SETTING THE SEA'NE



CONTINUALLY FAVOURING starkness when building housing developments, whether it be social housing or luxury villas, building en masse, with investment and budget as the key factors to the finish, equates to a formula of repetition. the design is often consistent, and i don't use this as a positive. the interiors i often feel to be based on archaic ideas of how one should live and the only differentiation in 'quality' are the materials used in the finish. though, this is at times equally a false perception, as I have visited countless 'luxury apartments' and been aghast at the workmanship and cheap finish. cutting corners with repro and look-a-like materials dominate both ends of the market, so in truth i have reserved faith in the mass building industry


from an interior design point of view there are always irritations to overcome, for example, developer's thoughtless placement of fixtures and fittings, choice of finish, layouts plagued with some odd space, wall return, ledge, that creates an awkward obstacle. at times, a perfect white box would be a preferable blank canvas to work with. my issue, is these spaces are to eventually become homes for individual people with a unique style and this strips that from us from the start. especially for those renting, most likely to move homes more often, so should benefit primarily from a well considered interior layout and freedom to decorate. granted not everyone is as preoccupied with this sentiment, but i write for the audience that enjoys creating a home and i bare no judgement on those happy to live in whatever they have been sold


living in the middle east where new builds are born almost on a daily basis i am in the midst of this debacle. there don't even seem to be enough people for all these vacuous towers of mediocre build. often marketed falsely to the aspiring home-seeker, they sell what they think we want, using flamboyant text and glossy virtual images, delivering temporary refuge as these are not structures to last a lifetime. i beg of the world to reduce new building and instead invest in renovating what is already decomposing. surely it is another example of wasting resources and i suspect this constant building must be quite environmentally damaging ... though we rarely hear this debate...! could the millions poured into the next tower block not be better spent regenerating crumbling suburbs or old towns? this, alas, falls into the complex subject of preservation, which i have recently been learning about as Bahrain tackles the succession of it's souq, is riddled with vast legislative, bureaucratic, sociopolitical and economic discourse that allows for nothing to happen in haste


at the most basic level i feel we are a society that will take whatever we are given {said 'advertised'} perhaps we have forgotten that we can also live with less. so give us less and we will learn to live with less... maybe, but this is only my opinion. I did recently read a quip regarding the plastic problem, 'if a tap was over-running and flooding a room we wouldn't just grab endless mops to solve the problem, we would turn off the tap!'


that said a revolution has begun and we are taking action towards becoming a more mindful, respectful, conscious, proactive society. i discussed this with my husband recently and concluded that what we view as luxury, aspirational and elevating needs to reconsidered. it is, as i see it, moving from attaining the latest material possession to instead aspiring for a better quality of life, and design has it's hands in both realms. design aspires to be innovative, exciting, forward thinking. yet design should also be familiar, comforting, problem solving, affordable and all inclusive. it will also never please everyone!


PROJECT SEA VIEW has many of the above conundrums. it is part of an ambitious ocean front development at the very south of the island of Bahrain. built on repurposed land in the form of petals fanning out into a perfect aqua sea. the development comprises of an array of investment villa options. these are not meant as permanent homes but most certainly weekend getaways. the architecture is basic with an unintentional nod to Miami Art Deco style. on some streets there is an effort to lift the white panorama with a few villas painted in seaside pastels, mostly blues, greys and sands. against tropical landscaping and an endless blue horizon of calm seas there is a serene air of holiday. the villas have been constructed in a familiar budget wary fashion, basic concrete forms, fronted with aluminum glazed sliding doors and an abundance of stainless steel and ceramic tile finishes. granted the extreme desert conditions are very challenging, humidity is fierce on top of the eroding nature of the sea air, factors that really prohibit longevity of build from the start


on entering the property, which was already in the process of being redecorated, i am met with some very bold colour choices. great big purple sofas sit against a lime green backdrop, amidst a mish mash of clashing contemporary pieces of furniture and accessories. my immediate reaction was this is not an environment to escape to and relax in, but then this may not have been the previous brief...




MY BRIEF was to create a serene space to receive the family at weekends. something effortless to look after and comfortable to use with some luxe and wow moments to impress guests, after all this is the middle east! here are my mood and scheme boards in response to this brief. the budget for this project was conservative which determined the level of sourcing. as much as possible was to be sourced in Bahrain, essentially to keep the process moving forward as quickly as possible, but this would also certainly limit choice. i am always adamant to show that good design is not budget led. as an interior designer my remit is to submit a coherent scheme to any budget, working with what is available, and Bahrain has plenty to offer




STEP ONE was to white wash those bold colours out so we had a fresh canvas to work with. i selected a variety of 'whites' and the contractors painted the best ever set of colour samples on the wall for me to come in and make the final selection! this was done in every room, so we could assess which tone worked best in the light. we opted for a warm and chalky white to be used throughout the whole property


when i start to work on the furnishing i first assess what can be salvaged and repurposed. starting with the main living room, the family loved the sofas so far as they were well built, comfortable and they fit the space, so rather than replace, we recovered





the existing coffee table lent itself to a moment of coastal inspiration with it's white washed wood surface and the dimensions also worked with the existing sofas. i loved the contemporary black metal frame of the armchairs so these also stayed and just needed recovering in a more classic fabric. to this ensemble we grounded the area with a chunky wool and jute mix rug, this made the space feel cosy and tied the palette of grey, blue and sand together