I stumbled across Emilie Jacob’s (@StellaandtheStars) gorgeous home on Instagram and it was love at first sight. At first, I lusted after her East London pad, but then, when she moved to Dubai a year ago with her husband Pete and 3-year-old daughter Stella, it was all about her new desert retreat. Her chic, contemporary style works just as well in rainy England as it does in sunny Dubai and there is plenty here to steal (I mean *inspire*). From a gorgeous gallery wall to a perfect pink desk area, this cool, lovely, creative French blogger is one brilliant interiors fiend…..
Where in Dubai do you live?
We live in an area called Umm Seqeim which is near one of Dubai’s public beaches (and our favourite) – Kite Beach. Being walking distance of the beach was one of the things at the top of our wish list when house hunting. It took time to find it, but we found a gem in the end so it was worth the hassle and the wait.
Our house is located in a small old compound in the older part of town – Jumeirah. When I first viewed it, the exterior reminded me of a little holiday bungalow in Palm Springs. It was love at first sight. I had seen about 40 places by that point and I remember calling my husband for the first time to say I have I found the one… Everything is on one level (which has been a total life changer after years of running up and down stairs in our 3-storey old house!) In UK standards the house is absolutely massive – it’s a 3-bedroom but is about twice the size of our 4-bedroom house in London. Houses in the area we live in are usually quite old-school, interiors wise, and very traditional looking with lots of Middle Eastern touches etc. Ours is the exception as we got really lucky that the landlords completely refurbished it before we moved in so everything in the house, from the floorings to the bathrooms, kitchen, windows, everything was brand new, and neutral (in Dubai standards!) which is RARE in this part of town. So despite it being a fairly old traditional Dubai house, it feels super modern and contemporary once inside.
How does your Dubai interior style differ from your London interior style (if at all)?
It was completely different until recently actually. The transition from a narrow townhouse in East London, with moody grey skies, dark walls and wooden floors, to a giant white box with cream tiles all around, zero features, and constantly drenched in sun light made my interior style compass go completely berserk at the beginning. It was such a change of environment, and so out of my comfort zone I got a bit paralysed at first and lived in what can only be described as a bare white minimalist space for a few months, which if you know my style and blog, is impossible to fathom! I think I suffered from mild design schizophrenia when we moved, and just left all the walls blank until I could figure out what the hell to do with all this new white space.
Did you have to ship much out from London or did you buy it all in Dubai?
We rent out our pad in London fully furnished on airbnb so we had to leave most of the accessories and furniture behind which meant travelling to Dubai VERY light… The few items we had shipped are things that had sentimental value or would be hard to replace if for whatever reason they got broken while we rent out the house. So I brought my Eames chair with me, my all time favourite Tom Dixon copper light, some of my favourite lamps, rug, some artwork and my Nespresso machine. All the rest is still in our London pad and we pretty much had to buy everything from scratch, from furniture to accessories, lighting, kitchenware, bathroom accessories… The list goes on.
How would you describe your interior style?
Eclectic, colourful, fun, bold, ‘dont-take-myself-too-seriousl y’ kind of style I think is how I would describe my style. I could also used bonkers depending on how you look at it…
After my initial paralysis with the giant Blank White Walls, I decided to embrace and totally change the scale of everything. I had a few Pinterest boards on the go where I had gathered ideal images of what I wanted the living room to look like. I kept it eclectic but less busy than my London pad and some rooms have a touch of minimalism. I have embraced more neutral tones and mixed styles to create an ecclectic look that works well with the Dubai style and sun.
I love your gallery wall. Do you have any tips on how to organise one?
Don’t overthink it and just go for it! Keep it organic and not symmetrical so you can keep adding frames as you go. Art work is such a personal thing and it’s so hard to find stuff that you instantly fall in love with that I always advise people to buy whatever they love at first sight and try and a find a spot for it later. The old days of everything matchy-matchy, with things arranged perfectly are a bit over and the most beauful gallery walls are usually the ones that are a bit messy and don’t look too overdone. I have recently written an entire post on how to create the perfectly imperfect gallery actually!
I have a fabulous custom made neon sign back in London that spells ‘Amour’ in pink so I was a bit reluctant (aka my bank account was!) to invest in another neon sign here. So I found a fun, cheap alternative from one of my favourite stores in Dubai – Caramel & Sun. It’s originally for a kid’s room but I kept it for myself! The pink tiger print was gifted to us by friends from London who know I am massive friend of the artist Aida Wilde and the Nelly Duff gallery where I used to browse every weekend. The polar bear limited edition is by an artist called Louise McNaught, and was purchased through online gallery RiseArt – a voucher was included in the Amara Interior Blog Award I won last year. Best goodie bag ever!
