If your home is lacking that certain joie de vivre, be inspired by this stunning, contemporary villa project by Valentina Piscopo, founder of the online design platform KUKY. Last summer, the Italian designer was asked by an Abu Dhabi family to help them transition from an apartment to a two-storey villa in Green Community, Dubai. Valentina’s brief was to create a cosy home with a Scandinavian design influence for the couple, Suad and Ali, and their two young children, while also using the family’s existing furniture — none of which had Nordic nuances … This is where Valentina’s creativity stepped in: upcycling, transforming and custom-making key pieces to create the dream home Suad and Ali wanted. Here, Valentina reveals all about the design process of this creative villa project. Enjoy!
Why did the family ask for your professional help?
Suad contacted me at the end of July 2019 and explained that her family was moving from a three-bedroom apartment in Abu Dhabi to a two-storey villa in Dubai. With a full-time job and two young children that were starting school in September, she felt overwhelmed by the upcoming move and the potential renovations, but she also wanted to make this new home feel really special for her family.
What was her vision for their new home?
The villa they purchased needed some TLC but it had so much potential. Suad wanted to turn it into a warm and cosy family home on the outside (picture hydrangeas blooming by the front door and herbs growing in the garden) with a Scandinavian aesthetic on the inside, while also keeping her existing furniture, which was not Scandinavian in style but sentimental and practical for the family to keep.
How did you achieve this?
The renovations done to the house had to be simple and fast. Floorworld came in to replace all of the tiled floors upstairs with beautiful oak wood flooring, and I painted everything I could get my hands on in my favourite colour — white! This gave us a beautiful palette to use as a base for the design of the rooms, and the fresh colour made such a difference from the old, yellowy walls and dark brown wardrobes that came as standard in the house.
How did you incorporate the family’s existing furniture from their apartment into their larger home?
Since their existing furniture was quite formal we decided it would be best suited in the living room and dining room, so we created a ‘grownup’ space downstairs. I used a lot of textures and painted the dark furniture white to create a contemporary and fresh interior downstairs, and to complement the Scandinavian-inspired style we went for upstairs, which is where we put the majority of the new purchases.
Describe the design process and sourcing for this project…
Suad was a dream client. She was busy with work and family yet she was also really responsive and quick at making decisions. She and her husband would be at work all day while I was in their home making progress on their house. We would communicate through WhatsApp, then she would see the progress firsthand in the evenings and get back to me with feedback, and it would start all over again the next morning. This was the fastest pace that I’ve ever worked at, and I somehow felt part of their family for a while! It was wonderful and one of the things I cherish the most about my job: helping families design their dream homes. When I wasn’t at their house, I was out sourcing from my favourite local brands or in the woodshed designing something custom for them. I worked on a lot of custom-made furniture as well as the reupholstery of existing pieces to recycle what they already owned and to keep the budget down. I am a big supporter of sustainability and reusing furniture.
What furnishings did you custom-make for this project?
For me, designing furniture is an integral part of my design process. I am very creative and sometimes the ideas in my head cannot be ‘store bought’. A big piece I had custom-made was the floor to ceiling ‘Beauty and the Beast’ library (as my client took to calling it). Suad and her husband are avid readers and own a collection of over 1,000 books. I worked with Al Jumeirah Carpentry to make this and I was really happy with their quality of work and professionalism. The library wall was probably the most expensive item that I designed for their home and because it has become a striking feature wall it was worth every penny. I also customised the children’s existing bedroom curtains by adding funky pom pom trims, and we had fun designing their bunk bed. The space in the kids’ bedroom was very compact, so much so that the bed had to be wedged between windows and needed to fit the space perfectly; however, store-bought beds simply did not match the size that we needed. The kids were also really keen to have a slide, which I couldn’t say no to! The final design was such a hit that another client asked me to make one for her children, too.
What’s your favourite room in Suad and Ali’s home?
It’s very hard to choose, but the master bedroom ended up being the most striking room visually, so much so that I feature it on the KUKY homepage. It was an incredible space to begin with, benefiting from large windows and lots of natural light. For this room, I kept the existing bed, reupholstered a red armchair with a soft, dusty pink fabric, created a reading corner, and added in the storage space that Suad and Ali needed. When you are working in such a large space with impressively tall ceilings it is imperative to use layers of textures, colours and natural materials, such as wood and bamboo, to make the room feel warm and cosy, which is what most clients want for their bedroom. It has such a clean and modern feel that, to me, is synonymous with relaxing.
Where does your design inspiration come from?
I am an all-round natural chick! I love to use natural textures, natural colour palettes and natural light in my projects, and I try to capture beautiful moments in each room. As a designer, I take visual inspiration from all around, I listen to my client and I take on board their preferences and inspirations, so every project is different.
In terms of process, I always start by sourcing items from small, local businesses in the UAE. If I can’t find something I will go to the mainstream stores such as West Elm, Zara Home and H&M Home. When I still can’t find what I want, I will get busy designing on SketchUp to custom-make the item if budget and time allows. In my own home you will struggle to find anything from a big brand name; half of my furnishings and accessories are custom-made while the other half is from small, local brands, and the majority of them are sustainable.
Is there anyone you’d like to give a shout-out to regarding this project?
I have to mention Linda Dekkers from Live Loud Girl; Suad initially contacted her for this project but due to a clash in timings Linda could not take the job on and she introduced me to Suad. Linda has been hugely supportive and she’s a true testament that women entrepreneurs can push, encourage and support each other even when they work in the same field.
If you fancy giving your home a makeover, check out KUKY’s design services — but before you head there take a look at our DIY and interiors pages for inspiration and discover more real home tours in the UAE, all bursting with lust-have design finds and contemporary style. If you’re moving home soon, read our insightful ‘Moving Diaries’ series with essential firsthand advice for anyone navigating a move in Dubai.
*All images taken by Natelee Cocks.