Lap of Luxury: Top 5 In Design in the Emirates

Photo of Sophie Finney
10 January 2017

Given the extraordinary architectural feats accomplished in the United Arab Emirates since the discovery of oil in the mid-20th Century, it is unsurprising that interior design is fast becoming a source of interest in the region.

Since the discovery of oil in the 1950s, the area that is now known as the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has grown upwards at a staggering rate. As well as leading the union of the seven Arab Emirates (of which Abu Dhabi is the capital), the revenue gained from oil discoveries has led to a complete transformation of the area’s infrastructure, education and subsequently, the arts. The country boasts a number of design fairs, including: Design Days Dubai; the INDEX Interior Design Show; an organisation dedicated to developing the cultural scene called Dubai Culture; publications like Brownbook; and a plethora of emerging talent. Arguably already the cultural epicentre of the Gulf region, the UAE is beginning to make an appearance on the global Design stage.

© Khalid Shafar

Khalid Shafar

Having always fostered a passion for art and design, Khalid Shafar was able to realise his dream in 2009, following a successful marketing career. Whilst studying to become a designer, Khalid specialised in Furniture and Object Design and, later, in Fine Woodworking. These skills enabled Khalid to create beautifully crafted, bespoke furniture. Defining his work as contemporary and quirky, his approach to design encompasses his personal expression of form, movement and emotion. His innocent, light-hearted approach is evident in much of his furniture, such as the two-seater Lazy Folds sofa-cum-daybed. Shafar was inspired by the traditional preparation of natural cotton upholstery that he would see whilst shopping with his mother as a child. This is a process that is no longer in common use due to mass manufacturing techniques, yet Khalid saw fit to reinterpret the process to create an elegant piece of modern furniture with the comfort and attention to detail of traditional furniture. As a sofa, the 6.5 metre mattress is folded seven times to create the seat; to create the low daybed, the mattress is simply unfolded to a triple layer. With an ash wood frame and 100% cotton upholstery, this is a modern and yet traditional piece of furniture that provides both functionality and comfort.

© O’de Rose

O’de Rose

An interior design boutique established in 2008 in Dubai by three cousins hailing from Beirut, New York and London respectively, O’de Rose is unique in its eclecticism. Each of the three cousins brought something different to the store, whether a love for creating beautiful settings for entertaining or a passion for vintage fabrics and traditions. O’de Rose is aware that the business is not everything; they endeavour to give back by supporting disadvantaged artisans by opening a market for their products. Additionally, they promote craftspeople from a variety of backgrounds, whether from handicapped craft societies or underprivileged women organisations. In particular, O’de Rose look to support those who use traditional craft skills as a means of employment, income and self-sufficiency. Not only does this help the craftspeople, O’de Rose perceive this as a means of promoting the survival of a traditional craft that may otherwise not be so widely appreciated. As well as creating beautiful interiors and selling a broad mix of wonderful products, O’de Rose show that there is more to the UAE than glitz and glamour.

© Nakkash Gallery

Nakkash Gallery

Although not a native of the Emirates, in 1980 Wajih Nakkash of Beirut could think of no better place to set up his own firm than Dubai. In 1983 he set up a gallery to focus on distinctive lines of furniture, artwork and accessories. A haven for unique and limited-edition pieces of furniture, Nakkash Gallery sources stunning work from all over the world to create his masterpiece interiors. Specialising in Interior Design, Nakkash’s own style is difficult to pinpoint: eclectic and ranging from Neo-Classical to African ethnic influences, the interiors are luxurious with no detail overlooked. His main aim is to create a relaxing and comfortable space that is elegant, understated and soothing, catering to the client’s wants and needs. Adept at mixing styles, sometimes blending antique furniture with modern fabrics, Nakkash is clearly a very experienced and highly talented designer.

© Moaza Mata

Moaza Matar

Born and raised in the United Arab Emirates, Moaza Matar has long held a strong passion for interior design. Matar seeks to visually integrate the interior with the exterior, whilst reflecting both the personality and individuality of the existing architecture. Combining beauty and functionality, her designs are fresh and novel with a zest for life that is positively intoxicating. When working in fashion spaces, her stylistic verve really comes into its own, in fact, she sees fashion and interior design as intrinsically linked. Keeping the interiors themselves sleek, minimalist, and bold, Matar then embellishes them with fashion elements such as illustration. However, these are not the bases for, nor the main element of the interior, rather they are used as decorative tools to enhance the beauty of the space. When working on an installation for luxury multi-brand boutique Symphony’s Spring/Summer 2011 season entitled The Garden of Symphony, Matar used her stylistic innovation to create a dazzling interior. Avoiding the clichéd spring-time floral look, Matar and the team instead went for a butterfly theme. Using canvas, paper laser-cut 3D butterflies, flowers and fashion from the store, Matar combined nature, art and fashion to create this stunning display.

© Natoof


Natoof began as the dream of Mariam Bin Natoof, a designer specialising in paper and graphic design. The company looks to blend Arabic calligraphy and English typeface to create a unique identity, integrating the two cultures into their design approaches, concepts and production. Serving both personal and corporate clients, Natoof’s work has been published in a number of prestigious design books such as The Secret Life of Logos, Brand Identity Essentials, Design DNA and Design & Design Book. Passionate about the industry of design, paper and stationary, Natoof’s goals is to provide creative design solutions for both business needs as well as everyday use. A trendsetter in the world of wedding stationary in the UAE region, Natoof was one of the first local designers to specialise in this field, creating beautiful invitations and packaging solutions. Additionally in May 2011, Miriam Bin Natoof decided to create Mawahib: The Talent Directory, as a sourcebook to showcase Arab individuals working in the fields of graphic design, illustration and photography. Unlike other publications, this book presents the talents and passions of the individual designers, as well as giving examples of their work.

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