Design House: Lilly Engelbrecht's boho-chic abode

Eclectic pieces from around the world pop against a neutral colour palette in the interior designer's Dubai villa

01 Sep 2022, words by Rem R in Design & Architecture

Lily Engelbrecht | Dubai Hills LUXHABITAT

Woven baskets, neutral shades, wooden accents, and plenty of natural light. These are just some of the elements that work together to bring an air of natural sophistication to interior designer Lilly Engelbrecht’s home. The founder of Escape Home Interiors, a Dubai interior styling company, lives in a three-bedroom villa in Dubai Hills brimming with statement furniture and boho-chic décor. With floor-to-ceiling windows and a private courtyard, she lets us in on the secrets to creating a cozy, stylish space that brings the outdoors in.

Lilly: From a very young age – I remember even in primary school – I loved decorating. We had basic furniture back then – nothing like what is available now! – but even then, I remember saving up for something new. I would get a glass jar and fill it with sweets and set up a table for my friends. I was always decorating and redecorating. I also remember being so thrilled when I finally got my first place, even though it was a small rental. 

I moved to Dubai in 2001. I actually came over to work for Emirates as an air hostess and I was with them for nine years before going to work for the Royal Family in Abu Dhabi. I was then with their private airline for a few years. 

While I did a lot of training and the like for them, they realised that I was also very into interiors. Every time we got a new aircraft, I would go out and buy all the cushions, do all the décor and basically style the aircraft. In 2015, I decided that it was time for a change of career. It was around that time that we were also renovating an apartment we had in Cape Town. I decided to document the renovation on Instagram… and that’s how I got my first client. The rest, as they say, is history.

Lily Engelbrecht LUXHABITAT Dubai Hills
Lily Engelbrecht LUXHABITAT Dubai Hills

Lilly: My personal interior decorating style is a mix of everything. I’m not a minimalist by any means, I’d actually consider myself more of a maximalist. My husband and I travel extensively and we collect a lot of pieces from around the world. There’s definitely a bit of a boho feel to it, a little bit of African tribe vibe. I like finding unique pieces and making them a part of our home. I love how they tell someone else’s story and by bringing them into our home, they become a part of our story too. 

I also feel like there’s something from each project that I’ve worked on within my home. Because when collecting and curating pieces for clients, I’ll often find something beautiful and think “Oh my goodness, I want that in my home”. So, in a way, all my projects have become a part of my home and part of my story. 

Regarding colours, I like having white walls, which can help make other pieces in the house pop. Even when we have colour, neutral palettes appeal to me.

Sidra villa, Dubai Hills LUXHABITAT
I'm not a minimalist by any means, I'd actually consider myself more of a maximalist.
Lily Engelbrecht LUXHABITAT Dubai Hills
Lily Engelbrecht LUXHABITAT Dubai Hills
Lily Engelbrecht LUXHABITAT Dubai Hills

Lilly: I currently stay in a rented three-bedroom villa in Dubai Hills. We chose the space because it had these amazing floor-to-ceiling windows and walls. That also means plenty of natural light which is also really important to me. Since it’s a corner villa, there’s also plenty of outdoor space. 

I would say my favourite room is the bedroom. It’s a space I’m not in often because we’re always up and about but when we are, it’s very relaxed. I also love the living room and dining space. Our old place had a closed off kitchen, but this one is completely open, and it’s just great during winter. We usually end up leaving the windows open and the space just comes alive.

Lily Engelbrecht LUXHABITAT Dubai Hills
Lily Engelbrecht LUXHABITAT Dubai Hills
Lily Engelbrecht LUXHABITAT Dubai Hills
Lily Engelbrecht LUXHABITAT Dubai Hills
Lily Engelbrecht LUXHABITAT Dubai Hills
Lily Engelbrecht LUXHABITAT Dubai Hills

Lilly: Speaking of favourite spaces, one would have to be the courtyard. We have a little walkway that connects our dining room to this beautiful outdoor space. We’ve really done it up with a sofa, some cacti, and wicker furniture. We got some tiles from Ikea which we’ve layered on the ground to give it a nice look. It’s a very nice space to sit and relax during the cooler months. 

There are so many favourite things I love within the home. One example would be a French oak console that sits in our entryway, holding a number of candles, blooms, and books. It weighs over 200 kilograms and fits just perfectly into the space (which is one of the reasons we chose the house!).

I also love finding pieces and modifying them. I have this beautiful upcycled bench that I purchased and had sandblasted, which sits in our courtyard.

Lily Engelbrecht LUXHABITAT Dubai Hills outdoor sofa
Lily Engelbrecht LUXHABITAT Dubai Hills
Lily Engelbrecht LUXHABITAT Dubai Hills
Lily Engelbrecht LUXHABITAT Dubai Hills outdoors
Lily Engelbrecht LUXHABITAT Dubai Hills

Credits: Creative direction by Aneesha Rai