Stella the Stars is a Dubai-based interiors styling blog and service, helping those of you design lovers in need of interior decorating tips or inspiration for their home - no matter how deep your pockets are.
Well, hello there! Remember me?! It’s been a while, I know… The past six months have been a little bit of a blur: I had a baby (Teddy, you can meet him on instagram, he smiles a lot on camera!), went back to work after 12 weeks, started the biggest interior design project of my career, officially teamed up with the most wonderful business partner (more on that later!), and generally stopped having time to breathe. But I am finally finding my groove again so the blog is officially back!
Unsurprisingly, my first blog post is all about kids and how to style a bedroom to accommodate a baby boy and a toddler girl! I am sure I am not the only person with the dilemma of not having enough rooms for all their kids to sleep in so I have put together a summary of how I created a shared room, that’s gender neutral, fun, colourful and didn’t cost the earth.
The first big decision I had to make was choosing the room. Before the summer and the arrival of baby Teddy, I had an office space/guest room that was small, little natural light with a narrow window, and a dark shade of grey on the walls, and a larger much brighter room (which was Stella’s bedroom) with a very large window and a much lighter shade of grey. (Scroll down to the end of the post for the before pictures!) I decided to swap both rooms around and use the smaller darker room as the kids bedroom and transform Stella’s old bedroom into a light and airy office space. It may sound a bit counterintuitive but with a big play zone in our main living space where Stella spends most of her time, it didn’t make sense to keep the larger room for the kids where they would only essentially sleep. That’s how I sold it to the husband anyway! Also my old home office, despite its smaller size has a layout that’s actually much easier to use to create two separate sleeping zones, one for Stella and one for the baby.
To help me with the transition and room revamps as I was about 8 months pregnant at that stage, I enlisted the clever clogs at mrUsta. If you haven’t heard of them, may I suggest you stop whatever you’re doing and head to their website immediately. It’s such a clever concept; essentially an online market place that connects Dubai-based customers in need of DIY help, with service providers (electricians, handymen, painters you name it!) in an efficient and transparent way. A bit like Uber for taxi drivers, with the added ability to choose from various companies based on their customer reviews. It’s super easy to do, you just list the various jobs you need help with (including your location, description of the jobs, pictures, time and date requested) and wait for up to 5 service providers to quote you for the job. Each company has a profile and reviews from previous customers so you can choose the one you think is best for the job, click “book” and Bob’s your uncle as they say.
The whole thing took a full day and included:
Dismantling Stella’s house bed and reassembling in the new room
Remove all wall fixtures, shelves, and hooks and reinstall them in the new room
Filling existing holes in both rooms and repainted some walls
Assemble baby furniture like the changing table and cot
Install a fun gallery wall of photos of Stella when she was a baby
Quick, easy and budget friendly photo gallery thanks to IKEA frames. Photo credit: Aiza Domingo for Baby & Child Magazine
With my limited budget and space I had to be clever with the changes to the kids room so headed to IKEA to get most of the new pieces like the changing table, storage bench and shelves. then I just accessorized it all with pieces from Caramel & Sun and H&M Home.
I reused most of the furniture, soft furnishings and accessories from Stella’s room and created two zones - one a bit more girly for Stella with pops of pink neon, and another more boyish with orange accents for Teddy. On paper it shouldn’t really work, but it totally does!
This is me (pre-pregnancy as no one wants to see a baby whale jump off a sofa) taking a leap... ;-)
Earlier this month, I celebrated two milestones - Stella + the Stars turned 3 (it's like another baby!) and on the same day, we had our second Dubai-nniversary! 'Time flies when you're having fun' is the understatement of the year and sometimes I completely forget how far I have come. I am now officially on maternity leave (it's literally the final countdown and by the time you read this I may have created a new human being from scratch!), so I thought the last post before I take some time off with the new baby should be some sort of reflective one where I try and impart some wisdom with you all. Just kidding, I have major impostor syndrome and have basically no idea what I am doing on a daily basis but I have learned so much in the past few years, and as I often get asked how I changed careers and launched Stella + the Stars, I thought it would be worth sharing some of my experiences with anyone out there who finds themselves in the same spot.
