COOL, CALM AND COL­LECTED

Writ­ten by Ju­lia Maile

Harper's Bazaar (Arabia) - - Contents -

For Kuwaiti-born in­te­rior de­signer Fatemah Al Ebrahim, buy­ing is def­i­nitely one of the high­lights of the job. “I love shop­ping for fur­ni­ture for plea­sure,” she says. “When I travel, I al­ways tar­get fur­ni­ture shops.” And she will go to great lengths to get the per­fect piece. “I found a 1950s Parisian screen by Bau­mann in an an­tique mar­ket and I car­ried it home!”

Home for Fatemah, 36, her hus­band Ali and their three young sons – Saud, nine, Fa­had, three, and Zaid, three months – is a three­bed­room flat in the heart of Lon­don’s Bel­gravia. De­spite her pen­chant for fur­ni­ture shop­ping, the home is any­thing but clut­tered. “I like min­i­mal el­e­gance,” she says. “I favour neu­trals as I get bored with colour.” Set over two lev­els of an im­pos­ing Grade II listed build­ing, the ground floor fea­tures a spa­cious open-plan liv­ing and din­ing area, which leads to the kitchen. Down­stairs is a study area, fam­ily room, bed­rooms and an out­door court­yard.

The house’s beau­ti­ful pe­riod fea­tures – soar­ing ceil­ings, in­tri­cate cor­nic­ing and orig­i­nal pan­elling – pro­vide the ideal back­drop for Fatemah’s col­lec­tion of mid-cen­tury and con­tem­po­rary fur­ni­ture. “My style is eclec­tic,” she ex­plains. “I don’t like it to be all matchy matchy. I go for pieces that have his­tory… When I have gath­er­ings I like to speak to my friends about where I got this piece from or how I man­aged to source that ob­ject.”

Pieces that are bound to get guests talk­ing in­clude a bold striped cof­fee table (found at her favourite store in Italy, Blend Roma), two Plank side chairs by Amer­i­can de­signer Michael Boyd from PLANE­fur­ni­ture, and her col­lec­tion of ethe­real sea fans. “I col­lect them from all over the world – Capri, St. Tropez, Lon­don – and have them through­out the house. They are so or­ganic. I love their tex­ture and the way they make a space feel more zen and nat­u­ral.”

Lately, the fam­ily’s re­cently ac­quired vin­tage record player has been play­ing Aretha Franklin’s Chain of Fools on re­peat. “My three-year-old loves it and keeps re­quest­ing it. We also en­joy jazz and play it when­ever we host guests.” A keen cook, Fatemah loves to en­ter­tain. “Dur­ing the week for the fam­ily I al­ways make Kuwaiti fu­sion but when we gather we tend to go for Ital­ian dishes. I like the con­cept of an open kitchen, where my guests can join me. We have lots of Ital­ian friends and they don’t mind cook­ing with you.”

Fatemah also loves to keep busy and isn’t afraid of a bit of DIY. “I never sit on the sofa watch­ing TV,” she says. “I’m al­ways fix­ing things and re­dec­o­rat­ing. Yes­ter­day, I said to my hus­band, ‘Teach me how to drill’. When I was young, I fol­lowed my dad with his tool­box while he was fix­ing things in the house. I love it.” While she now in­dulges her cre­ative side pro­fes­sion­ally, Fatemah’s ca­reer ini­tially took a dif­fer­ent path. “I al­ways wanted to be an ar­chi­tect but my par­ents were push­ing me to be a lawyer, so I stud­ied law at Kuwait Univer­sity. Af­ter that I worked in the Kuwait Min­istry of For­eign Af­fairs and then as a diplo­mat at the Kuwait em­bassy in Rome for five years.” The fam­ily moved to Lon­don seven years ago and Fatemah de­cided to pur­sue her pas­sion, com­plet­ing an in­te­rior de­sign de­gree at Lon­don’s KLC School of De­sign. “I’m re­ally proud I man­aged to make it be­cause life here in Lon­don is hec­tic, es­pe­cially hav­ing chil­dren, so it was quite a chal­lenge.”

Af­ter grad­u­at­ing, friends asked her to de­sign their homes and she was in­tro­duced to prospec­tive clients.

“I got very lucky with my clients... I think they come to me be­cause they like the style of my house and the taste of my In­sta­gram. They know who I am and what I do and they trust me blindly.” It means she buys all the items for her clients her­self. “I like each piece to come from a dif­fer­ent source. I feel it is so per­sonal that I can’t de­pend on any­one else to shop for me for a pro­ject. It’s busy, but I love it.”

