In The Studio: Urban Nest Founder Janaika Elders
The consciously-minded interior design concept store straddles superior style and responsibility
Words by Laura Beaney in Design & Architecture · Sep 14th, 2021
Those who wander the earth are often most in tune with their connection to ‘home’. Janaika Elders was born in the Netherlands yet her youth was spent as an expat child navigating communities from Saudi Arabia to Brazil, and Russia. These international experiences paired with her own ethical values and understandings of the notion of home came to fuel her business, Urban Nest. Now, Janaika invites us into her interior design concept store, a space that exemplifies how thoughtful design can co-exist with globally inspired high-style.
Janaika: As an expat child, always on the move, it was important not to get too attached to people, places or objects. Later, university offered me the opportunity to furnish my own studio apartment in The Netherlands which I relished. I gathered small décor pieces and souvenirs from travels, proudly displaying them to visitors in my living room. A family trip to Peru was particularly formative in establishing my design sensibilities. The vibrant textile markets of Lima fascinated me and I filled an entire suitcase with adornments for my apartment. I still own and cherish these pieces today.
Janaika: Like many expats, when my husband and I first moved to Dubai we thought we would only be here for a few years so we didn’t invest in our interiors. It’s been 11 years and counting! Once we made the decision to settle and start a family, it was time to move to a bigger house and we wanted to make it a home. For me it’s so important that children make memories in their first house.
Janaika: While furnishing our new address I quickly realised that it was particularly difficult to find unique, sustainable design pieces in the UAE which drew any attention to a significant gap in the market. At the start I would travel with my suitcase filled with small interior objects but soon realised that I could utilise my supply chain background to make this into a business, importing Dutch home décor into the Emirates.
Janaika: Although I have social DNA from all over the planet, there will always be some of that Dutch ‘down-to-earthiness’ in me. There’s always something about that European design aesthetic that fascinates me; the making and the quality- it’s simple, no-nonsense, authentic and also sustainable. I wanted to bring a piece of my home back to the UAE for others to see, admire and own as well.
Janaika: In the Netherlands, I was surrounded by unique, minimal pieces that were also sustainable, Piet Hein Eek, is a real design icon of mine! His sustainable approach is fascinating, the way that he repurposes found materials and focuses on craftsmanship. Travel has also naturally shaped my design sensibilities, I’ve collected pieces over the years that serve as reminders of my adventures. South America, specifically Peru provided major inspiration – the music, the food and the overall positivity of the people will forever be imprinted upon my mind.
Janaika: For Urban Nest, I wanted to combine Dutch design sensibilities and environmental priorities with the visual beauty that I’d discovered living in eclectic communities. The idea was to introduce one-of-a-kind products that tell a story so that I could curate collections. From hand-woven rugs in geometric patterns made from recycled PET bottles to pendant lamps made from sustainable bamboo, the designs you can experience at Urban Nest are environmentally friendly, made in small quantities and are sustainable or fair trade.
Janaika: We began with a few brands and an e-commerce site and then expanded into a physical retail space in Al Quoz. Our brands are prized for their ethical and sustainable values and include HKliving, PUIK, Tiny Miracles, New Citizen Design, we are also a proud member of the Dutch Design Center in the Dubai Design District.
Janaika: Designed by Dutch designer Pepe Heykoop, the Papervase cover by Tiny Miracles was the first piece I sourced for Urban Nest and remains my favourite. The hand-folded paper vase cover can be manually moulded around any bottle to transform it into a modern vase. It’s a sustainable solution that encourages the up-cycling of bottles and beyond this, Heykoop wanted to give back to the community. Working with the Tiny Miracles Foundation workshop in Mumbai, he turned this unique design into a handmade creation produced by a community of women in the Pardeshi community on the outskirts of Mumbai, India. He created a product that is sustainable but also supported a community in breaking through their poverty cycle by creating jobs, providing healthcare and education.
Janaika: Updating and re-styling your home is easier than you think. I always recommend investing in the basics like a chic, comfortable couch and beautiful dining table so that you can host. Then, for an environment that cultivates happiness, bring in unique pieces collected from your journeys and items that spark good memories. Focus on accent details such as a plant pots, dry flowers for your vases (they are long-lasting) and don’t be afraid of quirky items that emit your personality, these are the pieces that transform your house into a home.
Janaika: For families with young children, make time and listen to what makes them happy. Don’t obsess over aesthetics - it’s so important that children have their own space to play, study and feel happy in. If you’re looking to elevate your existing space, start by painting the walls or creating a feature wall - subtle changes can make the biggest difference.
Janaika: There’s much planned for the forthcoming season. As well as collaborations with several brands including Cosentino we have big plans for D3 Dubai Design Week and we’re launching an exclusive Peruvian collection. To discover our evolution follow: @urbannest.ae.