If you've only recently started following Stella + the Stars, you may not be aware how this whole adventure actually began. Almost 4 years ago, as I took time off my PR job for a big media group in London to look after baby Stella, things I had taken for granted started to not really make sense anymore in my tired, hormonal and sleep-deprived brain. Not many people know that, but I originally trained as science journalist and I started my career writing and editing online medical publications...! A very, very far cry from the interiors world to say the least. I don't know if my creative juices were dormant all these years or if I had repressed them in a way not to overlap on my professional life but suddenly after being off work for so long, the prospect of going back to a full-time job with no flexibility whatsoever, a ridiculously long commute (3 hours a day), in an industry I wasn't passionate about anymore, added to the lack of creativity of the corporate world I had been so accustomed to, wasn't a very attractive one (to put it mildly).
It's funny how taking a step back from something you've been doing on auto-pilot for so long makes you re-evaluate everything! I also found out that being used to living on a very tiny/almost non-existent pay for 12 months helped me fathom the idea of not having a juicy salary coming in for a few months. Another catalyst in my reconversion was attending Abigail Ahern's Design Masterclass (one of my ultimate design heroes!) which gave me a little taste of what what could be. Fast forward to December 2014, when, with the support of my biggest fan, Mr Stella + the Stars (who not only supported me unconditionally for months but actually believed in me more than myself and pushed me to go for it! #heisakeeper), I quit my comfortable job of 8 years, and went back to design school to finally re-invent myself as an interiors blogger and stylist. While retraining, I started feeling something very weird, like I had just woken up from a very long snooze and suddenly everything started making sense again. My confidence was back, I was doing and learning something I was actually passionate about and people wanted to hear what I had to say. I launched the blog in April 2015 just as I was finishing my course at KLC and it all snowballed from there. I definitely had a big case of being in the right place at the right time and one thing led to another, in the following months, I was asked to revamp my neighbour's pad, got asked to work on styling jobs with fabulous interiors brands, got my first paid client and the highlight of that year, my blog got nominated for an award. It was a total revelation.
You have to remember at the time, there weren't that many interiors bloggers on the UK scene, and certainly none as bonkers as me in terms of style and vibe. And Instagram was still in its infancy - back then, if you were starting to gather 1000 followers on your Instagram feed, it kind of felt like you 'made it' a little bit more than it does now! ;-)
Anyways, that's the background story but, ENOUGH about me; the reason I wanted to write this post was to give anyone who listens (and is still reading!) some insight into my little adventure in the hope it can help others who are thinking of taking the plunge! I get contacted A LOT by lovely people who are thinking about becoming interior stylists but don't know where to start so here are some of the lessons I learned along the way... I am not the most successful, I am certainly not the best out there, or with the most traffic on my blog, or the most amount of social media followers. If you're looking for tips on how to make a million dollars with your business or how to get 50k followers on instagram in a month, this is not the right place, and you might want to move on! However, if like me, you're looking to make a career out of your passion, want a great work-life balance or simply be a bit happier every day, then read on my friends because that's exactly what I think I have achieved in the past four years!
1. Don't over plan and instead be open to opportunities. It's good to have a plan, but it's not good to restrict yourself to it without opening your mind to new unexpected ideas and opportunities that might come your way. On my wish list 3 years ago, you certainly would not have found: speaking in public to groups of people or organising styling workshops. But it happened and I have massively enjoyed a new side of being a stylist, helping others think outside the box when it comes to decorating.
2. Get yourself out there. Network, meet people within the industry, try and get connected to those whose personality and journey you admire, and don't be afraid to ask for help. When I started, I sheepishly contacted a few interior stylists I really loved (I am looking at you Sarah Akwisombe!) and I found most were very happy to help with tips and advice. However, this doesn't mean private messaging someone out of the blue and ask them point blank how they work and how much they charge by the way. Remember that it's all about give and take, and offering your help, or even just asking to take someone out for coffee to learn from them goes a long way. Chances are whoever you connect with will have started that way at some point and should be open to return the favour. Don't take the p*ss though! You can ask for advice but you can't expect someone you never met to spend an hour of their life putting together a client brief for you (yes that's happened to me before... insert rolling eyes emoji here)
3. Be authentic. Find your niche. Stick to it. This should probably be number 1 to be honest! When I started, there were only a small number of people doing what I wanted to do and it was a bit easier to get a foot in the door. The market is a bit oversaturated now so you really need to bring something different to the table to get yourself ahead of the pack. My USP is bold, statement, fun and colourful home styling without breaking the bank. How to decorate your house Tom Dixon style when all you have is a Zara Home budget if you like. Believe it or not, there aren't many out there who provide that service especially in Dubai. Once you've found what sets you apart, don't look at what others are doing or try to copy them, it won't work. You have to look, feel and sound authentic to your readers, followers, clients etc. They'll smell a mile away if you're trying to emulate what others are doing and it won't work.
