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    Video: Opulence meets minimalism in the changing residential design sector




    NGC Nafees held a panel discussion in their newly renovated showroom. Image supplied

    The Middle East has a long history of opulent and maximalist design, particularly in the realm of residential interiors. However, a recent panel discussion hosted by NGC Nafees and Commercial Interior Design magazine aimed to explore whether this aesthetic preference has shifted towards minimalism.

    The panel consisted of Lara Francis el Hani from Kling Consult, Grammatiki Zamani of Kiklos Architects, Leali Ezzat from ELE Interiors, and Hannah Bower Brooks of Cherwell Interiors. The discussion was led by Marina Mrdjen from Intelier, who explored practical examples of local home design projects.

    Global supply chain disruptions

    How have global supply chain disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic affected your current projects?

    “One significant change that came with the pandemic is the way designers are creating a project,” said Grammatiki Zamani. “We used to create a concept and then find materials available in the local market to implement it, but now we research materials first before creating a concept to minimise transit times.”

    Hannah Bower echoed this sentiment, saying: “Supply chain was very difficult. We invested in popular materials and held stock to ensure project delivery. Major suppliers in this region started to increase their local holdings, which was effective for everyone.” Lara Francis el Hani discussed the challenge facing designers in the region: “The biggest challenge is that clients don’t want anything off the shelf, they want everything bespoke. So designers have to create custom elements that local craftsmanship can cater to. Partnering with a reliable manufacturer who can deliver high-quality custom elements is essential.”

    In conclusion, the panel discussed that the shift towards minimalism in home design in the Middle East is an ongoing process that presents challenges and opportunities for designers in the region. As Lara Francis el Hani noted, “The biggest challenge is creating bespoke elements that meet the client’s unique needs but also ensure quality and longevity.” NGC Nafees held a panel discussion in their newly renovated showroom.

    Prevailing style and new tastes

    How would you define the prevailing style in local residential interiors, and is there a change in the local taste currently underway?

    The local taste in interior design and architecture in the UAE is highly influenced by the diverse backgrounds of its residents, who come from all over the world. The pandemic has also had an impact on the design preferences of homeowners, who are now looking for more comfort and practicality in their homes. In response to these changing preferences, a shift towards minimalism has started taking place in the UAE, with people becoming less afraid of empty spaces and focusing more on creating a calm and natural ambience.

    “What I’ve seen change is that people are now coming to the forefront of the space,” said Grammatikki Zammani. “So the interest in shaping an interior and architecture is more about the spatial experience rather than the elements themselves that go inside the space. People have started realizing that what’s required is to start removing from a design rather than adding more elements.”

    Leali Ezzat commented on the trend towards simplicity, saying, “People don’t want something very shiny. They want natural materials, both inside and outside of the house, to create a cosy and warm ambience.” She added that after the pandemic, people have become more invested in creating a comfortable living space that matches their lifestyle.

    Hannah Bower Brooks said that the local taste has many international influences and is constantly evolving, with luxury hotels having a big impact on the residential market. She noted that there has been a significant development in taste, with people becoming more focused on comfort and family-centric spaces.

    Hannah Bower Brooks, CEO & Co-founder, Cherwell Interiors. Image supplied

    “People are now spending more time at home and are looking for a more livable space that reflects their travels and personal style,” said Lara Francis el Hani. “There is a shift towards a more me-time approach to residential design, with people wanting to enjoy their homes for longer and host more often.”

    Lara also discussed the current trends in design, saying that brutalism is making a comeback, with an emphasis on natural finishes like concrete, stone, timber, and fabrics. On the other hand, there is also a resurgence of maximalism, with clients requesting murals and florals, but with a more relaxed, less stressful colour scheme.

    Lara Francis El Hani, Senior Manager ID, Kling Consult.

    The local taste in the UAE is constantly evolving and adapting to changing preferences and

    lifestyles. Homeowners are now looking for a more comfortable and practical living space, with a focus on minimalism and simplicity. However, there is also a trend towards more colourful and expressive design styles, with an emphasis on natural finishes and an appreciation for brutalism and maximalism.

    Emerging trends in residential interiors for 2023 and beyond

    The panel of experts also discussed emerging trends in residential interior design for 2023 and beyond. Natural materials and slicker shapes are becoming more popular, and clients are more informed and know what they want in terms of materials and design.

    “The trend is shifting towards making the home a place of enjoyment and comfort, rather than just a space to show off to guests,” noted Leali Ezzat. “Nowadays when we have clients, the experience is a bit different because clients travel and they know what they want. They study it, they look at many options, and they are informed about materials. So when it comes to the time of designing, they already know what they want. It makes the process a little bit easier.”

    Leali Ezzat, Founder & Design Director, ELE Interior.

    The panellists emphasised the importance of using natural materials and textures, such as

    textured fabrics and stones, to create a warm and comfortable environment. Grammatiki stated: “I can see that natural materials, not imitations anymore, slicker shapes, and more organic forms are what’s coming into fashion. I think that is going to stay with us for the next year for sure.”

    The use of neutral colours with accents of greens, sages, and terracottas is also becoming

    popular. Hannah shared her thoughts: “Whether it’s the tactile nature of fabrics, natural materials, and stones that are sustainable, blending the inside and outside is very important. We’re seeing a lot of textural elements in materials that are used, with neutral colours that allow for layering. Detail is still important but controlled and restrained. Comfort is key, and luxury is coming from how spaces are being used. Automation and control are becoming more important, and there’s a lot of warmth coming through in some of the colours, such as greens, sages, terracottas, and other organic colours.”

    Grammatikki Zamani, Founder, Kiklos Architects.

    The panellists highlighted the growing trend of barefoot luxury, where the focus is on creating spaces that feel luxurious to touch and interact with, including textured fabrics and natural finishes.

    Finally, Lara said: “The tactile fabrics are here to stay. People want patterns with textures and embossing, and they want to feel the canvas. They don’t want anything boring, they want to indulge in their sofa. The barefoot luxury is there, and all the finishes should reflect its natural aspects of it. The fabrics play a huge role in that.”

    James Prathap, general manager at NGC Nafees, joined the panel and introduced the latest

    trends in wallpaper design. He said, “In Dubai, it’s a very dynamic market and we are influenced by people around the globe. They come with their culture, they come with their design aesthetics and patterns. As a company, we stock more than 18,000 products in Dubai. So we have to be sensible and mindful of choosing the right products.”

    James Prathap, General Manager, NGC Nafees

    With these insights from the panel of experts, it’s clear that the trend in residential interior design is moving towards a more natural, organic, and comfortable approach, where the use of natural materials and attention to detail are crucial. The focus is also shifting towards creating spaces that reflect the client’s lifestyle and enhance their living experience.

    The six-part series – ‘FF&E Design Talks with NGC Nafees’ aims to bring together leading interior designers for discussions on the challenges, opportunities, and trends in FF&E design across hospitality, commercial, and residential sectors.