bedroom a multilayered lamp from The One offers a suitable dose of drama, as do an antique mirror and two blown-up photos on the wall. "They are of Dubai, although you may not be able to tell straightaway," says Angelita. "I looked at construction sites and things like that, and left the exposure open a bit. I was just playing with light. Photography and painting are my hobbies. My paintings are kind of naive but when I work I have to put a lot of thought and pragmatism into it, so when I paint it is much more fluid; it is just about expression and letting go."
The bedroom leads out on to a large terrace area, where there is a burst of colour. Ikea's low-lying PS Gullholmen rocking chairs and Alseda stools, which are made from banana leaves, have been coupled with colourful, floral cushions from The One to create an inviting outdoor space. A monochrome rug and square plant pots add to its charm. "Everything else is very muted but I felt that for the outside a bit of colour and life would make sense. Also, something light wouldn't have been practical."
As an architect, Angelita is used to looking at buildings with a critical eye, which can be torture, she admits. "You go into any space and you are instantly critiquing it. So of course, if it was me designing this place, I would have done a million things differently. But architecture is a personal thing and is very subjective. What you think is right is not necessarily what other people think is right."
For the most part, she is happy with her home. In fact, her only real gripe is that it doesn't offer enough storage space. And while the interiors are more or less done, she has a few improvements in mind. For example, she would like to introduce a feature chair in the living room but has yet to find one that she loves.
"A home should never be a finished thing," she says. "You are always wanting to change or add something to it. Of course, your circumstances change as well. People get married and have children and your space has to adapt. It's good to have a look that isn't too finished. I think it's more interesting as well. I like to keep it fluid."