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Sense of place

Step into the Raven-Wrights’ boho inspired Dubai Hills garden 

Swapping a much-loved Palm Jumeirah apartment home for a Dubai Hills Estate villa in the Sidra community was a natural progression for Hannah Raven-Wright and her growing family. “After having our two girls, Ivy and Olivia, we really needed somewhere bigger and quieter – with a garden – while still being close to the city. We chose Dubai Hills because of its fairly central location and the incredible facilities on our doorstep,” she says. 

The Raven-Wrights made the big move in September 2021, and while the villa’s overall layout ticked a lot of boxes it was obvious, from the beginning, that the garden would be a challenge, as she explains: “It was literally a sandpit, so a lot of visualisation was needed. For months we just lived with a mound of sand and a trampoline, but it was always sitting at the top of my renovation list.”  Enlisting the expert help of a landscaping firm was a priority and Hannah brought in local landscapers, Desert Dunes, to bring the family’s sandy reality to lush, verdant life. “We found them through a neighbour’s recommendation, whose pool and garden were very similar to what we wanted. 

“I’d always recommend using a contractor who is familiar with your community as they will have dealt with the developer for permits and will know the drill; plus, they will be familiar with the builds.” Hannah also went one step further and spoke to other Desert Dunes clients. “You should always get recent recommendations and visit current sites. I was a real busybody, but it was important to get feedback from current and past clients.” 

Pinterest layouts in hand and a clear vision in mind, Hannah tasked the team with transforming her mood boards into a design blueprint. “We wanted it to be as green as possible to offset the desert surroundings. It also had to be functional for us as a family.” Desert Dunes also advised on the ergonomics as well as municipality regulations. Says Hannah: “It isn’t the most enormous garden compared to some, but I was determined to be clever when it came to dividing up the space in order to be able to have all the areas we wanted. 

“This included a pool, which we positioned vertically to maximise space, as well as soft play areas for the girls, pergola seating and a barbecue area. It was also extremely important that the kids’ playthings be strategically sited along the side of the house and out of view.” When it came to creating a sense of place, Hannah was adamant that the garden should incorporate life and movement, as she explains: “I wanted plants and trees that would move in the breeze to create sound and shadow and provide a contrasting lift to static elements such as tiles and glass.” 

She selected Balinese Sukabumi pool tiles for a boho feel but decided to opt for fake grass as an easy-to-clean family friendly compromise.  The outdoor kitchen tiles came from local brand Mosaico with other tiling sourced from RAK Ceramics. Affordable outdoor chairs were found at home décor store, Haute Bohème, a boutique Dubai brand that imports beautiful boho items from South Africa.

“Finishing touches like our pool towels, parasol and lilos are from Aussie brand, Sunnylife, and bring some Bondi cool and colour to the garden with touches of pink throughout. The children’s playhouse came from First Cry and the plants from the helpful team at Fine City in Warsan,” she remarks. While the garden is still growing in, Hannah is eagerly waiting for the day when her Washingtonia palms bring some much-needed height to add more privacy. “But that’s the beauty of a garden; it grows and evolves, and you can add to it each season as and when you are able to, and in time it will become greener and wilder,” she notes.

Delivered on time by the Desert Dunes team, who she would recommend in a heartbeat, the garden has become central to family life. “Seeing the children be able to play safely outside and throwing the back doors open on a weekend morning with BBC Radio 2 on while having a lazy breakfast in the garden is bliss.  “It’s also so much easier with young kids to have friends come to you, and we love that we’re able to do that now. Homemade pizza with friends on a winter evening with the children running riot – it doesn’t get better than that.”

Her parting advice is to always listen to your gardener. “We lost a few plants over the summer, which was a lesson as I’d been advised that some tropical plants wouldn’t do so well in sunnier areas. There are many nice native options that withstand the heat beautifully. Frangipani and Washingtonias are my favourite.” 

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