I have to be clever with my budget as we had so much to buy when we moved in…. The coffee table was an ex display from Homes R US, the cushions are mainly from H&M Home. The rug is a gem I found at The One on sale 50% off… and the sofa was a total bargain from Pan Emirates.
Any tips on how to make a family home stylish but also child-friendly?
When I was pregnant with my daughter, every friend with kids coming to our house would look around my pad with that half condescending-half sorry look – you know the one I mean, from parents to soon-to-be parents: ‘oh my god, you’re about to get hit by a bus and you don’t even know it’ and they’d all tell me to enjoy my lovely interiors and accessories while I could because as soon as I had my daughter, my house would turn into a war zone. And, I am actually quite pleased I proved them wrong, I don’t know if my OCD kicked in like it was out of fashion, or if I hit the jackpot with my daughter who is very gentle with her surroundings but it never did. We French tend to try and get our kids to fit into our lives rather than the other way around so maybe without realising I just taught her to adapt to the house rather than try to transform it to suit her. I also think it’s really important for kids to be surrounded by beautiful design early on, teach them to appreciate nice things rather than overwhelm them with endless plastic. I also think life is for the living and I recently read somewhere someone say they’d rather have that velvet blush pink sofa with small hand print stains on it than no velvet sofa at all. My style is quite playful so it’s actually naturally kid-friendly. Lots of colours, animals, fun accessories. Having a child-friendly home doesn’t mean you have to give up on style in my book.
Do you have any child-free areas of your house?
Our living area was fairly child-free until recently. My daughter suddenly decided she didn’t want to play in her room anymore and was always hanging out in the living room so I decided to cave it and created a play area right in the middle of the lounge (above)… I only put the stuff that was easy on the eye though, and got clever with pretty storage solutions to hide some of the uglier looking toys! She’s got a delicate temperament and has never tried to trash anything or paint on the walls (so far!) so she’s allowed to roam free anywhere she wants. I work from home and I tried to avoid having her around my desk in my home office to avoid ‘accidents’. No client wants to see a moodboards with Paw Patrols stickers on them….
This is a view of my TV cabinet and hallway in the background from my sofa. The banana leaf wallpaper is from The Loft & Us. I managed to get the rolls shipped over from the UK. It sounds counterproductive but the hallway wallpaper was one of the first things I did. I wanted to feel happy the minute I got inside the house despite every room beeing almost empty! The picture below is of the hallway. The bag is a basket I had custom made in the medina a couple of years ago when I went to Marrakech. The gold penguin is from Tusch und Egon. The rug is a little gem I found in the old souk in Dubai.
We wanted a neutral room that felt relaxing with less going on than in the rest of the house. I really struggle to switch off in the evening so we try to keep the bedroom as simple and neutral as possible. The pink wall is opposite my bed, it’s Petit Four by Jotun. I love it and hubby is quite happy that it’s not another shade of grey…. . I created it as a dressing table where I had planned to put my make up on and do my hair. I just never rarely have time to – it’s usually a 5min rush in the bathroomm…
I had the blind custom made (blackout! I can’t sleep otherwise) by a local upholsterer/ curtain maker. The ceiling light is from Tom Dixon, the table lamps (also copper) are from IDdesign. The cushions are from Honore, a little interiors shop in France that I adore.
This was the first room I kitted out in the house. And the one I had the most fun with if I am honest. I wanted to create a lovely space for her to sleep, relax, create, play and read. She had a tiny room in our London house so I had so much more freedom here with the space. I waited for us to move to Dubai to transition her into a proper bed from her baby cot in London. I have been obsessed with those cool house beds for ages and couldn’t find one here so I had one made by a local carpenter. We both love it, it was a fab investment. and is the key piece of the room.
The cotton star garland above her bed is from a French brand called Numero 74. The ceiling light is from good old IKEA. The swan head is from Bobby Rabbit. You can read more about Stella’s room here.
We didn’t really have a big budget to buy my dream marble table so I had to be clever. I found the last dining set by Ilse Crawford for IKEA in the Dubai showroom and literally bought it all on the spot without even thinking about it. The fairy lights and rug are also from IKEA. The chairs are Eames reproductions I found at DragonMart, the light was a bargain from Dragonmart too.
When it comes to shops, we have all the usual suspects here like IKEA, and some of the American high street brands like West Elm, Crate & Barrel and Pottery Barn. Some of the big UK players are also here like Amara and John Lewis (which has recently opened). There are also some lovely indie stores and online boutiques which are appearing more and more on the interiors scene: The Bowery Company, Nook Concept, Tribe, Whitemoss, would be top of my shopping list. I like mixing it up so like to shop from DragonMart, Marina homes, IDdesign, with IKEA pieces.
Thank you Emilie! You can read Stella & the Stars, Emilie’s fantastic blog here. Images by Karen Wandrag at Design K.