4. Trust your instinct and that sometimes means saying NO. It's the hardest thing I have found so far, saying no. I really struggle not to accept every single opportunity that comes my way, even when I know it's not something that feels right for me. A job, a client, a project, even an event... I have had endless sleepless nights trying to fit it all in sometimes just because I kept saying yes to everything and totally overstretched myself for opportunities that were not always a good fit. If it doesn't feel right for you, or you get a funny feeling from the start, SAY NO! Don't be another victim of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), or do it because you're worried someone else will get the gig. Only accept opportunities that make sense to you and your personality/brand/profile
5. Don't worry about how many followers you have on instagram! Unless you want to become an influencer (trust me that's very hard to achieve these days), stop chasing the followers or do something just to get more likes. I can guarantee you that every successful person on social media you follow didn't start thinking they would become that successful on instagram just for the sake of it. No, what they started with is being authentic, finding their niche and trying to share that with like-minded others. The success (and followers!) usually naturally follows. I have just welcomed my 16,000th follower. Sometimes I think it's actually surreal so many people bother reading what I have to say about home decor, sometimes I think others have achieved that in probably a third of the time it took me. But when 'comparisonitis' start showing its ugly head, then I remember: what bloody difference does it make?!?! I get opportunities landing in my inbox almost every single day, I get some many home styling enquiries I have to say no to half of them on a weekly basis, but more importantly I don't get overwhelmed with responding to thousands of daily messages and comments - do you know how many hours a day you need to spend on Instagram to manage an account with 50k followers?!?! I simply couldn't fit it in the day and it would only increase my anxiety levels. And don't get me started on trolls and nasty comments. I can tell you I have NEVER had anyone say or send me privately something negative in 3 years! And thank god because I don't think I could actually deal with it, I am too sensitive.
So here is my two pence on starting from scratch in a new industry. I could go on and on but this is a good place to start! I hope it's useful, and feel free to leave a comment below with any questions you have and i'll do my best to respond. always honestly.
Right, it's time to say goodbye - even just temporarily. I am taking a little break from Le Blog and will be back early September, a little more tired and a little wiser hopefully! In the meantime you can follow our adventures on Instagram as Stella meets her new sidekick, where I surely be baby-spamming the hell out of life very shortly.
So this has been, erm, 18 months in the making... You know, just one of those quick projects! But my little Dubai jungle is finally the way I always wanted it to be. It took me a while to get there but I am so bloody happy with the result, I am now convincing myself it was worth the long wait. It's not the biggest garden - is it technically a patio?! - but it's always a popular one on Instagram so I thought I'd give you the low down on my garden redesign, what I did and where I got most of the stuff from. Ready? Let's dig in... (sorry couldn't help a little pun)
When we moved into our villa 18 months ago, the 'garden' was basically a big white wall, two sandpits and ugly pink concrete tiles. And definitely not as in pretty in pink, if you get my gist. (Scroll down to the end for all the rather shocking 'before' shots!) We didn't have a lot of budget on moving day after haemorrhaging money trying to kit out a 3000 sq. ft house from scratch and it was the middle of the summer 2016 with temperatures averaging 45 degrees so a garden revamp was not exactly at the top of the priority list - so we didn't bother to do anything about it until a few months later.
Plant Feature Wall
The first thing we wanted to do was add greenery - that blank white wall was the first thing you could see from inside, gave no intimacy from the neighbours' garden and was totally uninspiring to say the least. I browsed on Pinterest endlessly dreaming about exotic palm trees and how to make the space a mini tropical jungle we'd be happy to hang out in during the cooler months. I was completely clueless about outdoor plants let alone exotic ones so enlisted the help of a dear friend who has way greener fingers than me to come up with a plan.
