When the team behind Toronto’s and Miami’s Byblos restaurant decided to bring their Eastern Mediterranean concept to the UAE, they commissioned a Toronto-based studio Navigate Design to create Morah, a 149-seat restaurant located on the 71st and 72nd floors of the JW Marriott Marquis Dubai. The team, which previously delivered interiors for the Weslodge Saloon in the same hotel, approached the progressive design under a refresh of the brand, catering to the Middle East market, especially the Dubai dining crowd.
“ICON Legacy Hospitality, a full-service hospitality management company aimed for a progressive design under a refresh of the brand and name,” Ken Lam, principal at Navigate Design, tells Commercial Interior Design magazine.
While the design team set out to monopolise the 270-degree unblocked view of Dubai skyline, they also faced several challenges working with the specific architecture, which resembles a sheriff star with hard converging angles at all corners.
“To balance such overpowering architecture, we had to soften the space to work with Morah’s feminine brand,” explains Lam.
Guests arrive at the 72nd floor via a private elevator into an intimate peach-hue reception filled with greenery and candle-lit lanterns. A pair of resin oil paintings set the tone for what’s to come, with colors resonating the interior palette with subtle gold leaf accent.
Further in, the dining room opens up into an airy space with the panoramic views of the Dubai skyline. A sculptural spiral staircase ties the duo-floor restaurant together as it unwinds around a cascading chandelier down to the 71st floor.
The concentric design is also reflected in the ceiling, where wooden flower petals are staggered inside a circular light cove.
Commenting on the overall feminine colour palette, Lam says that the warm and neutral shades, along with a prominent curve detailing, were incorporated to soften the otherwise rigid architecture.
“On the 71st floor, hues of peach, salmon, mint-green and turquoise were used throughout,” he says. “Antiqued mirrors, weathered planters, softly lit palm trees, eclectic lanterns and sea creatures in solid brass are placed throughout to create the cosy and warm ambience.”
One of the focal points in the restaurant is the 10-metre long bar with hand-carved wood scalloping detail, which spans across the entire bar front, complete with satin lacquer finish. Suspending brass shelving above filled with gold and glass decanters along with the old-world back bar cabinetry lined with antiqued mirror all help reflecting the views.
The lower dining area carries a similar feminine palette. A centre booth that seats six anchors itself at the bottom of the stair is another focal point coming down the spiral staircase, which is one of Lam’s favourite design features.
According to the team, this area is envisioned as the ultimate ‘be seen’ VIP experience for guests.
Additionally, an extravagant mezze bar anchors one side of the dining room and a large mermaid mirror wall defines the other.
Art and graphics play a significant role in all of Navigate Designs’ creations. Starting from the entry resin painting, next is the large mirror wall with the digitally-printed mermaid tails and hand-applied gold leafing by the design crew on site.
“There are also 39 frames of jellyfish photography in the two restroom corridors, again with hand painted gold accent and leafing on every single piece before they were hung,” adds Lam.
The crew also designed four custom oval rugs, with repeating mermaid motif in coral color over peach undertone, they sit below dining groups in the middle corners, and help to define different dining zones.
Morah is not shy to confide strong femininity, but all the details are subtle.
“Whether it is that perfect curve wood archway, the offset stair balustrades, or that splash of gold underneath the resin coating, there is always more to discover,” concludes Lam.