Studio Founder, Becki Willis, takes us on a tour of her daring design transformation
Words by Laura Beaney in Design & Architecture · May 18th, 2023
The owner of a five-bedroom Dubai Hills abode enlisted Becki from Studio Van Oliver to reimagine their residence as a dynamic space for entertaining and escapism. The result was a vibrant setting that straddles fun and functionality. Now, the designer invites us to join her on a tour of the residence.
Becki: This five-bedroom villa in Sidra, Dubai Hills was one of Studio Van Oliver’s first projects. Our clients had lived in the house for around a year already but struggled to find their style and make the house feel finished.
Some clients are very sure of what they want while others don’t know where to begin. Our job, then, is to probe and uncover until we get a true sense of their style. This was very much one of those projects. It really started to come together in my mind when I saw a piece of existing artwork the client owned – an image of the late Queen Elizabeth II blowing a piece of giant pink bubblegum. I knew then that they weren’t afraid of having a little fun with the space, and that’s exactly what we did!
This is a grown-up space for clients that love to entertain and show off their home, and the scheme really took inspiration from the beautiful slab dining table with bold blue resin finishing that they already owned. We carried hints of this blue throughout the downstairs entertaining spaces, set against an achromatic palette and paired with little touches of gold to give it a contemporary feel with a little added glamour.
The highlight for me has to be the black wall in the dining area – not many clients will get on board with a black wall! Before, the dining table felt lost in the space but the addition of black provided the most stunning backdrop, allowing it to take centre stage.
We carried the black through into the kitchen, a room which received a major facelift. We transformed the dead space next to the kitchen into a totally fabulous cocktail lounge. This was a space the client really struggled with. After learning about their love for entertaining and hosting, a cocktail lounge seemed the only possible solution! The rug zones the area perfectly and the fluted black bar cabinet creates a stunning backdrop for the space.
The outside entertaining space sees the blue carry through from inside to outside, and we also resprayed the front door from a pinkish colour to blue and added a bee knocker – it makes me smile every time I arrive at the house!
The kitchen was my highlight. It really was a feat of upcycling - almost nothing is new. We sprayed all of the existing cabinetry and the island and added new brushed gold hardware to the doors in keeping with the scheme downstairs. The backsplash was treated with some new tiles and we added the three pendant lights above the island which helps zone the space and give the kitchen area a focal point. The kitchen was brand new when the client moved in, and as well as being easier on the budget, it’s far less wasteful than ripping out a perfectly good (but somewhat ugly) kitchen and starting from scratch.
The downstairs bedroom was the greatest layout challenge of the house. As many rooms do these days, it needed to serve multiple purposes, functioning as a guest room, gym space and home to the client’s giant retro games machine. My favourite piece in this room is the custom-designed storage board for the gym area, made from the same panelling you see behind the sofabed. There's dedicated space to hang gym mats and shoes. It’s sleek yet functional.
The powder room is one of the most fun spaces in the house – I always think it’s a great place to go a little wild, it creates a real talking point for guests without taking over the whole house. We continued the black theme here with a half-painted wall with geometric wallpaper on the upper. The artwork was sourced from the UK and framed in a bold orange here, joined by the little pop of colour that comes out of the accessories.
Upstairs, at the top of the stairs, we had another disjointed space which we turned into a more casual lounge away from the main entertaining space. The achromatic palette continues here, this time punctuated with the bold red and deep wood of the client’s existing Chinese cabinet which was hidden in a storeroom before. We wanted to give it a place to shine and created an almost museum-like display with the plinths - it really heightens the gravitas of the piece. A custom media unit was designed to house the client’s substantial gaming kit, and building it on the far side of the natural thoroughfare really pulled the space together and stopped it from feeling like an oversized corridor.
Images courtesy: Studio Van Oliver