She gave me the idea of a plant feature wall by digging up a large bed against blank wall for what is now the focus point of the garden - It's made of one large traveller's palm, two small coconut trees, a few bamboo plants and Livistona palms. The ground is covered in purple Rhoeo which creates a lovely carpet over the soil. All the plants were sourced from Plant Souq (also known as Warsan Nurseries) - if you haven't been yet, well may I suggest a little trip asap.
The original interlock bricks we had on the floor were beyond ugly and made of concrete - a health hazard with a toddler running around the garden like a maniac. I didn't want to blow the entire budget on just flooring so looked at purse friendly options that would be soft on small people's knees in case of falls. As always IKEA totally delivered with their RUNNEN range of outdoor decking. It took us about 45 minutes to click all the tiles on top of the existing bricks and I just had my handyman help sawing some to fit around the edges. It's really hold up two Dubai summers already without the colour fading at all. Highly recommended! We filled the sandpits with grass and beds of white stones with Aloe Vera (I have always wanted to have these in my garden!).
I bought some ridiculously cheap festoon lights from Dragon Mart and had them installed between the roof of the house and neihgbouring wall using a simple metallic pole spray painted in white. It looks so cosy at night and cost under AED500 for 30 metres of lights!
Furniture & Accessories
Now for the REALLY fun part... I worked with a bunch of lovely brands who kindly supplied super fun and affordable pieces of outdoor furniture and accessories.
The black table and accessories on top are all from the new kid on the Dubai block JYSK.
And last but not least the monochrome outdoor rug is from IKEA.
And that my friends is it! I can honestly tell you we are spending almost every single evening chilling in the garden now and it's become such a cosy space. I also cannot finish this post without a few pictures of what it looked like before I got my paws on it... And some progress pictures when the trees and plants got delivered! Enjoy!
All the beautiful images are by the ridiculously talented Karen from Design K.
It's with ridiculous excitement that I can finally introduce you to Stella + the Stars version 2.0 aka my new fancy-pants website! Got a new logo and everything! I am so happy with it I have been barely able to breathe since we pressed 'publish' this morning... So, what's all the fuss about, you might wonder? Well, why don't I give you all a little virtual tour so you get the full story behind the redesign? Buckle up, let's do it...
Why I revamped the website
Stella + the Stars turns 3 in a couple of months. It feels like yesterday I left the world of corporate media and changed my signature to 'blogger/interior stylist'. It's probably been the most exciting 3 years of my entire bloody life with a complete career change, a move to the other side of the globe, and the opportunity to turn my obsession into an actual business. What started as a fun blog about interiors has gradually turned into a dream career as a home stylist, and I wanted the new website to better represent what I do. So I decided to move away from my old blog template to a more professional looking site that showcases more of what I do on a daily basis - interiors projects, brand collaborations, as well as styling workshops.
How did I do it?
I'd love to tell you that I am a genius multitasker/superwoman who can do it all and took on all the technical re-design of a website all by herself. But let's be honest here, I’m about as good at HTML and coding and all the blogging back-end stuff as I am at going to the gym (clue: not very good at all) so I did what I do best and DELEGATED aka called in the professionals to help me create a new platform that looks cool and modern, reflects my style and properly showcases what Stella + the Stars is all about.
Who helped me
On the recommendation of one of my fellow interior designers (who also happens to be one of the most lovely and talented ladies on the Dubai interiors scene) Kath from House of Hawkes, I sent out an SOS to Nida the brains behind Nuance Creative, a boutique design studio in Dubai. After our first meeting it was literally digital love at first sight and in just a few weeks after discussing my project and what I was after, Nida completely captured my style and translated the vision I had in my head into the first draft of the new site. A SquareSpace wizard mixed with a highly creative mind, Nida immediately 'got it' so the final result and what you can now see live is really not far from those initial designs. Nida was a dream to work with, and I sometimes wonder if she is actually a mind reader, she was so spot on with her ideas.
What we've kept
We've kept the navigation mega simple, no gimmicks here. Le Blog is still there OBVS but has had a little refresh and we added clear categories of posts for easy navigation. The grid style design makes it easier to find older posts rather than the old endless scrolling sitch with the previous design. 'About Me' and 'Contact Me' pages remain pretty much the same - with my story (updated) and how Stella + the Stars was born during that cold London winter 2015...
