(DENNIS B MALLARI)
When property investor Ajay Gokani finally received the keys to his brand new Dh5.5 million villa at The Palm Jumeirah last year, he knew he had to have interior decorators in to do it justice.
“We saw some Fendi furniture and really liked it so requested our designers to use them in the interior of our house,” says the 41-year-old United Kingdom-based Tanzanian, who uses his luxury villa as one of his holiday homes when he comes to Dubai.
“They look nice and they are luxurious and comfortable.”
American fashion supremos Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein launched their home collections in the 1990s and ever since, the trend for designer furnishings has caught on.
Now, it is hard to think of a designer who doesn’t have a home furnishings line. From Versace to Missoni, Fendi and Gucci to Christian Lacroix and John Rocha, they’ve all made a success of it, and the proof of their success can be seen in the homes of the Emirates’ chic set.
According to interior designer Faisal Abdalla Al Ansari, the demand for high-end luxury furnishings in the UAE continues to rise.
“A lot of people want these brands, mainly because not everyone can afford it, and so there is a level of exclusivity,” says the Emirati designer, who works at luxury furniture store, Aati.
“But it is also the name, design and quality. A customer came to me recently and told me he bought his furniture 15 years ago from us and it still looks the same.”
According to research conducted by the Institute for International Research (IIR), Middle East consumer demand for furnishing and interior decoration is fuelled by an estimated 100,000 people moving to Dubai every year. The total number of residential apartments and villas planned for completion in Dubai before 2010 is between 170,000 and 240,000 units, it estimates.
The study also revealed UAE residents plan to spend a minimum average Dh20,000 on home furnishings in the next year while 68 per cent of those polled planned to redecorate their home on average every two years.
“It all adds up to a huge opportunity for the home furnishing and interiors industry,” the study said.
IIR Middle East also organises the Arabian Home Show in Dubai and is promoted as a leading interiors and accessories exhibition.
With fast-changing collections that keep up with the latest fashion trends, the interior furnishings industry is poised to grow. But does having deep pockets necessarily up your status at the style stakes? According to Al Ansari, a king-size bed at Aati will set you back anywhere between Dh24,000 to Dh120,000.
“People are still demanding pieces because they just want to have the name and what it represents,” he says.
A spokesperson for upmarket store Harvey Nichols says customers in the UAE are savvy when it comes to unique home furnishings. “They have a good knowledge of brands and recognise the style and quality that luxury represents,” she says.
Rick Advano, the managing director of Rennaisance Interiors, the company that designed the Gokani’s home, says many of his clients ask for “designer look” type homes that they see in magazines.
“Customers respond to the images fashion designers evoke in their collections and capturing part of that magic is possible with designer home collections,” he says.
“A lot of them like the look of it. Unfortunately, when they look at the costs, some tend to ask for alternatives,” he says. “But there is no denying that there are some very spectacular pieces of furniture created.”
But not everyone is getting into the craze. Interior designer Michael Clattenburg advises his clients against buying set furniture pieces from popular designer stores.
“To have the whole interior done by one person is quite tacky, there is no creativity, no personality. If you’re going to have a Fendi sofa, Cavalli cushions or Ralph Lauren carpets, you are not relying on yourself, there is no identity,” says the 45-year-old, who runs Michael Clattenburg Interiors.
“It is one thing to have designer clothes and quite another to have your home done up with the same brand.
“I think a lot of people buy into the name rather than aesthetics. But brands are what they are and just buying one does not necessarily mean you have a style or that you become more elegant.
“Style and elegance is knowing who you are. It is all about your personality and how it is reflected in your home and its interiors,” Clattenburg says.
Rennaisance Interiors’ Advano says the sheer number of people moving to the UAE, spurred by more real estate, is proving a lot of opportunities for interior designers and their related industries.
But homeowners, he says, have to be discerning while trusting their homes to design companies. “There are many upstart companies that have been set up with limited experience,” he says.
“Unfortunately, a lot of them have muddied up the waters for the more established companies in the market.”
Faisal abdalla al ansari
Designer means quality and exclusivity
Faisal Abdalla Al Ansari has the distinction of being the first and only Emirati interior designer. The 23-year-old former Dubai International airport employee says he has always had an eye for design.
What is your design philosophy?
—For me it’s all about maximising the look and feel of any given space. From the use of colours to the right type of furniture, if you achieve a sense of originality and please the client, it’s work well done
What’s the most expensive set of furniture you have sold?
—We recently had a customer who spent Dh400,000 on the decor of his living room alone.
Do customers in Dubai buy brands for the look or the name?
—We have two types of customer. There are some who buy furniture for the looks but the majority buy it for the brand name because they have immense faith in the designs and they trust the quality the name offers.
Why high-end furniture?
—It’s like buying branded clothes and perfumes. It means excellent quality and because of the fact that not everyone can afford it, gives the feeling of luxury.
How did you get into interior design?
—It was going to be either fashion or interiors for me. My friends have always told me I have a knack for design. So when I sent my resume to Aati, I was accepted after the initial tests. I have slowly worked my way up.
Do you own any designer furniture?
—Yes, I recently furnished my new apartment at the Dubai Marina with some of the designer accessories and lamps we sell in our showroom.
Designer luxury at home