Star in the east

Beauty blooms in the desert for this ex­pat Aus­tralian fam­ily, who’ve cre­ated a bright, wel­com­ing oa­sis in Dubai.

Australian House & Garden - - Houses - STORY Rosa Se­nese | STYLING Ge­or­gia Macmil­lan | PHO­TOG­RA­PHY Abbi Kemp

Blue-sky days, week­ends spent on white-sand beaches, a kinder­gartener just start­ing Nip­pers… It sounds like an idyl­lic Aus­tralian life­style, but for artist and tex­tile de­signer Ge­or­gia Macmil­lan, home for now is Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, lapped by the warm wa­ters of the Per­sian Gulf.

Ge­or­gia con­fesses to be­ing “shocked” when hus­band Ben floated the idea of leav­ing their in­ner-Syd­ney loft con­ver­sion for a ca­reer op­por­tu­nity in this fi­nan­cial hotspot, but af­ter a brief re­con­nais­sance trip and con­ver­sa­tions with ex pats, she war med to the pos­si­bil­i­ties.

The cou­ple made the move in 2013 with daugh­ter Olivia, now five (baby Wil­liam came along 18 months ago). They in­spected more than 20 rental prop­er­ties be­fore find­ing this villa in the Al Safa dis­trict, with an el­e­gant white facade ringed by a land­scaped gar­den. The ground floor fea­tured fa­mil­iar open-plan liv­ing and din­ing spa­ces. Up­stairs were three be­d­rooms, in­clud­ing a main with en­suite, and out­side, shaded spa­ces for en­ter­tain­ing in cooler months.

“I imag­ined we’d be liv­ing in an apart­ment, so I sold a lot of fur­ni­ture be­fore we left,” Ge­or­gia says with re­gret. Undaunted, she had an­other con­tainer shipped from Aus­tralia, in­clud­ing pieces from her child­hood that her par­ents had kept in stor­age. These give the home a won­der­ful sense of con­ti­nu­ity.

Liv­ing in a rental, there’s only so much that the cou­ple can rea­son­ably change or in­vest in. “The ma­roon doors through­out, how­ever, had to go,” says Ge­or­gia with a laugh. “A splash of paint, textiles, stacks of books and framed art­works – in­clud­ing those by your chil­dren – are easy and af­ford­able.” Art by Ge­or­gia’s grand­mother and mother also adorns the walls.

Ge­or­gia’s own artistry has bloomed in Dubai. A for­mer broad­cast jour­nal­ist, she took up wa­ter­colour paint­ing here, a hobby that evolved into her own textiles and home­wares range. The large land­ing up­stairs is now her stu­dio, where she cre­ates ex­quis­ite works that are printed onto linen and can­vas. Her sum­mery themes, in­spired by the fam­ily’s trav­els, en­er­gise the whole house.

Of course, there are chal­lenges with any ex­pat life­style. In this case, they in­clude a han­ker­ing for sausage rolls from Syd­ney’s Bourke St Bak­ery, oc­ca­sional dust storms, fierce sum­mer tem­per­a­tures and fine desert sand that gets in ev­ery­where. “I al­ways have sand in my shoes!” Ge­or­gia laughs. Even so, the fam­ily en­joys Dubai’s strong sense of com­mu­nity, its mul­ti­cul­tural rich­ness and short­haul travel op­por­tu­ni­ties to Europe.

“I imag­ined that be­ing an ex­pat was a tran­sient state,” she says, “but this is life and whether it’s for two years or 10, you need to make your home a home.”

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