Why the Gulf's residential design sector is growing up fast

Why the Gulf's residential design sector is growing up fast

Instead of over-the-top interiors, designers are moving towards a more measured style of luxury

Award-winning boutique practice VSHD's villa is a case in point for Dubai's shift in luxury.
Award-winning boutique practice VSHD's villa is a case in point for Dubai's shift in luxury.

Throughout the GCC, the entire concept of residential real estate sector has undergone a tectonic shift. As more countries in the region open up to the idea of foreign investment, which allows expatriate workers and non-resident investors to park their funds in freehold property assets, the entire tableau has changed in terms of what is available in the market.

With attractive visa regulations that come with residency provisions, markets such as the UAE, Oman and Bahrain continue to entice investors despite a slower pace being witnessed not just in the region, but globally. 

Cities such as Dubai and Abu Dhabi, which are driving a large part of the real estate activity in the region, are moving towards a maturing market. This has, in turn, led to a shift in the interior design outlook, especially in the mid- to high-end properties.

Rania H Hamed of VSHD Design recently designed a private villa in Dubai which highlights a change in how luxury is perceived here. It’s a boxy, white villa with expansive open spaces, punctuated with skylights and full-length windows that let the natural light stream in. Instead of over-the-top interiors, designers are now exercising a more restrained approach towards luxury. Think pared-down, almost austere spaces with spatial architectural details that form the premise of the projects.

Owners, whether full-time residents or those who maintain a second home in the city, are now inclined to spend more on their property. Ellen Sohoel of XBD Collective explains that with investors being able to buy freehold land on which to build their dream home, the quantum of investment has seen an upward swing.

The increase in spending can be seen not only in the architectural form, but also the interiors where owners are spending top dollar on high quality fittings, whether it’s the flooring, surfaces, windows and doors treatments, furniture as well as outdoor landscaping such as swimming pools.

On the other hand, mid-range to upscale apartments in tony neighbourhoods such as Dubai Marina, DIFC and Downtown also offer many possibilities to both owners and designers. As Dubai moves towards a more urbanised economy, the urban living spaces, mostly in high-rises, are seeing the sizes shrink to optimise on land investment.

However, shrinking sizes do not mean diminished approach to design. Developers such as Ellington and KOA are heralding a new era of city living with thoughtful planning and good quality furnishings. At the same time, private residences, especially in this region, are a challenge for both developers and designers because of the diverse demographics. Cultural preferences and socio-economic factors play an important role in this sector.

One thing, however, remains clear. The property owners today are more discerning than ever, and it seems the industry is paying close attention to what the consumers want, keeping the real estate sector in a constant state of progress.

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