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Behind the doors of an eco-designed apartment in Al Barari

A look around Praew and Gareth Newman’s one-bedroom apartment in Al Barari

Those who have made it past the gates of the exclusive residential community, Al Barari, or perhaps to The Farm (its health-focused restaurant) will know that the eco-friendly development boasts more than just dashingly good looks. There’s a soul to the place that’s almost certainly breathed into the 15.3 million-square-foot area by the verdant nature that covers such a large expanse of it – 60 percent to be exact. Aptly named after the Arabic word for ‘wilderness’ there’s an otherworldly, almost sci-fi-like feeling to this community, with über-modern architecture amassed by a host of unusual plants and uncommon flowers. This is where the design story of Praew and Gareth Newman’s home begins.

 “As an architect, it’s very important for me to reflect the area I’m living in within my design,” Praew from The Designer Wifey explains, her eyelashes elegantly fluttering down. Looking across the open plan living space, it’s inarguable that she has created an affinity with the community. A throng of green potted plants ensures flow from the trees outside through floor-to-ceiling windows, while the use of natural fabrics echoes organic patterns. 

White open plan living room
The living area is open plan and neutral in tone

 “I design with a sense of place,” she explains. “For me, it’s not just about styling, but instead about understanding the space. When approaching this room I started by noticing the breeze and how the sunlight hits the room. I wanted to celebrate the light and incorporate nature into the apartment.” 

Her leaning for organics is a multi-sensory one, with geranium, peppermint, and lavender oil filling the air, while homegrown mint flavours the jug of water.

Modern taupe coloured kitchen
Their kitchen in Al Barari is a taupe shade and sleek in design

 Originally Chinese-Thai, Praew studied architecture in London before moving back to Asia to start her own firm, Vive Design Studio – which she now works for remotely. It was in Bangkok that she met her Welsh husband, Gareth, who was positioned there for the British Council. In 2019, three weeks after the couple married, they moved to Dubai. “We’d never been here, but we decided to embark on the adventure together,” smiles Praew. Initially moving to Downtown Dubai, the newlyweds settled into life in the UAE among the city’s lights before deciding to move to Al Barari. “After our old apartment was flooded, we decided to reassess what matters to us and where we wanted to live. We did a SWOT analysis on many different areas but found the most joy within this community,” the architect turned homemaker explains. 

Moving just before the pandemic set in last year, the couple remark on the lucky timing of the relocation to Al Barari. “COVID-19 made us realise what is important and reflect on what we wanted to keep, and what we didn’t,” Praew, wearing a linen dress from sustainable fashion brand Pour Les Femmes, remarks. “We’re both very into the spark joy, Marie Kondo movement, so we don’t collect a lot of things, except records!” Praew laughs. 

Eco styled living room
Praew used natural materials and plants to create an eco-design in her apartment

Aside from Gareth’s music collection, the couple only brought with them the two peacock chairs that sit facing the window. “I had these chairs handmade in Bangkok for our wedding,” says Praew, “I had a thought to bring them with us. It’s a way of expressing my kind of sustainable living. I believe that to mean a harmony with nature, and an intention to repurpose and reuse things as much as possible. A lot of items you see in my home were bought secondhand. The coffee table was a Dubizzle find,” says Praew, placing her mug of English breakfast tea down on a coaster. “I select things that age gracefully, and that create beauty through time; Wabi-Sabi, it’s called in Japanese.” 

The abundance of plants and heavy use of natural fabrics in the space work with Praew’s design manifesto to create, not just Wabi-Sabi philosophy, but also a design aesthetic. “The flat is growing with us,” says the creative when talking about her plant collection. “We keep adding more and learning how to care for the ones we have, moving them around and finding where they thrive. The whole process really brings us joy. It’s an inspiring experience, and one that gives me a great sense of hope for the future,” she concludes poetically. 

Enjoy looking around local homes? Take a peek inside Jo England’s in her boho villa, or nosey around interior designer Sopranda’s truly original apartment

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