Where does she find all these spe­cial pieces? “Be­fore hav­ing our baby Zaid, my sched­ule was to hit Lon­don’s an­tique mar­kets al­most ev­ery morn­ing. Ju­bilee Mar­ket Hall in Covent Gar­den on Mon­days, Old Spi­tal­fields Mar­ket on Thurs­days, Ber­mond­sey Mar­ket on Fri­days and Gol­borne Road on Satur­days. I don’t al­ways have to buy, but it in­spires me a lot.” She ad­mires the work of Kuwaiti prod­uct de­signer Loulwa Al Rad­wan, whose works in­clude lim­ited-edi­tion collectible pieces from Ital­ian mar­ble, and is a big fan of House of Too­good in Shored­itch. “It is run by two sis­ters – one de­signs fur­ni­ture and one de­signs clothes. I love their Roly-Poly Chair and how they use dif­fer­ent ma­te­ri­als.”

De­spite her ex­per­tise at sourc­ing some of the most strik­ing items, in Fatemah’s home are art­works and ce­ram­ics she has made her­self. “I like ev­ery­thing re­lated to art. I en­joy oil paint­ing and once a week I go to a ce­ram­ics stu­dio. I learned the ba­sics of ce­ram­ics but that’s it… I don’t want to fol­low in­struc­tions, I do what­ever I feel like do­ing. It’s all ran­dom.”

When it comes to her wardrobe, Fatemah’s choices re­flect her de­sign aes­thetic. “I like un­der­stated items,” she says. “My favourite brand is Ce­line. I have a skirt from Phoebe’s first show when I fell in love with the brand’s clean lines and ar­chi­tec­tural cut. The skirt is too old now to wear but I’m not let­ting it go.” A bou­tique called Egg on nearby Kin­ner­ton Street is an­other firm favourite. “It fea­tures all these young cre­ative de­sign­ers; it’s not very com­mer­cial.” Liv­ing in Lon­don, she has a weak­ness for coats. “I like prac­ti­cal de­sign and some­thing that goes with the weather, so I can’t re­sist a good qual­ity coat. This sea­son I have my eye on a Casey Casey coat from Dover Street Mar­ket.” For her boys, she likes to shop at La Stu­pen­de­ria in Bel­gravia. “I like the qual­ity of their fab­rics and I love their clas­sic Ital­ian style. It’s a blast-from-the-past feel­ing.” Nine-year-old Saud is al­ready fol­low­ing in his mother’s foot­steps. “He loves ar­chi­tec­ture and de­signs houses and shows me the floor­plans. Some­times I come home and I find him chang­ing the lo­ca­tion of the chairs and ta­bles. I like it but I have to move it back to how it was!” Is it dif­fi­cult to main­tain the house with three young boys? “It’s a lot of work but I think it’s worth it,” she says. “I don’t agree with those that change the look of the house be­cause they have chil­dren. For me, chil­dren need to grow up sur­rounded by all of these things and even­tu­ally they will know what they are and aren’t al­lowed to touch.”

The fam­ily visit Rome as of­ten as they can for va­ca­tions and spend four weeks a year in Kuwait stay­ing with fam­ily. “When­ever I go to Kuwait I make sure that I go to the Fri­day mar­ket, Souk al-Juma’a, to hunt for an­tiques and vin­tage items. I found a favourite African bowl there and a beau­ti­ful Chi­nese screen with brass en­grav­ing and mother of pearl.” The thing she misses most about her home coun­try is fam­ily gath­er­ings and the warm weather. “I couldn’t spend Ra­madan in Kuwait for the last four years be­cause of my chil­dren go­ing to school. And the nice thing about Ra­madan is gath­er­ing with friends and vis­it­ing fam­ily for food. I re­ally miss this. Hope­fully one day we will get there again.” Ul­ti­mately, Fatemah’s dream is to open a bou­tique in Kuwait sell­ing new and vin­tage fur­ni­ture and dec­o­ra­tive items that re­flect her own per­sonal style. A whole shop that needs fill­ing with pieces she loves? Sounds to us like the per­fect ex­cuse for more fur­ni­ture shop­ping.

“My clients come to me be­cause they know who I am and what I do.

They trust me blindly”

Fatemah Al Ebrahim

Kuwaiti in­te­rior de­signer Fatemah Al Ebrahim in the sit­ting room of her Bel­gravia home, along­side two con­tem­po­rary chairs from Michael Boyd’s Plank se­ries

One of Fatemah’s favourite and old­est Ber­ber rugs, bought from a rug dealer in Lib­erty Lon­don, with two Ethiopian stools

Be­low: Dress­ing table from The Con­ran Shop Lon­don, an­tique hat blocks, a Staud bag and The Row shoes. Be­low left: A con­tem­po­rary sculp­ture from Lon­don’s Church Street Mar­ket, and can­dles from Rachel Vosper Bel­gravia

Above: Fatemah, in Ce­line, with her three-month-old son, Zaid, and an In­glesina Clas­sica pram pur­chased nine years ago from Rome for her first son. Right: Fatemah’s en­trance hall is al­ways filled withfresh blooms

Above: Fatemah’s beloved Vh­ernier andDior jew­ellery. Left: Fatemah wears: Shirt, Dhs2,390, Joseph; trousers and boots, both Ce­line, all her own

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