Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 30 October 2020

Full of charm: Inside interior designer Kat Wightman's eclectic Abu Dhabi villa

This home features an effortless mix of colours, prints and patterns

Kat Wightman loves colours. The interior designer selected her Al Bateen villa based on its lush, vibrant garden, while inside the home that she shares with her husband Jamie, kids Arabella and Harry, rescue dog Hector and rescue cat Tom, blues and greys in a variety of patterns dominate.

“Colours of nature are very easy to live with,” says Wightman. “Green is life-affirming; it ­represents spring, growth and happiness, while blue is the colour of the sea and sky, and yellow is a splash of sunshine.” In England, her home’s palette was quite different. “I chose richer ­colours – shades of red and purple in my London home, which I spiced up with accessories, including a red toaster and a red coffee machine,” she says.

Wightman’s friends describe her as a maximalist. “But that’s not the same as a clutterer or hoarder. I have a lot of stuff going on in my home, but I keep it very tidy,” she explains. “You need to be very brave with your colours and patterns, but ensure the mix doesn’t clash – the different shades and designs just need to chat a lot to each other.”

Professionally, too, she has become known for successfully pulling off daring looks. Consequently, more people come to her to get a piece of her personal aesthetic in their homes, rather than to deliver a straightforward brief. “It has been very exciting to work with clients who don’t give me a brief at all; they just ask me to sort out rooms.”

Living and dining areas – spaces used for entertaining and showing off – are her most popular projects. Another common demand is for zoning spaces within large family villas. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it was the first challenge Wightman undertook in her own home. “It previously felt like a plane hangar,” she says of her open-plan entrance.

Wightman's mother was drawn to chintz and the Romantic English style of Laura Ashley

To give the space structure, Wightman installed a wall with double doors at the bottom of the stairs, which created a partition between the entrance and the dining area. The space, which she calls the “blue room”, is now her favourite. “It is the only room on the ground floor that catches the afternoon light and it’s one of the smallest rooms, so it’s cosy.”

An ornate cabinet, which belonged to Wightman’s father from his travels to Hong Kong, provided the starting point for the blue room. Wallpaper in sumi ivory and mustard from Harlequin adds to the chinoiserie vibe, while dark blue velvet sofas, with ikat cushions sourced from Uzbekistan, by Kushaan in Dubai, create a sense of warmth. Delicate lighting and mirrors complete the effect, including one mirror designed to resemble an open eye made with handwoven rattan.

Wightman grew up in a country house in Buckinghamshire. Her mother was drawn to chintz and the Romantic English style of Laura Ashley, while her father favoured bold, dramatic pieces. “My father brought home a division screen, a bold coffee table and massive pictures from his travels, and my mother just put them all in the shed,” she says. Either way, Wightman’s parents sparked her love for ornateness, which she developed further, and her home is an example of how different styles can work harmoniously.

You need to be very brave with your colours and patterns, but ensure the mix doesn’t clash

Kat Wightman, interior designer

Wightman’s regular visits to India, too, are evident in her furniture and soft furnishings. Beautifully patterned dhurries unify spaces, Roman blinds above a window seat sport a blue elephant print, and block-printed bedspreads feature in the bedrooms.

Each room may be saturated in colour, yet exudes a calming effect. Harry’s and the guest room feature blue; Arabella’s room is a sophisticated dark grey following a makeover to celebrate her 10th birthday; while the couple’s bedroom has a tropical feel, with its shades of sage green, botanical prints and a ceiling fan. The bathrooms feature gorgeous baths and bold tiles from AD Mart, strategically placed to separate the showers from the rest of the room, while paired prints add character. A cosy study, with dark green walls, palm print blinds, a bunch of cushions and a huge, colourful rug placed in the gallery-like landing, bring all the rooms of the upper floor together beautifully.

The artwork on display throughout Wightman’s home reveals a love of family and travel. There’s a gallery wall of framed family photos; several large abstract oil paintings, including one of a cowboy and one of an island off Cornwall by Wightman’s sister-in-law; seascapes by Cornwall artist Matthew Dempster; a vivid triptych by British artist Rebecca Loftus; and even a sail boat scene picked up from Home Centre.

It’s the stories behind her pieces that make it evermore interesting, from the ottoman Wightman spent a year upholstering with fabric from the Designers Guild, to two Balinese wood bead chandeliers that were brought back at the cost of sacrificing a lot of holiday wardrobe space. The result is a family home that feels easy yet eclectic, comfortable yet exotic.

Updated: January 23, 2020 11:20 AM

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