Caroline Labouchere invites us into her Jumeirah Heights duplex where the interior style is delightfully multisensory
We’ve been married 31 years and have lived in 18 different houses, but this is our first home,” is Caroline’s opening statement, and one that, initially, takes me somewhat by surprise. All is explained, however, by husband David, a former senior British army officer whose military career saw him serve all over the world, with the couple – and their two children – living in company accommodation. Now empty nesters, the decision to put down roots in Dubai wasn’t originally on the cards, with the UK their first thought, but when the Jumeirah Heights duplex “popped up”, it was love at first sight.
“We didn’t look at anything else after that. It was the ceiling height and the sense of space that captivated us on the first viewing,” says David. The couple lead extremely busy lives with Caroline an international model and public advocate for women’s health and longevity, while David is a high-performance coach and motivational speaker, yet they have spared no time or effort in ploughing both style and personality into the residence. A two-bedroom duplex with a deceptively expansive sense of space, thanks to the double height ceiling and open plan design, the interior has been cleverly designed to maximise the footprint while remaining uncluttered and inviting.
In terms of design brief, Caroline and David had a clear vision: “Simplicity was paramount, but with textural elements to create a sensory environment.” Relocating from a large villa, this presented quite the challenge when it came to downsizing furniture and personal possessions, but David happily admits that they were ”pretty ruthless” when it came to down to making tough decisions. The couple went with BW Interiors to project manage the renovation and the space was stripped back to bare concrete with the interior doors the sole remaining feature from the original design – and these were repainted.
“We love the interplay of light and shadow”
“We love the interplay of light and shadow that the floor-to-ceiling windows, shutters and lighting delivers, and this is also why we chose to have ceiling fans in every room, which also add movement,” adds Caroline.The spine of the original staircase was also opened up with a simple wrought-iron banister and its ribbon-like design gently wending its way upstairs to Caroline’s mezzanine level workspace. Continuity comes in the form of high-spec waterproof wood laminate flooring from Floorworld, with upstairs featuring a slightly lighter colour choice, softened throughout with an eclectic selection of rugs. As is so often the case, the design brief evolved during the project lifespan. Says David: “We wanted quality throughout, and this meant that we did ask for variation as we went along, but BW Interiors did a wonderful job and we got exactly what we wanted.”
It was the kitchen that underwent the biggest transformation, and it’s now a repository of secret storage genius, as Caroline explains: “It was originally all black with a cooker hood looming over a central island. It absolutely had to go, with a bespoke kitchen in white our preference. “We also wanted to make the best use of the available space, and so we have ingeniously designed drawers within drawers and inset storage custom made by Ornare but paired with off-the-shelf solutions from Homesmiths, that keep everything tidied away but easily accessible.”
This includes a faultlessly organised spice drawer that fills me with envy, and a hidden gem butler pantry-cupboard that opens up to reveal a coffee nook, microwave and toaster. “One thing we absolutely can’t do without is our Quooker tap, especially for sparkling water,” she laughs. The couple very much wanted to be hands-on when it came to sourcing fixtures, fittings and finishes, whether it was the eye-catching faux antler horn chandelier in the living room or the high-quality Bagnodesign (Sanipex) bathroom elements.
“We’ve been married 31 years and have lived in 18 different houses, but this is our first home”
“In our downstairs loo we opened up the space by finishing one entire wall with outsized bevel-edged mirror tiles, which a lovely gentleman from Glass Sea Trading in Satwa hand-cut for us,” remarks David. The two main bathrooms are also designed to David’s exacting specifications, with extra-large doorless walk-in shower stalls a key feature, along with a gorgeously deep sunken bath in the master. Both lead off storage space-savvy custom Ornare-designed dressing rooms with the master also featuring motion-sensor lighting and a fingertip sensor-locked jewellery drawer.
Caroline’s master bedroom is the perfect retreat from the outside world, with a generously proportioned terrace a lush green complement to the pale blue and cream interior. Here, the use of mirrors on the bedroom sliding door has again opened up the space with an intimate collection of personal artworks and duo of stunning hanging globe table lamps from Al Quoz-based antiques warehouse Tarrab adding stylish balance. Back downstairs in the light-filled open plan living space, my eye is drawn to a dark wooden sideboard that is clearly a family heirloom. Says David: “This was my grandmother’s sideboard. It has lovely texture and finish to it, and by presenting it against a stark, modern backdrop, it really brings out the beauty of the piece.”
Looking around, I see a lot of blank wall space with only the occasional strategically sited artwork. This was a deliberate decision on their part, as Caroline explains: “I’m also an artist, and while we have a sizeable collection of artwork from our world travels, we didn’t want to crowd the walls or emphasise the architectural cutouts, which we’re not fond of. “So, we selected just a few meaningful pieces including a painting by locally based abstract artist Beata Pekalska, which specially includes a hint of gold that is carried through to the opposite wall with a piece that belonged to my grandmother.”
“Simplicity was paramount, but with textural elements to create a sensory environment”
Another favourite area is David’s office, which leads off the living and dining space and which doubles as a guestroom. I’m left wondering, however, where the guest bed is as, at first glance, I can only see bookshelves, an antique style desk and (happily occupied) wicker dog basket. The big reveal is a classic pulldown Murphy bed, tucked away inside what I thought was a storage cupboard. “This is a very happy and peaceful space for me to work in but then it’s easily switched out to essentially become a hotel room, with its own en suite bathroom,” David notes.
A home that feels immediately inviting, oozes comfort, speaks to a globetrotting lifestyle and yet skilfully manages to keep the minutiae of everyday life neatly tucked away, are the Labouchere’s’ boots firmly on the ground for now? Caroline laughs, and says: “We love the close-knit friendly community here, our daughter lives just down the road, and we’re really enjoying living in our own home. There’s a first time for everything and it’s never too late to go after what you want in life; so we’re not going anywhere soon.”