“Your living space really impacts the way you feel, especially because we’re inside so often,” a former UAE expat tells Gulf News from her small university dorm room in London. Manahil, 25, shares how regularly revamping whatever little space she has keeps it interesting, better than looking at the same thing, she says.
The world couldn’t agree more. On our two-year-long journey to finding a new normal, we’ve learned some brutal truths along the way. Like how spending long hours at home forced us to reckon with what was going on indoors, as much as inside our heads. Clearly, what we needed was a sanctuary.
Flats, villas and even student housing took on a new meaning – our space was for our eyes and comfort alone. This was a recurring theme when we spoke to a few who transformed their homes last year, and then later when we bounced off our findings with an expert.
Turns out the interior makeover craze – from remodelling kitchens to bathrooms – was not an impulsive move on our part. Dubai-based interior designer Nisrine El Lababidi says our current situation was “a wakeup call” for many, as she reviewed the past year in homes over an interview with Gulf News.
“Ever since the pandemic, people are finally beginning to notice that their homes are what matter at the end and not just clothes and brands, so they’ve started investing more in their spaces,” said El Lababidi, who also doubles as a lifestyle influencer.
Me corners or escape corners were big – I mean who wouldn’t want that when you had kids in remote learning and spouses working from home.
“Me corners or escape corners were big – I mean who wouldn’t want that when you had kids in remote learning and spouses working from home,” she added.
For Manahil, her cosy corner is an assortment of natural or ambient lighting, potted plants (succulents and a Swiss cheese plant) dotting the window sill and sentimental items like strings of Polaroids and vintage collectibles. On her busiest days, it is this corner of the room that she finds herself retreating to, much like 30-year-old Ajman resident Mazhar.
Nature and sunshine all around
Mazhar, a pre-sales technical manager, was happy to move into his new one-bedroom apartment in 2021. Not only did the new flat have a large window in the living room, but it also had a sunny balcony, which eventually became the soon-to-be father’s ‘me corner’.
“It’s my favourite place to be in; the view is open and clear with no high-rise buildings in sight. My previous apartment didn’t have a lot of natural lighting, so I really like spending time out here in the sun, with my plants in the balcony,” he told Gulf News. “I don’t know why but I enjoy having plants around; it’s somehow more soothing.”
I don’t know why but I enjoy having plants around; it’s somehow more soothing.
Sunshine works wonders on improving your mood, releasing ‘happy’ hormones or serotonin in the brain. It’s why people have opened up their homes more to chase away the blues. With indoor plants, you can never go wrong – green spaces have been proven to boost performance and mental health, and reduce stress levels. It’s not odd to find eucalyptus branches hanging in the shower, a 2021 trend that cleared nasal passages and left bathrooms smelling minty fresh.
“Garden design and green environments were also on the rise as people wanted to have sanctuaries in their own homes, ones they can escape to after stressful days at work,” El Lababidi pointed out the pattern, among others.
Bye bye, minimalism!
Having a bit of the natural world inside was not enough. The colour green with all of its spirited shades bled into home décor. If in 2020 we experimented with race and sage greens, then in 2021 we made sure to retain that warmth and colour.
It’s how Mazhar ended up with a very emerald home – starting from his dark velvet sofa, which sits in sharp contrast to a single cream seater in floral print, to his white rug with green accents. Everywhere he went, Mazhar noted how the combination of green and chrome ruled furniture stores.
El Lababidi predicts that the reign of the green will continue into the new year: “In terms of colours, we’ll be seeing the continuation of neutrals as overall with green everywhere, be it entire walls painted or just accessories.”
The sun has set on the minimalist lifestyle, and all the better for our mental wellbeing, it seems. The colourless trend of sleek, near-invisible furnishings did not enrich our lives, we quickly realised.
“I don’t like the whole minimalist thing,” said Manahil. “I like having decoration, I like good textures. My space needs to feel like my own.”
What do our homes look like in 2022?
Physical and mental health mindfulness are continuing in the form of home gyms and in-home spas. According to El Lababidi, we’re also headed down an environmentally friendly path. She sees more of fruit and vegetable gardens, sustainable furniture, family heirlooms and art pieces that will be passed down from generation to generation in the future.
Our needs are rapidly changing in what we call a home. Will your space in 2022 continue to prioritise you? Only time will tell.