A colorful, playful Dubai dwelling full of personality, charm
Architect and interior designer Pallavi Dean boasts an artistic free spirit that gives her family home in Dubai a joyful, wow factor.
The Indian-born designer, who was raised in the United Arab Emirates, bought the house plan in 2016, in a development called Villa Lantana, South Barsha — a freehold property development in the suburbs. It is a 1,265-square-meter detached villa where she lives with her husband Richard, their two young sons and two pugs.
“We didn’t like the idea of living in some kind of pastiche development where there’s a Spanish-style villa next to an Italian-style property. We intentionally chose a very contemporary-looking house with clean, simple modern lines on the outside,” Dean said.
The 39-year-old wasn’t too keen about living in the suburbs but she loved Lantana because it was sitting on the right side of the Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Road and only 15 minutes from the Dubai Design District — where she works and 10 minutes from her husband’s office.
“We have more space here because we are not in the absolute center of Dubai and yet we are only 15 minutes’ drive from the Burj Khalifa, so I guess the location was a huge incentive,” she said.
Seven or eight walls were knocked down and the couple really gutted the space. On the facade they replaced all the sash windows, which had a lot of mullions within them, with large, floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall picture windows.
They also reprogrammed the rooms completely — it was a four-bedroom property with two different living rooms but they turned it into a three-bedroom house with a walk-in wardrobe, a gym studio, a living-dining open-plan space and a library.
“We wanted to create a light, airy, colorful and modern family home. It’s also very joyful and flowing with energy kind of space,” Dean said.
“I’m all about personalized experiences and this house was designed specifically for the way we live and interact as a unit. In all my projects, the biggest driver is empathy, which in fact translates into understanding the user’s needs and relate back to them. In our case, the users were one economist-broadcaster, one 7-year-old and one 4-year-old at the time and myself as a designer.”
The starting point was to consider what each person needed within the space. Dean created an open-plan playroom for the kids, which incorporates both analogue and digital elements.
On one side there is a row of floor-to-ceiling bookshelves where they can tuck away their Lego, board games and books, and on the other side, a big TV screen to play their video games and favorite cartoons.
“Similarly for me, I am a big reader as is my husband, so the library is one of the first things that we thought about when planning the interior, and recently, it also became our workspace. In this new Covid reality, we have spent more time at home and it has made us appreciate these little design features so much more,” she said.
Design is such an important aspect of Dean’s life that it felt natural to furnish her own house with pieces from her favorite brands — furniture items from Moroso and Moooi, a Vitra lounge chair and a light by Ingo Maurer for the study.
“The design was based on our needs as a family and reading plays such a key part in our lives. I would say as a design philosophy, I intentionally avoid trends or decoration per se. It is all about the user experience and needs. In the master bedroom for example, we wanted to create a serene environment and the design and color palette respond to that brief,” Dean said.
The home is a white canvas and each room has a distinctive personality — the living room is predominantly gray with pops of indigo blue and yellow in the furniture and artwork. The library is a fiery red and guest bedroom an emerald green — the connective spaces that bring this bold color palette together is neutral and white.
The family love to spend most of the time in the kitchen dining space. The dining table is an extended counter of the open kitchen which is the right height for little people to hone their master chef skills.
“It is what I call ‘our weekend zone.’ My husband will cook us an indulgent brunch while me and boys will be painting a watercolor or involved in a craft activity of some sort,” Dean said.
The kitchen features a set of sliding doors that open up to the outdoor seating area, creating a seamless indoor/outdoor experience, particularly enjoyable when they have friends around. The couple commissioned local artist Kim Baroma to spray paint one of the walls in the backyard.
The graffiti work depicts a large mural of the goddess Laxmi alongside a portrait of Yoda accompanied with the quote “do or do not, there is no try” for the boys.
“Art is a key element in many of my projects and we are both art enthusiasts,” the designer said. “We bought this beautiful sculpture by a Polish artist called Ana Barlik, which is now in the living room and we also have a signed Zaha Hadid print in the dining area.
“We also have a limited-edition print by Indian artist N.S. Harsha — I love buying art while traveling and this particular piece was purchased in Tokyo where the artist was exhibiting at Momat. The stairwell features a triptych from the 1970s by Willem Kerklaan — I picked this one up during a business trip in Amsterdam.”
When asked what is the highlight of the home, Dean said it is probably the huge, completely transparent glass front door.
“We did rip out the big wooden front door, which originally came with the house and which all the other villas in the neighborhood have, and put in this huge glass door instead,” she said. “It floods the space with natural light. People can see it from the street and we are known in the community as the house with the glass door.”
Ask The Owner
Q: What’s the best thing about living in Dubai?
A: Dubai is such a vibrant, forward-thinking city. There’s so much happening here at the moment in the fields of design and innovation and I feel so fortunate to be part of this movement.
Q: Describe your home in three words.
A: Colorful, unapologetically playful and full of personality.
Q: What’s the first thing you do when you get home?
A: I always try and spend time with my kids after work, either helping them with their homework in the kitchen or playing some outdoor game in the patio.
Q: How do you unwind?
A: I don’t like exercising in public spaces so having a personal gym/yoga studio 2 meters away from my bedroom was a game changer — it also means I have zero excuses!
Q: Where do you spend most of your time at home?
A: The library has become my home office so that’s probably where I’ve spent most of my time recently!
Q: What’s the view outside your window?
A: The main windows in our home overlook our backyard, which features a Zen garden and a 100-year-old olive tree. We can also peek at the graphic mural painted by a local artist on one of the walls.
Q: What’s your favorite object in your home?
A: A jumbo David Hockney Taschen book that my husband gave me on our 10th anniversary.
Q: Where do you source furniture?
A: Anywhere, everywhere! I am a huge advocate of supporting original design and the home features many pieces by my favorite designers.