We added a new section 'Work With Me' where you can find all the information about my home styling services, testimonials from previous clients and details on how I can help you wether you're brand or just someone looking for help revamping their own pad. There is a new 'Press' section - I still feel a little show-offy having it on the new site - but everybody told me I should shout about the coverage I get online and in print so there you go #cringe. Another 'blow my own trumpet' part of the new site is the 'Portfolio' section where I will be showcasing my most recent home styling projects. I have so many in the pipeline that haven't been photographed (or even completed!), I can't wait to show you what's in store in the next few months. The homepage has a new section called 'Current Faves' and is basically an edit of my favourite accessories from my go-to Dubai interiors stores. I'll update these every other week.
Why I changed the logo
I wanted to give the logo a light refresh too without going into rebranding territory - something less girly and more modern and profesh. It's a subtle change and you might not even notice it at first but for me it makes all the difference. A bit like updating your old sofa (that was absolutely fine to begin with) with something the same colour but more edgy and that gives your whole living room that little pizzaz it needed - know what I mean?! Again, with barely any brief, Nida delivered the goods! hashtag mind reader, I am telling you.
Now I have got my brand new sparkling website, I have been feeling the pressure to produce some fab content to do it justice... So watch out for some upcoming blog posts in the next few weeks as I'll be revealing my master bedroom revamp, tips to add a touch of marble to your home decor without breaking the bank, and a garden redesign... Watch this space, as they say, Watch. This. Space.
PS: I am gagging to know what you think of the new look Stella + the Stars, please pretty please give me your thoughts in the comments below!
You may remember that Stella and I have been brand ambassadors for A Little Lovely Company for a few months now. And to celebrate the festive season, today we are showcasing their brand new collection with a little yuletide twist in our last blog post of the year.
It was ridiculously fun to try their accessories and lights to revamp Stella's playroom and they fit so nicely with our newly repainted walls. Did anyone say pink?!?! And more importantly did anyone say unicorns?!?
A Little Lovely Company is a fun and creative brand of light boxes, neon lights, garlands, cool word banners and children's accessories that are as beautifully designed as they are affordable. Founded by two Dutch super-mums (who have 7 kids between them!) their range is available here in Dubai at Caramel & Sun, one of their many lovely retailers across the GCC, and my favourite store (online and physical) for all stylish kids decor (and not just because it's run by two brilliant French mamas!).
Caramel & Sun sent us a the most fun products from their new collection - think lots of unicorns and fab ligthboxes! - and we've styled them in Stella's play area next to the Christmas tree to make things extra joyous. I mean, four more sleeps till the big day, peeps! #sh*t. I am just hoping some of the pictures below might give you some ideas for last minute presents if like me, you still haven't finished your Christmas shopping yet... #doublesh*t #youarenotalone
I tried to be witty and hilarious again with their XL lightbox with Stella's favourite question of the month and the hashtag that seems to be on every Christmas jumper of instagram...
Stella tried to fit into the Roar storage box, she liked it so much and we now store all her toys in their limited edition Play and Go storage bag!
In Stella's bedroom, we hung my new favourite item from the new collection - the pineapple mirror (it's not made of actual glass mirror so it's super light and totally child proof) and the lovely pink baby unicorn print while Stella holds onto her mini Bunny light like her life depends on it...
Our model for the day seems to be delighted with the revamp. And as always, everything has been beautifully captured by photographer extraordinaire Karen Pissarra from Design K.
What do you think of Stella's newly accessorised playroom? Did you already know A Little Lovely Company? And more importantly, have you got your shit together for the big day? Would love to hear your thoughts on how we styled their new collection in the comments below... and see if it's helped you get a few last minute gifts sorted for your stockings...
And on this festive note, we would like to wish you the happiest Christmas if you're celebrating, a wonderful festive break and the best of the best for 2018! We have lots of exciting things planned for next year and we literally can't wait to share them all with you. THANK YOU for all your support over the past year.... See you on the other side.
Warning: this post contains an awesome discount offer exclusive to Stella + the Stars readers. Scroll down for more details.
