He dresses everyone from royalty to rock chicks. And as one of the region’s shining stars of style, you’d expect the home of fashion designer Essa to be nothing less than a show-stopper. And indeed, it is.
As glamorous, colourful and wildly eclectic as the man himself, the sprawling 360-square-metre apartment in Sharjah boasts a gallery-standard array of contemporary artwork and furnishings that the revered designer has personally collected over the past two decades, resulting in a home that draws gasps from every visitor it receives.
“My home is the place I go to daydream,” reveals the designer. “When people come here I want them to have exactly the same reaction that I do every time I walk in the front door – to let out a deep and peaceful sigh.”
Acquiring his third apartment in the building last March, Essa set about creating his personal idyll with the bonus of not having to make any structural changes to the property. “I loved the geometry, the airiness and the straight angles of the place. I loved that it had so many walls,” he says. And having numerous walls to play with is essential when you have so much incredible art to display.
Described as “a work in progress,” the space is continually adorned with new-found treasures from the great names in furniture and photography alongside vintage market finds and works from emerging Middle Eastern artists, whom he is a great supporter of. “I look for statement items when I am shopping for my home,” explains Essa, whose collection includes pieces by Iranian painter Shideh Tami, sculptors Kambiz Sabri and Shirin Fakhim and Dubai-based furniture designer, Khaled Sharaan.
With 20 successful years in the fashion industry behind him and an innate sense of style and attention to detail, calling in a professional decorator was never an option. “I didn’t hire an interior designer to help me do this apartment. I felt I didn’t need to. It was an extremely organic process and very spontaneous, which was the best part. So far everything I like fits in well with each other.”
Known for his uber-glamorous couture and ready-to-wear creations, which light up the wardrobes of women across the Middle East and beyond, Essa’s bold, signature style is heavily reflected in his secondary love of art and interiors. “I’m a very visual person,” he says. “I’m brave in what I wear, what I design and the pieces I have in my home. I like to take chances.”
And that level of risk-taking is evident all over the white-walled apartment. The simplistic colour scheme provides the unifying backdrop in a sun-soaked space housing dozens of standout pieces in a cocktail of unbridled quirkiness, which magically fit together like a technicolour jigsaw. Enter through the unassuming wooden front door and you are greeted by a huge tiger mosaic by Iranian art star Farhad Moshiri and a diptych by Hayv Kahraman.
Stroll through into the kaleidoscopic lounge and it’s difficult to pick which striking piece captures your attention first; be it the gold baby by Bita Fayyazi on the coffee table, the quartet of Nada Debs seats, or Katherine Bernhardt’s massive acrylic of supermodel Gisele, surrounded by a series of kittens in sleeping bags and an antique leather saddle stool.
His favourite piece? “My latest piece is always my favourite,” says the designer, glancing proudly at his most recent purchase, a stunning chartreuse green 1950s sofa that adds a flash of vibrant colour to the master bedroom. But the twin-headed silver Osama Shaar sculpture that sits on the dining table holds a special place in his heart. “I first saw it in a shop window when I was 15,” he recalls. “It was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen and I stared at it through the glass for months.
I built up the courage to ask the shopkeeper the price. At the time, it was simply way out of my league. Then one day, he made me an offer. If I could find the unintentional crack in the sculpture, he would give it to me for free. I spent three minutes with a beating heart and a hawk eye looking for that crack and finally I found it. Today, 25 years later Osama and Rasha Shaar have become really dear friends, and they still get tickled by this little story of mine.”
While Essa’s love of art started at a very young age, his desire to fill his home with beautiful things shows no sign of waning. A regular at some of Dubai’s finest galleries, including 1x1, Ayyam, Etemad, IVDE and The Third Line, and with Art Dubai just weeks away, the designer is certain his collection will grow considerably. And if money were no object? “I have everything I want,” he smiles. “The only piece I really crave? A Francis Bacon, but they start around $40 million (Dh147 million).” Adding, with a twinkle in his eye, “Maybe next year. Or next millennium.”