In 2010, Gwenaelle de Bizemont decided to swap what she describes as her "Jumeirah housewife" lifestyle for life on the 58th floor, choosing a penthouse at the very top of one of the Marina's tallest buildings. An impressive 7,000 square feet, the apartment has breathtaking views over both The Palm and the desert, which is a rarity even at that height. "Most of the buildings in the Marina are so tightly packed together that even the view from the top floor is somebody else's bedroom wall. But here, on a clear day, we can see all the way to Al Ain from one side and all the way to The World on the other".
Despite the extensive use of glass and glistening 180-degree vistas, the apartment retains an air of cosy intimacy which Gwen set about creating from the moment that she moved in. The open plan reception room has been subtly divided into three separate dining, living and reading areas which now means that at any given time Gwen can be hosting a dinner party while her children simultaneously entertain their friends. For her dedicated reading section, Gwen has eschewed magnolia walls in favour of a deep pigeon grey which has a calming influence over the rest of the room and provides her with a comfortable corner into which to retreat. The kitchen, an airy space dominated by a large table at which the family gathers for mealtimes, leads on to a boisterous playroom where television, computers and goldfish vie for attention amongst the riot of colourful trinkets harvested from all over the globe.
Gwen's style has undeniably been influenced by her two decades spent as an expat. Over the years she has lived in San Francisco, Vietnam, New York, Uzbekistan, South Africa and Geneva before she arrived in Dubai in 2005. From the antiques that line the walls to the brightly coloured carpets on her parquet floors and the silk cushions and throws scattered on every sofa, each item tells a story of her many adventures. "I chose the red coffee table because in Asia, where I was living at the time, red symbolises good luck. Over time, we've built up the red colour scheme with silk spreads from Uzbekistan, lacquer boxes from Burma and fabrics from Warde on Sheikh Zayed Road which we've used to reupholster the furniture".
Gwen's eye for detail and knack for finding unusual, quirky items has spilt over into her work life. In 2006, she established corporate gifting company Gulf Gifts, renowned for sourcing unique objects - "Gifting is one of the 5 languages of love, and I take it very seriously! For me, it is about the message that you want to convey, the significance that you place on a relationship with a particular client or perhaps the memories that you want people to share of a particular event". From camel-milk Ferraris to horseshoe-shaped trinkets in celebration of the Dubai World Cup, many are the luxurious knick-knacks that Gwen has devised for her clients some of whom even gift items to her in return. "The giant falcon in the playroom was part of an event that we worked on - at the end of the night the client offered it to me as a ‘thank you' gift which was very touching".
For Gwen and her family, how to recreate the splendour of her current home when they move in six weeks time poses a fresh interior's challenge. With Gwen's affinity for style, her ability to seamlessly combine myriad cultures and her heart set on a bold new orange scheme, you can't help but feel that they'll be just fine.