“The biggest piece of art in this property is the view,” reflects Charu Gandhi, architect, founder and director of London-based design studio Elicyon, as she walks me through the newly completed show apartment at One Palm in Dubai.
Looking out across the Arabian Gulf, the beaches of the shoreline and Dubai Marina’s glinting skyline, there’s no doubt that the aspect, not to mention the amount of natural light flooding the space, is extraordinary. Floor-to-ceiling windows on three sides of the living areas make a strong design statement, and ensure that the interior feels connected to the coast.
Gandhi's interior design work on the uber-luxurious London development One Hyde Park caught the attention of Omniyat’s chairman and CEO, Mahdi Amjad, who wanted to create something unique for Dubai. After a series of meetings over several months, Elicyon was retained by Omniyat to deliver interiors for two show apartments, as well as base build design, for the company’s flagship Palm Jumeirah property, which is sited on the eastern tip of the island’s trunk.
So, who bought the penthouse?
A GCC national was the discerning purchaser of the 29,800 square foot One Palm penthouse, which fetched Dh102 million (beating the previous sales record for a Dubai apartment of Dh60 million and making it the most expensive to date). The new owner has also commissioned Elicyon to design the interior of the penthouse, which is due for handover towards the end of the year. The design concepts are already in an advanced stage and it is clear that something truly extraordinary is taking form on the 21st floor.
Gandhi describes the style of the penthouse as “more quirky” than the show apartments. “The reception room is exquisite and magical, with really interesting pieces of furniture, bespoke glass, metalwork, emerald greens and vintage metal. A lot of the decor and furnishings are bespoke and commissioned specifically for this space.”
This is Elicyon’s first collaboration in Dubai, although Gandhi has worked on a number of other projects in the region and has travelled extensively, so she’s no stranger to the Middle East. The design at One Palm is influenced by local culture but is conscious of not replicating it.
“All our projects are inherently unique,” Gandhi maintains. It is true that the company’s design journey begins with an incredibly detailed 12-page briefing document that examines all aspects of a client’s lifestyle. It has previously, for example, highlighted the need for a dog-washing station for a very particular breed of dog, uncovered children’s interests, how and where they eat, possible allergies, the number of staff in a home, and so on.
“Clients may come to me and say: ‘I have these 20 images, but none of them matches’. We’ll talk and discover what could be a texture or a pattern. We do have a super-multinational group of clients from Russia, the Middle East, China, India, UK and the US, right through to Germany and Switzerland, and a lot of them take great pride in their family or cultural legacy. They may have collections of art, or it could even be a pair of sunglasses or a hat, and these become little touch points and moments of: ‘Ah! Tell us a little bit more about that’. It starts a conversation,” says Gandhi.
It’s clear that exterior views have influenced the interior colour palette in the One Palm show apartment, which draws on aquas, blues, neutrals and soft silver greys. The building offers large open garden terraces and pools on each level, and the design vision centres around the interplay between the interior and exterior. For example, a large coral sculptural cast set at the end of the dining area in the show apartment pays homage to the seascape beyond.
A lot of the furniture is bespoke. A magnificent chandelier that runs across the length of the living spaces, and unifies them, was designed by Elicyon. Much of the design has to do with the flow of the space, so the exquisite hand-painted silver wallpaper by Fromental in the bedroom suite extends into the dressing room beyond, which in turn links to the bathroom beyond. “It’s interesting for us not being based in Dubai, as we’ve come from outside and haven’t been influenced by any other development. We’ve come to this place with a fresh perspective,” says Gandhi.
The result is supremely elegant, as a luxury London aesthetic is married to its Dubai location. This is evidenced in a modern take on Arabesque motifs - elements of which are echoed throughout the apartment, in shelving, marquetry and punctuated room dividers. There is a lot of textural play, so matt leather is set against polished metal, which is then juxtaposed with high gloss lacquer.
A highlight of the space is an internal connecting area that acts as a private inner sanctum, and a grown-up snug and library, featuring a pair of Eames chairs from Vitra. A desk area with bespoke highly gloss veneers allows the natural grey of the wood joinery to come through, with diagonals that reflect the motif of the surrounding screens. Walls here are covered in a light grainy textured silk.
“I would like you to think of this project as a symphony, not a staccato piece of music - it shouldn’t be stop, start, stop, start. You should be forming little connections between the spaces and your mind’s eye should be reading them, yet all the while you may not even know what happened,” Gandhi concludes.