Omani seren­ity

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.

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