Designed by Sneha Divias, Villa Barr Al Jissah in Muscat is an oasis of contemporary luxury by the sea.
Designed by Sneha Divias, Villa Barr Al Jissah in Muscat is an oasis of contemporary luxury by the sea
“Fashion is architecture: it is a matter of proportions,” said Coco Chanel. And Villa Barr Al Jissah in Muscat is alive with vivacious geometry and meticulously considered detail. Created by Sneha Divias, principal of her eponymous atelier based in Dubai and Porto, the contemporary villa embraces the timeless beauty of exquisite furnishings and accessories, as well as its lush, cinematic seaside surrounds.
Divias, known for her remarkable ability to attune herself to the needs of her clients on both a practical and emotional level, approached the project with thoughtfulness, curiosity and a refusal to opt for anything other than a singular approach to any interior.
“What I most love about my job is the emotional resonance that it has in people and the detail-oriented aspect of it – I’m obsessed with details,” she muses.
“In this particular project, the appeal to me was the connection with the client’s brief and vision – as well as to the location itself. The context provided an ethereal background to develop unique layers of blurred interiors and exteriors. The materiality and composition came from the earthy tones of the mountains surrounding the villa, and the soft furnishing layers of blue come from the sea. There is also a sense of openness and lightness which is derived from the characteristics of Omani interiors.”
But don’t look for any generic, standard approach in her projects. “I don’t stick to any one approach,” she says. “Each project is different, and I approach each one with an open and free mind. A sense of character is key in residential projects; it should be all about the people living in there. We’ve seen the beautiful pictures in magazines and books, and wished our homes looked the same – but it doesn’t mean that it should, or that it will be the same, as your property probably has a different context.”
Divias’ genius lies in her ability to infuse the specific needs and vision of her clients with the wisdom of her key design principles.
“I adhere to [these] key principles that serve as a solid and open-minded basis for my work. Geometry is of prime importance with space planning; creating scale and proportion is key for guaranteeing continuous flow. And you will only have balance from the seamless integration of elements from architecture, interior and furniture. This helps you produce layers that develop a common language to improve the quality of life. In this villa, you will see this philosophy applied in the way the materials speak to each other, in the flow of the space planning and in the connection of interior and exterior spaces,” says the designer.
Having a solid foundation also allowed her to meet the two main challenges she encountered when designing the 1100-square metre villa.
“One [challenge] relates to function and the other relates to spatiality,” she explains. “As this property is a second residence/weekend home, there was a focus on entertainment and receiving guests. So, our challenge was to create an environment that caters both to sea-side comfort and relaxation, and acts as an inviting habitat for social interactions.”
Her solution lay in her selection of materials, which made “bold statements with brass and accent pieces of lighting and artwork that bring some dramatic layers while working with a base scheme that is neutral and earthy.”
As for her solution for spatiality issues, she “strived to create different living pockets that would make the most of the splendid views and also create intimate areas with privacy. Hence the living area, dining area and media/ TV area are separated through free-standing units, and the permeability of the spaces is designed to work when the users receive guests or when it is just family down-time at the villa.”
It’s this gift for being attuned to the subtle nuances of textures, light, shadow and form that allowed her design to offer a soothing retreat and to be a place that refreshes, inspires and welcomes.
“The choice of materials is critical to the success of an interior,” says Divias.
“I relate to the subtle elegance of the project style, which is luxuriously detailed without being ostentatious – and for me that is what contemporary luxury is all about.” – Sneha Divias
“The palette of the base hard finishes is light, with contrasting wood and brass metal details. Glossy surfaces and deliberately placed colour accents contrast with the brass metal, the elegant lacquer and wood – but the base is neutral throughout the spaces. Most important is how these materials present themselves with light, and how they become timeless elements of the structure.”
But to capture the spirit of the owners also meant integrating artworks and furnishings that heighten emotions. “The Zhao Kailin artwork at the entrance, Moon Shadow [oil on canvas], is a highlight as he is a master of the contemporary realist oil painting movement, and the scale of the artwork is perfectly integrated in the double-height wall,” she explains.
Other key designer pieces include the custom lighting installation by PSLab in the entry, the City Wheel sculpture by James McNabb in the hallway, the Blue Parchment armchairs designed by Kenneth Cobonpue and the UMOS Design side table from Nakkash Gallery in the living room, and the Boffi kitchen.
“I am also particularly fond of the free-standing shelving unit we designed, which was manufactured by Kreations. It’s placed between the dining and media area as it brings a perfect backdrop and creates the privacy screening.”
The dining area is the space where we’d would be most likely to find Divias. “It is intimate and unexpected, with a library feature and an accent Tom Dixon chandelier. Dining areas are always special as an integral social part of the house,” she says.
Her gentle but powerful approach is evident in her design disposition. “Nurturing our creativity is fundamental [in order] to see the potential in spaces and come to up with solutions that are functional and of aesthetic value. One of the best pieces of advice I have received is to allow yourself to dream big,” says Divias.
This is also reflected in her thoughts on contemporary luxury: “To me, luxury is not just about the aesthetic quality but about the impact it has on users. What matters is how design makes you feel – and great design should be conceptualised to be timeless and respond to context. I relate to the subtle elegance of the project style, which is luxuriously detailed without being ostentatious – and for me that is what contemporary luxury is all about.”
The multi-disciplinary atelier’s recently completed projects reflect the company’s broad spectrum of expertise and include the executive offices for the new Dubai Holding headquarters, a Palm Jumeirah villa (which has been recognised with a design award) and OliOli, which is an educational play space with interactive galleries for children.
Future projects reflect the same boutique finesse. The company has recently finished the styling of the show apartment and sales centre for Banyan Tree Residences in Dubai, the renovation of one of the leading salons in the UAE – Orchid Beauty Boutique in Sharjah – and is working on an upcoming concept store project in Jumeirah. In parallel, it is working on a villa in Muscat and on residential projects in Dubai Hills and Saadiyat. “It’s all about creating experiences and a medium to bring brands and concepts to life,” Divias muses. We look forward to the next vista.