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Lap of Luxury: 6 Of The Best Lavish Homes In The Middle East

With the launch of Vogue Living Arabia, we celebrate the region’s grand craftsmanship and unique interiors.

Qasr Al Watan

Qasr Al Watan in Abu Dhabi Construction on the Abu Dhabi Palace began in 2010 and finished in 2017, with each door in the palace taking 350 hours to complete. The Spirit of Collaboration hall features a 12 tonne chandelier, while the library keeps 50,000 books. Qasr Al Watan is made from white granite and limestone; its color chosen to follow the theme of peace and prosperity. It also serves to mute the glare of the sun as well as underscore the gold mosaic work on its exterior.

Beyond lush gardens and lavish fountains, through resplendent doorways and up staircases that lead to expansive spaces of gilded finishes and marble floors, the Middle Eastern residence has historically been nothing short of grand. For centuries, the region has been celebrated for its sumptuous tastes. From the ancient Salwa Palace in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia, which formed the residence and first home of the Al Saud Amirs and Imams of the Kingdom’s first state to Sursock Palace in Beirut, the region has long been synonymous with awe-inducing grandeur. Strict geometry, vast layouts, and an open-space philosophy often seen in the historic mosques and palaces across the Middle East and North Africa mark the Islamic style most often associated with the region and one that forms the essence of the modern Arab interior design, craft, and architectural backbone seen today.

Alberto Pinto

Private home in the Arabian Gulf by Alberto Pinto “Middle Eastern Design taste is evolving towards modernity with orientalist details. The French ‘classic’ taste is still extremely strong but with also more demands for orientalist references. A mix of cultures; the best of each. The house is surrounded by a beautiful garden and overlooks the sea. On this project you have formal areas for reception and more private areas for the family; you also have a distinction between parents’ zones and the children’s areas. The palatial proportions allowed us to use an extensively strong scheme all over the house, stone work on the floor and some of the wall, and embroidered fabrics. Some of the walls are inlaid with custom-made mirrors. Cabinetry and woodwork were custom designs by Alberto Pinto Interior Design and executed by an Egyptian cabinetmaker.”

From North Africa, the Moroccan aesthetic that is so marked across Rabat and Casablanca presents the bold colors, patterns, and an overall traditional ornamentation that is most noted in the Berber rugs and mosaic tiles that have influenced even the Alhambra Palace in Spain. Marrying Islamic and Byzantine architecture, with a defining feature in the arched openings that are found across Beirut and the aforementioned Sursock Palace, the Mediterranean style brings a sense of splendor. In the Arab world, so often does the modern and traditional homogenize, illustrating the influences of a diaspora that now reaches from East to West. Many homes across the region are a reflection of summers abroad and childhood travels, bringing a true sense of diversity to Middle Eastern tastes that echo the mobile nature of Arab society.

by Alidad

Private home in Kuwait by Alidad “I am known for my complex and highly decorated rooms, and the design for this dining room in the Middle East proved to be the most complicated of my schemes to date. To create the fine balance between the numerous Islamic patterns, there were many discussions and decisions taken first with the client and then with the artists. There are so many different patterns, motifs, and levels living together in the scheme: hand-painted papers and Sultan portraits; gilded wood moldings; and borders for the series of sunken Japanese Imari ceramic plates. We decorated the ceiling grandly with different motifs, designed in such a way as to conceal air conditioning and lighting. My client gave me a picture of an old door from a house in Cairo that we used to create the design for this pair of doors. While they are brand-new with inlaid bone, these doors have been finished to appear as though they are restored originals.”

In itself, the Middle Eastern palace continues to live on as a symbol of the region’s rich history, architecture, and design, with several opening to the public in recent years as major tourist destinations across the Gulf. In 2019, Qasr Al Watan, or Palace of the Nation, opened its doors within Abu Dhabi’s vast presidential palace. It reveals a Mughal era-inspired aesthetic that also pays homage to the heritage and artistry of the Arabian Gulf, integrating 5,000 geometric, vegetal, and floral patterns throughout the space. It now stands as a working citadel that hosts official state visits and summits with a dedicated section allowing visitors the chance to explore a vast collection of artifacts and manuscripts highlighting the Arab world’s contributions to various intellectual fields.