When it comes to interior styling, as you've probably already gathered, I am all about breaking the rules and going for bold, colourful and quirky design. So you won't be surprised when I say the same goes for table styling! The more bonkers the better, in my book. So if you clicked on this post looking for inspiration to decorate your Christmas table the traditional way (aka with lots of red and green decorations), there is literally NOTHING TO SEE HERE, not even a red hat, so I suggest you stop reading to avoid total disappointment (also, your eyes might hurt!).
A few weeks ago, Bits&Pieces got in touch to ask me to run a little workshop in their store for an intimate group of Dubai bloggers and 'influencers', and, well, I didn't mess around and basically went ALL OUT with the most colourful pieces they have in their collection, to style the boldest yet fun festive table settings possible. We had a fabulous morning looking at how much fun you can have decorating your table for the holidays, as well as the art of finding the perfect gift (for those who have everything and need nothing!)... We finished off the session with some clever tips to wrap your presents like the pros (3 words, people: DOUBLE-SIDED TAPE!).
If you are not acquainted with Bits&Pieces yet, let's rectify this immediately as you're definitely missing out! Originally born in Abu Dhabi, the brand opened a store in Dubai's City Walk 2 last year. I remember attending the launch and falling in love with their eclectic and gorgeous accessories for the home, from vases to tableware, to candles and stationery. With their 'East meets West' ethos, they offer a vast collection of traditional local pieces with a modern twist, as well as some of my favourite European brands like Pols Potten (remember that gold pineapple?!) and Nordal (I am obsessed with their vases). Budget wise there is something for every purse as well, which as you know is a win-win in my book...
If you like this lovely local brand as much as I do, you'll be delighted to hear that Stella + the Stars readers get an exclusive 20% discount on the full collection. All you have to do is head to any of the Bits&Pieces stores and quote the code EMILIE20 at the checkout. The discount is valid until 24th December!
So now you're all briefed, let's have a look at the colourful ideas I went for my tables settings.
1 - Shine Bright Like a Diamond
I am très partial to a pop of neon pink in my home and also on my table! You can't go wrong with adding a little bit (ok a lot!) of bling onto your placemat, don't you think? Napkin rings are a great and affordable way of adding a little bit of je ne sais quoi to your festive table setting, a bit like a necklace adds some va va voom to a little black dress... I fell head over heels for these jewellery encrusted ones available in store at Bits&Pieces. I adore the contrast with these bright green placemats made of soft rubbery material (shatterproof and dead easy to clean - so not just pretty but practical too!). And can we talk about these these matte black finish cutlery from Scandinavian brand Canvas Home?! They give a subtle twist of drama and add elegance to the mix...
Breaking all the traditional rules of table styling (including the position of the knife?!?)
2 - Monochrome is Always Chic
If bright colours aren't your thang, then how about a chic yet decadent monochrome look? With another bijoux napkin ring bien sur! The cutlery set is the brass version of the Canvan Home set above. Tough choice to pick my favourite from the two... I also paid homage to the Pantone colour of the year - ultra violet - with a change of napkin ring, because well, I just can't help myself!
Monochrome with a touch of purple, because well, Pantone colour of the year and all! PS: That bloody knife went rogue again...
3 - You are gold, baby, solid gold
For my third and last look, I kept the look monochrome again but went to town with the gold accents! Call it the Dubai effect! Even the napkins got a gold stitching... I can't get enough of it, though! Is that bling enough for ya?!
You can never have too much gold right?!
So what do you think of my looks? Hopefully, it will somehow inspire you to go a bit bold and think outside the box if you're hosting during the festive season. What is your favourite look? Would love to hear your views in the comments below... Meanwhile, a few more shots from the event...
The art of gift wrapping, with the experts from BIT&Pieces
Disclaimer A: The etiquette experts will notice some cutlery have gone totally rogue on my table settings... I blame the 'speaking in public nerves'!
Disclaimer B: I am actually not hosting any dinner this Christmas so I would love to live vicariously through all of you lovely readers so please share your beautiful table styling with me if you are!
Disclaimer C: This post was sponsored by Bits&Pieces (a girl's gotta eat), but as always, all opinions, questionable jokes and sarcasms are my own. I only work with brands I genuinely love and would buy products from anyways. If you’re a brand interested in working with Stella + The Stars, please contact me on email@example.com.
