If turning your fire extinguisher into a chic Chanel home accessory sounds like your kind of makeover, you’ll love the inspiring hygge-focused home of Canadian-Lebanese expat Cynthia Salloum, which she showcases on her Instagram account White Haven Décor. Cynthia’s villa in Jumeirah Village Triangle (JVT), Dubai, is a sanctuary of layered natural textures and Scandinavian tones, honey woods and heavenly whites — even her fluffy Persian-Angora cat Bella complements the scheme! Here, we find out more about her design inspiration, how to ‘hygge your home’ and which UAE home retail brands helped her get the look.
When did you discover your passion for home styling?
I discovered my passion for home décor and styling when I moved house two years ago from Jumeirah Lake Towers to Jumeirah Village Triangle. I was overwhelmed by the positive feedback I received about the way I styled my new home and I started getting a lot of questions about product sourcing. This inspired me to leave the corporate world, take a leap of faith and open the @whitehavendecor Instagram account in November 2019 so I could share my newfound passion. In response to the many enquiries I received about sourcing, I launched an online mood board styling service so fans of my style can reach out to me if they want inspiration on how to update their own home.
Did you employ a design studio or stylist to help decorate your home?
After living in an apartment that looked like it came out of an IKEA catalogue (I’m not saying it was bad, I love IKEA), I really wanted to switch it up, try out different styles and play around with our interior décor myself, so my home styling was all by me — and my husband Eddy, who I have to give credit to as he helped bring my vision to life. I’m so clumsy so he was the one who hung every frame, print, light shade, mirror, etcetera, around the house.
What was your vision for your home?
With all the stress that came with the media and advertising world that I worked in at the time, I really wanted my home to feel like a safe and cosy haven filled with neutrals and natural, handmade pieces that would automatically make you feel at ease and bring peace to your soul; that was my vision for our home.
Were you able to make this vision a reality?
Yes, because I had a clear vision when I started sourcing items for the house, with a specific neutral and warm colour palette in mind, and I made sure to keep things consistent. In terms of evolvement, I chose the bulky pieces first with a focus on light natural timber, as seen in the dining table, benches, coffee table and shelving units. Then the fun part started, which was all about styling and picking décor pieces that I knew would ‘spark joy’.
Describe your style and how you manage to complement it…
I would say that I’m all about Scandinavian style mixed with a modern boho touch. My home has an emphasis on a neutral colour palette and materials that have a natural vibe, such as pale woods and earthy fibres like rattan. I complemented this design style by keeping the rooms uncluttered and I focused on clean and simple lines, natural light, functionality, balance as well as high-quality pieces, while embodying the main element of Scandinavian style — hygge, which means comfort. With this in mind, I sourced items from various parts of the world, making sure to keep the overall style consistent throughout the house.
Which parts of the world did you source from?
Our stunning handmade black and white plates from Morocco, made possible thanks to my friend Rita, who’s behind the Moroccan homeware boutique Beldi Bazaar. The rattan cactus lamp from Bali, which reminds me of the quote ‘love where you live’, which Lilly of home styling studio Escape Home uses on her Instagram posts; this cactus lamp reminds me of living in Dubai surrounded by the UAE desert, and how I’ve grown to love it and I am grateful to call it my second home. I have a few beautiful pieces from Australia, including a gorgeous clamshell that adds the perfect coastal touch to my home and a jute table runner that I turned into an entrance rug; I thought, why not?
How do you incorporate hygge into your home décor?
To ‘hygge your home’ is best translated as infusing your home with a cosy and peaceful spirit that brings you nothing but joy, the feeling of balance, and being able to enjoy life’s simple pleasures. In terms of décor, I made sure to include lots of soft furnishings and layers of cosy textiles, from fluffy cushions to knit throws and woven rugs. However, hygge is not only about décor, it’s also about habits and lifestyle. If you follow @whitehavendecor, you’ll have seen me dim the lights and light candles around the house, snuggle up under a blanket on the couch in front of the fireplace (I mean the fake Apple TV fireplace, but we can pretend!) and enjoy a hot cup of coffee with some Nora Jones in the background; these are life’s simple pleasures.
Did you design, upcycle or update any furnishings yourself?
Before we moved house I’d been obsessing over wooden display ladders, and my husband Eddy surprised me with one that he built from scratch. I love it and it means so much more to me because he made it for me. I also asked him to paint the fire extinguisher white (seriously, who could have a red fire extinguisher in the middle of the entrance when the whole vibe of the house is white and neutrals!) and the cherry on top was the Chanel sticker that I added.
How do you most use your home space?
Ever since I left the corporate world, a lot of the time I can be found working on online mood boards, hand-making tassels and creating content for my Instagram page, and I can’t get enough of it. The saying, ‘do what you love; love what you do’, is my new motto in life. I truly love what I’m doing and I’m so grateful to have discovered my true passion.
Your top 5 home retail brands in the UAE…
1.Home and Soul: They offer amazing Scandinavian and boho-style pieces. They were also one of the first brands to support me, so they hold a special place in my heart.
2.Bound No.82: I feel like we were on this journey [of White Haven Décor] together from the start and we grew together. I love the ladies behind it and I love how they support local artisans. They deserve to be seen.
3.Beldi Bazaar: My favourite Moroccan haven — their collection will make you drool, and the founder Rita has become a special friend of mine and I can’t wait for our future projects together.
4.Haute Bohème: Kym, the gorgeous lady behind the brand, has an exquisite eye for detail and sources some of the most beautiful items.
5.CUSTOM NO.9: One of the most creative concepts I’ve come across, I look forward to their Cut Off Drop [a new product made from their off-cut materials] every month.
Where does your design inspiration come from?
Much of my inspiration comes from all of the handmade gorgeousness that you can find in Bali, Morocco and Africa. A lot of the Australian and Italian bloggers and designers that I follow showcase such designs and décor pieces, and I started saving such posts to build my own mood board, then mixing and matching between the different styles to make it my own. I also love supporting local brands and I feel honoured to showcase their pieces around the house.
What creative projects are you working on?
I love the Perfectly Imperfect Tassels home accessory range that I make by hand, and each clay ball [of which many are used to form the tassel] is imperfect in its own way, making the whole tassel more perfect. It reminds me of the importance of embracing one’s flaws and of the concept ‘imperfect is the new perfect’. The whole process of making takes about four days because I roll each clay ball by hand and dry them for 72 hours before forming the tassels.
We hope you feel as inspired by Cynthia’s cosy style as we are to go ahead and ‘hygge your home’ (cute fluffy Persian cat, optional — but certainly completes the scene!). Find more inspiration for your home with our interiors and DIY features, discover stylish real home tours from the UAE, plus plenty more ideas on our @HomeClubME Instagram page.