My Own Home: British couple transforms Dh4.4m Dubai villa into stunning show home

Furniture designer Amy Durnford and her husband Fred share the property with daughter Bonnie and their dog Puggy

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My Own Home takes you inside a reader-owned property to ask how much they paid, why they decided to buy and what they have done with it since moving in

Furniture designer Amy Durnford and her husband Fred rented in two of Dubai’s most popular addresses before opting to buy their own home.

They bought a three-bedroom villa in The Meadows community for Dh4.4 million in 2021 and set about creating a dream family home.

Ms Durnford, 32 from Scotland, sometimes uses the extended property as a show home for her UAE furniture and interiors brand, Custom No.9.

Both Ms Dunford and her husband, 33, an entrepreneur from England, work in Al Quoz, about 20 minutes away from their home, and share the villa with their daughter Bonnie, aged 18 months and their dog, Puggy.

Ms Durnford took The National on a tour.

Please tell us about your home

It was originally three bedrooms and had a garage attached that we closed and built a home gym.

We reconfigured the ground floor and extended the kitchen doubled in size.

We extended into the garden, on to what was originally a terrace and dug down to create a sunken living room, so we had this indoor-outdoor feel.

We extended upstairs in three different places and added another two bedrooms. We’ve four bathrooms and a maid’s room with en suite and a utility area.

I also have a beautiful home office space.

When did you buy your home?

We purchased it in the summer of 2021. Myself and my husband moved in 2022.

Seven days later, I found out I was pregnant.

We now have a girl who is 18 months old and a little pug we adopted from friends who were relocating.

What prompted you to buy?

We always rented apartments. We were on The Palm and had a lovely couple of years living on the beach. Before that, we had various apartments in the Marina.

We wanted to put roots down and invest money into something rather than paying rent. Covid-19 had a huge impact. A lot of people realised after being stuck at home, that they wanted to create something that felt more like a home.

We made that decision – 2020 was when I started establishing the business and we thought we were going to be here for the long term.

Aside from that, I had a deep motivation to do a project.

What drew you to this villa?

We had been looking for about a year.

We really wanted a unique property that we could renovate, turn upside down and make into something that suited our personality.

We viewed many different houses and prices gradually increased over the time we were looking, and then we settled on this property.

It had a garden and one of our categories was not to be back-to-back, so facing either the lake or a park.

I wanted something with a layout I could really play around with. This one was actually the smallest we looked at.

What really sold it to us was the garden. It had trees that were 25-30 metres tall, planted when they started building The Meadows.

They hugged the garden and you walked out to this birdsong and leaves flowing in the wind.

What made you select this area?

It’s lovely.

We knew we wanted Meadows; it’s a really established Emaar community and has a reputation for a quality core build.

It’s near some very good schools – even though at that point we didn’t have children.

The biggest lake in Meadows is just across the road and, because it’s park-facing, it’s a very quiet community. It’s lovely to be able to walk, run and cycle.

What facilities do you have?

We’re about a five-minute walk from Meadows Town Centre, which has Spinneys and a gym.

We’ve got tennis courts just around the corner. We have the Meadows Village about a 10-minute cycle away, which has more restaurants, and overlooks the lake.

There’s a Waitrose there and another gym, all your salons.

You can spend a weekend here and feel like you’re part of your little village without having to get in the car.

What other improvements have you made?

The house was rundown. It hadn’t had anything done to it.

It also had a lot of stuff in it so it was hard to imagine what the house could be like.

We decided to challenge ourselves, to completely gut everything and change the layout entirely.

We set ourselves a budget and because of the nature of work that I’m in and my husband to an extent, in steel fabrication, we knew we could make that budget work really well, because of the contacts we had.

We ended up having 23 contractors across the whole project and managed to achieve a lot with a relatively low budget.

Do you feel a financial advantage owning over renting?


Especially now that we’ve got a daughter and, hopefully, will grow our family we would be looking anyway to live in a villa.

For the size of the villa that we’ve got and how much we’ve invested in turning it into a five-bed, our mortgage payments are significantly less than what we would be paying market rate now for rent.

What is your property worth now?

We haven’t had it valued. It’s a home and for us, it’s not something we’re looking to sell.

We’ve obviously seen prices climb quite a lot since we purchased.

Then, adding on what we’ve invested in renovating it … I feel very confident that we’ve surpassed the market trajectory with the value.

We definitely were savvy with our money and made it work very well.

Do you feel you timed your purchase well?

When we did buy, we had saved up enough to be able to invest in going into Meadows, whereas if we had looked at apartments in the Marina when we had less cash to invest in a deposit, then we would have been stuck on that trajectory of going from a one-bedroom apartment in the Marina, then to a bigger apartment in the Marina.

Because we waited and invested more money into a bigger deposit, into a villa, we’ve started our (ownership) journey further along the road.

We feel very grateful and lucky that we got on to the property ladder when we did.

Do you plan to sell when you move or leave the UAE?

It’s not a forever home in the sense that we see ourselves being there with a family for 15-20 years. But we have also spoken about not intending to leave Dubai in five to 10 years.

With the way the country is growing and the markets are going – everyone’s talking about Dubai, everybody wants to be here – we want to have roots here for a very long time.

I think we will keep this property as our anchor here to hopefully grow our portfolio and maybe have somewhere back home in the future so we can come between both locations.

Do you plan to buy more property?

We have our eyes set on buying investment properties in terms of renovating and potentially flipping, or renovating to rent.

Updated: March 20, 2024, 4:54 AM