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I have had this little project reveal up my sleeve for a while so I am really delighted to finally show you how I helped refresh a living room for a lovely Franco-Moroccan family in Dubai's Umm Suqeim neighbourhood.
The lounge on the ground floor was spacious and flooded with light and although my client already had a few existing pieces in the room, she was keen to essentially start from scratch. Before I ramble on with all the exciting details and what we sourced, let's have a look at the finished look, shall we? Ta-da!
a grey backdrop with pops of neon colour and brass accents: Stella + the stars' signature style
And now, let me walk you through what we did to transform the room. Can you guess what I got stuck in with first? Yes the wall colour of course. You should know by now that the first thing I do when I visit a client's pad for a consultation is to get my paint colour sample palette out! However, we had a bit of a challenge on our hands on this one, as the windows have this really annoying yellowish tint that they love to stick on villa windows in Dubai... This made the search for a good grey paint colour a bit more painful than usual. We had to go for a much cooler grey that's off Jotun's colour chart (almost blueish) to get the right tone. Bloody pleased with the result though!
Sofas The exsiting sofas have a lovely design and shape and are from The One but used to be this dull dark brown that was dragging the room down. I like reworking existing pieces rather than replacing them to keep costs down so we had them re-upholstered in a lovely heather grey to give them a new lease of life. We accessorised them with gorgeous colourful cushions from West Elm and Missoni Home available from Amara.
Coffee table The existing coffee table was a square dark wood and very imposing for the space so we replaced it with a fabulous custom-made yet simple marble table with black steel legs from the brilliant peeps at The Line Concept. We went for a rectangular shape to better fit with the layout of the room, and soft edges to make it kid-friendly. We accessorised it with an existing chrome tray and candle, and added a gorgeous vase from The Den. Plus some lovely coffee table books to finish the look.
Rugs We added a couple of rugs to hide the boring beige tiles (story of my life, sigh). West Elm's Arabesque (one of my favourites I have to say...) in the sitting room. In the dining room, we used a gorgeous over-dyed turquoise blue rug my client already owned but was badly damaged. We just had it repaired and brought back to life and look at the result!
Lighting We used an existing chrome lamp in the dining area. In the sitting room, my client chose this lovely mid-century modern style black and brass floor lamp from West Elm. I am a little bit in love with it...
TV unit The existing wall TV unit was dark, clunky and very blah. We replaced with my weapon of choice - IKEA BESTA units with white high gloss doors. They just go with anything and with any style and are so affordable, I use them all the time for projects. For this room, we used two triple units for extra storage and cover almost the entire width of the wall.
Transitional space We had to think cleverly about the space between the sitting area and dining room as it's a totally open plan. I needed to fill the blank with something really pretty as it's the first thing you spot when you enter the house from the hallway. My clever client picked a beautiful black rattan chair from The Den on top of what is possibly my dream rug from Carpet Centre - a cream cowhide with splashes of gold... Tragically, it's not in stock anymore but I found a similar design in silver.
Re-arranging cushions - the story of my life as a home stylist...
Dining room My client had her eyes on the Saarinen Tulip Marble table for years but with an potential move back to Europe on the cards for her family, we couldn't justify the price tag of the real deal so patiently waited for the sales at MOOD (who, bizzarely haven't got a website...) to grab a little bargain on one of their fab reproductions... It looks stunning and is lovely quality. The dining chairs are Eames style with dark wood legs from MOOD as well. The decorative candle is from Fornasetti. The faux Areca palm plant is from Home Centre.
You'll notice we are missing a little bit of artwork. This is because the art pieces ordered didn't arrive on time for the shoot... Unfortunately, these things happen [sad face inserted here].
Thank you to paparazza extraordinaire Karen Pissara from Design K for the gorgeous pictures, and another big merci to The Gorgeous Flower Company for supplying all the stunning blooms for the shoot.
If you're curious to see what the room looked like before I got my paws on it, here are a couple of before shots and some moodboards with the initial ideas I proposed. What do you think of the revamp?
Here is a million-dollar question for you. Is it possible to throw a stylish birthday party for a toddler, that doesn't involve a noisy soft play, the entire Frozen sound track played at deafening volume levels and kids running around like they are possessed due to the levels of sugar they've just wolfed down from their goodie bag? Hint from the title of this blog post. YES IT IS! Exhibit A below...