Private home in Bahrain for Shaikha Noor Al Khalifa

Private home in Bahrain for Shaikha Noor Al Khalifa. With two floors and seven bedrooms, Shaikha Noor Al Khalifa’s house – depicting French architecture, in particular in the windows and stone details on the exterior and interior moldings– is a family home. Divided into several areas that reflect various environments – formal, casual, family-friendly – the partially open- plan house reveals a grand, floor- to-ceiling window in the main hall that invites an abundance of natural light. “I designed every room in the house, and each one tells its own story,” explains Shaikha Noor. Marble and parquet wood floors and the different color schemes, such as the tonal soft gray elements in the dining room, reflect subtle luxury. Furniture, lighting (including Baccarat chandeliers) and accessories reflect classic luxury, while modern, simple touches like coffee table books and crystal sculptures, as well as floral accents that she personally designed, add a delicate, romantic finish.

This aesthetic also influenced interior designers around the world, including Martyn Lawrence Bullard, Jacques Garcias, and Alberto Pinto. Staunchly dedicated to the Middle East’s traditional aesthetic is Iranian-British design legend Alidad. The illustrious designer’s taste is a representation of the region’s great appreciation for baroque architecture and design. Mixing vivid colors, textures, and antiques within unstructured and layered spaces, Alidad’s work best defines the Levantine and Gulf’s visual appeal – a timeless amalgam of refined chaos. Other interior architects are taking a different approach. Gaining global recognition for his work on Beirut’s Grand Sérail, Nabil Dada, founder of Dada & Associates and one of Lebanon’s most prominent interior decorators, is best known for his sleek and modern designs. From royalty to prominent figures, chic and contemporary is becoming increasingly popular, as showcased in Dada’s recent project, Calypso, a minimalist haven located on the cliffs of Jounieh Bay. His son Adib Dada, an architect and founder of the practice TheOtherDada, is integrating sustainability and local materials within his regional projects, as trends continue to shift towards the environmentally friendly. Together, the duo is bringing the region’s interiors into the future with contemporary, clean, and liveable architecture and design.

Private home in Riyadh for HRH Princess Maha Bint Mishari Abdulaziz

Private home in Riyadh for HRH Princess Maha Bint Mishari Abdulaziz Alsaud Robyn Jensen, the Los Angeles- based designer of Jensen Interior Design, who the royals entrusted to renovate the 25 bedroom, 2,300sqm palace they share with their five daughters, had previously worked on the couple’s home in Mulholland Estates in Beverly Hills. During the two-year renovation process, the space was transformed into a contemporary palace, which retains the intimacy of a family home alongside its undeniable grandeur. The deep bronze- green color in the center ceiling creates warmth and complements the sumptuous purple-bronze Lelièvre silk drapery flanking the two-story window. Jensen then brought in pieces that added a “living, breathing quality,” like the spectacular cherry blossom tree.

With buildings in the Middle East becoming increasingly glitzy, with futuristic skyscrapers coming to the fore in Dubai and Riyadh over the last few decades, the importance of heritage still remains, and is now taking on a more significant role in the region’s architectural framework. Bahrain-based interior designer Ammar Basheir realized that design can be a powerful tool to bridge cultures and expose diverse audiences to Bahraini craftsmanship. His work on Nuzul Al Salam, a restored heritage house and boutique hotel in the historic city and Bahrain’s former capital of Muharraq, is a prime example of how to best modernize vernacular architecture without compromising on its historical aesthetic. The hotel, which opened its doors in 2019, has interiors bedecked in rich colors, vintage accessories, and lavish fabrics, set against a backdrop of a striking oak and steel parametric staircase and terrazzo floor. It can be said that Nuzul Al Salam itself is a paradigm of the Middle East’s distinctive style and its enduring appetite for luxury.

 Palace in Kuwait by Walid Sefi

Palace in Kuwait by Walid Sefi “This property is around 2,000 sqm located by the sea, in a high-end residential area. It took three years to build and finalize all the interiors. What we see in this photo is the main reception with different seating areas distributed around two half-round sofas designed by us. They are inspired by the art deco period and were executed by artisans in Lebanon. The upholstery was purchased from an old French fabric manufacturer and customized. It gives the inspiration direction for the whole room, like the organic branches, coral color panels, and the suspension selection from a lighting design studio that produces customized, limited- edition pieces. Since we always look for the rare, and have the possibility to execute and purchase fabrics and antique furniture from the four corners of the world, we were able to mix in this massive reception an art deco inspiration with old Chinese lacquered panels and modern sculptures setting a contemporary atmosphere.”

Read Next: Everything You Need To Know About Vogue Living Arabia, Starring Sheikha Majda Al Sabah

Originally published in the November 2020 issue of Vogue Living Arabia. 

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