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Hend Al Aabbar (left) and Hamda Al Abbar, cofounders of Dress My Room in Al Qouz, Dubai Image Credit: Ahmad Alotbi/Gulf News

Dubai: When two Emirati sisters, who are also mothers, left their corporate jobs and started carrying boxes and furniture to launch their dream project—an interior designing studio—in 2016, they surprised many.

Today, Hend and Hamda Al Abbar are busy transforming UAE homes, bringing them closer to heritage, especially through their homegrown studio’s ‘Quick Fix’ service—a three-day home makeover concept that grew in popularity since its launch during the COVID-19 movement restrictions.

The co-founders of ‘Dress My Room’ have now evolved to collaborate with artists and brands, offering collections inspired by the UAE culture and heritage in a contemporary manner. Last week, the siblings—the eldest and the youngest of four sisters—launched a special collection of designs and decors.

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Hend (far left) explaining the concept to an audience at Dress My Room on January 11 Image Credit: Ahmad Alotbi/Gulf News

Inspired by the environment and the culture of the UAE, the collection has been named ‘1971’, after the year the emirates united to form our proud nation, they told Gulf News while sharing their story and the details of the new collections.

A girls bedroom by '1971'
A girls bedroom by '1971' Image Credit: Supplied

Hend, the creative force behind the design firm, recalled how she pursued her childhood passion.

“Making the house look beautiful was purely a passion for me since I was very young,” said Hend.

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Hend mainly develops the creative prowess of the company Image Credit: Ahmad Alotbi/Gulf News

She studied accounting in university and chose banking as her profession after her studies. But interior designing remained her passion. Family members and friends used to consult her for interior works, fuelling her dreams to chase it as a profession.

Hend said she used to do research on her own and also took required courses to start a design company.

“She started on her own. But being the creative person it takes up a lot of time from her to run a company,” pointed out Hamda.

“Operating the business was a bit challenging for Hend. That’s why I decided to pitch in and joined forces with my sister when I saw her having second thoughts about her dream job,” she said.

Since their other two sisters are working in government departments while she had a corporate background, Hamda said she could help Hend with operations, admin, sales and clients.

Thus, they started in 2016 and the sisters named their company Dress My Room.

“We started from scratch and we did it all by ourselves,” Hend recalled.

“We carried the boxes and furniture by ourselves. Clients used to be surprised. We even cleaned the place before we left,” she said proudly.

“We both left corporate world thinking it will offer us more freedom. But soon we realised it was good byes to weekends and holidays too. But when it is your own dream and passion, nothing can stop you. You will do anything to make it work,” said Hamda.

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Hamda says one meeting with the clients should suffice - the team handles everything else Image Credit: Ahmad Alotbi/Gulf News

The sisters recalled working on laptops while on the go and rushing to pick up kids from schools by noon time and working online to manage house chores.

However, gradually they started getting more orders and started hiring people. “Now our core team is 15. It grows to 30 or 40 when we have bigger projects,” said Hamda.

Turning point

The turning point in their business came through at a time when many businesses across the world were suffering losses - in the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic - thanks to their unique service called Quick Fix.

“It started as a limited-time offer called ‘Summer Fix’ during COVID in 2020. Everyone was staying home. Nobody was travelling that summer. We decided to offer a ‘three-day quick makeover’ service for a limited time to help people enjoy a change in the living and working environment,” said Hend.

Revealing how their signature quick-fix service sets them apart in the industry, she said: “Our unique approach ensures that clients, even before committing, have a precise schedule for the project’s completion—which is very rare in our field.”

She added that the clients receive their scheduled dates promptly. “We expedite the process by swiftly presenting a comprehensive plan via Zoom.”

Once the green light is given, Hamda said, the team takes charge of securing furniture and decor pieces, leaving the client blissfully unaware of the intricate details.

From essential tasks like painting and flooring to the meticulous placement of furniture and accessories onsite, the team works tirelessly for two days. “On the final day, the entire team goes to the house and ensures every detail, from cushions to scent, is perfectly in place,” said Hamda.

While this level of service typically demands considerable time, the sisters are proud to have mastered the art of rapid execution, swapping patterns and colours to change the designs at homes. They said executing quick turnarounds involves a myriad of processes and meticulous planning. Despite the complexity behind the scenes, the clients are happy that their involvement is limited to just one meeting.

Having done no marketing campaigns earlier, the sisters said their service became a rage during the pandemic through word of mouth, with the firm receiving bookings for six months at one point in time.

The demand for the summer offer was so overwhelming that they decided to turn into it a service called Quick Fix. The sisters have now successfully completed over 200 ‘quick fixes.’

“Now people call us when they need a quick fix. We have done makeover of even five bedroom villas and commercial projects including coffee shops and offices. Now this is our core business though we still provide regular interior design services with 3D renders and 2D AutoCAD etc,” said Hend.

New collaborations

Going a step further in the business, last Thursday (January 11) they launched collaborations with artists and brands and collections inspired by the UAE culture and heritage to be used in modern homes in contemporary ways.

“We got inspired to assure that our legacy is preserved through long lasting designs that will be carried over throughout the generations yet to come,” said Hend.

A framed mirror design derived from the patterns found in the architecture of the Emirati forts and side table covered in “khoos” or palm fronds, woven by local women with the base made of solid wood with hand carved details, are among the new collections. The mirror concept is done in collaboration Plyconcept.

Artwork called Plyconcept mirrors from artist Viara Nicholson at Dress My Room in Al Qouz-Dubai
Some of the mirrors on show at the studio demonstrating the collaboration Image Credit: Ahmad Alotbi/Gulf News

A textured circular art piece symbolises the entirety of the UAE with its warm sand dunes. Another work is an ode to the fishing heritage in the UAE that aided in the survival of the Emirati ancestors as a main source of food.

The 1971 kids’ collection is inspired by elements of an Emirati child’s memory playing by the shore. Artworks hand sketched by Emirati artist Reem Al Marri are exclusively used for this.

1971 kids' collection on exhibit by Reem Al Mari artist at Dress My Room in Dubai
1971 kids' collection on exhibit Image Credit: Ahmad Alotbi/Gulf News

The Al Abbar sisters have also collaborated with Amna Al Habtoor, the founder of Arcadia by Amna perfumery, to launch their own scents in home diffusers and with Polish artist Bea, founder of the Bea Bea Art Studio for textured wall art pieces.

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Arcadia perfumes on display at last week's event Image Credit: Ahmad Alotbi/Gulf News

Another major collaboration that they have is with Palestinian artist Magda Hindia. Her artworks have been transformed into “Mutaz” tote bags, named after a resilient Palestinian boy dressed for a hopeful future.

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Hindia's art on the bags Image Credit: Ahmad Alotbi/Gulf News

Mutaz in Arabic means hope and the Emirati sisters have decided to donate all the sale proceeds of these bags towards the UAE’s “Tarahum for Gaza” relief campaign.

The event also saw a workshop in which the sisters offered tips on quick fixes for home makeovers.

Balancing family life with their passion for interior design, the sisters said they are determined to surprise and delight their clients by creating beautiful and personalised living spaces.