The birthday set-up at thejamjar before the madness started...
As you have probably gathered, design is something I live and breathe, and for weeks, I looked for a design-friendly venue to celebrate Stella's fourth birthday back in October that wouldn't make me weep. Well, I found the absolute perfect solution, my friends, it's called thejamjar.
Located in Dubai's arts hub Alserkal Avenue, thejamjar is literally the most stunning space. It includes two studios: one that offers DIY painting sessions (not only for little people but also for adults by the way!) and the other available to hire for shoots, events and parties like Stella's birthday.
If you're a design freak with high expectations like me and are the proud owner of one or more little people in need of a cool birthday party venue, I think the below should make you save a bit of time and energy... Here is the full report on how it all went down and who I chose to make the day as fabulous and stress-free as possible.
Venue We had one of thejamjar studios for ourselves on a Friday afternoon for 2h30. The venue can be hired for a fee that varies depending on the size of the party, every Friday and Saturday. We had access to the studio 30 mins before to set up and the team cleared out all our mess afterwards. (sorry jamjar!). The studio was all set up with 20 easels and the kids could choose between two small blank canvases or one large one. All paint supplies, brushes, aprons, tables, stools, chairs, pretty much everything you see in the photo below is included in the venue hire. And there was no limit on how long they could paint for within the 2h timeframe...
Decoration The lovely team at the venue gave us free rein to get the space party-ready. It's such a fabulous studio, I didn't really want or need to do much in terms of decorating so the only bits we added were multicoloured balloons to add a bit of fun and colour, and metallic letters and number helium balloons for personalisation. I enlisted the services of the lovely ladies at Balloons Atelier who hand delivered all the balloons directly at the venue. Total cost including delivery: AED230.
Party supplies I happened to be in London the week before the party and managed to get organised enough to pre-order some stuff on Amazon and have it delivered there. Stella is obsessed with My Little Pony so I just searched 'My Little Pony party supplies' and bought pretty much everything I could get my paws on... Pinkie Pie paper plates, Fluttershy napkins, Rarity party hats... You name it, I had it in my suitcase on the way back to Dubai... Total cost: AED250.
Cake I had a few quotes for hundreds and hundreds of dirhams for personalised cakes and just couldn't justify the price tag for something that was going to be demolished within 3 seconds... At that point unfortunately Stella had requested one thing and one thing only... A My Little Pony cake. Since I have never baked anything in my life, I had to be clever and find a solution and fast. On a friend's recommendation, I contacted Jackielicious who instantly got what I needed and made the perfect cake for a really reasonable price. She even supplied the pony figurines to put on top. It fed 20 kids and their parents. Not a crumb left... Total cost including delivery: AED250.
Photography The large industrial style space with stunning double height ceilings is flooded with natural light and obviously the perfect backdrop for insta-worthy arty shots, and to be fair most of my basic iPhone photos look pretty stunning with zero editing. I didn't want to have to miss anything on the day though and wanted to get some lovely images without having to worry about running after everyone like a mad woman with my camera so I asked my favourite paparazzo in town (and the most gorgeous lady inside and out) Karen from Design K to work her magic. She didn't disappoint...
Food No fancy catering for us... I just pre-ordered and picked up some big platters of tasty home-made sandwiches from my local bakery and some large fruit platters and soft drinks from my local supermarket. hashtag not fancy but delish. Total cost: AED350 to feed 20 kids and 30 adults.
Stella was kitted out in So Chic Kids. I mean where else?! I managed to bag this gorgeous red tulle dress by Bonpoint for a steal at their last sample sale...
Party bags Nada, rien, niente, nothing! Who needs kids party bags when you can take home your own artwork on canvas?!
So there you go, not your usual Stella + the Stars post on how to kit out your pad in style but I hope this might be useful if like me you have a toddler, and are after something a little different for your little one's birthday party venue ... ;-)
Massive thanks to thejamjar for having us, and to all the suppliers for making the day absolutely brilliant. I am not sure she's ever had so much fun in her life...
Disclosure: This post was written in collaboration with thejamjar who gave us a generous discount on the venue hire. However, all words, opinions and sarcasms are entirely my own. I only work with companies and brands I genuinely think are fab and that I hope you will love too. Thank you for supporting the businesses that support Stella + the Stars...