Architect and gallerist Ghada Kunash invites MOJEH to explore her stunning Jumeirah Islands home
Some things in life simply can’t be rushed. And upon entering architect and gallerist Ghada Kunash’s beautiful residence on Jumeirah Islands, MOJEH is instantly aware of the fact that this is a home that needs to be lingered over.
“There’s a lot to look at,” laughs Ghada as we explore the sprawling villa that she admits was “ripped apart from top to bottom” when she and her family moved in. And if every home tells a story, Ghada’s is one of infinite tales from decades and centuries gone by. “I love my antiques and my contemporary artworks, and when I designed my interiors and furniture, I tried to make space for as many pieces of my antique collection as possible,” explains Ghada.
Owner and founder of Gallery Fann A Porter at The Workshop Dubai, Ghada’s home is a magnificent example of exactly why she excels in the business of designing homes and adorning them with wonderful works of art. A collector by nature, curating art and antiques is a job she was undeniably born to do.
“As you can see, you could never describe my home as minimalist,” she laughs. “It’s an eclectic mix of so many things. I love all the pieces that I have brought into our home, and I like to be able to see all of them at all times.”
Moving into the villa in 2006, Ghada and her husband set about making the space work for them. Pulling down walls and ceilings; building floors and staircases; bringing in a new lighting set-up; ensuring the acoustics were right; upgrading to a top-of-the-range temperature control system; re-landscaping the garden and installing a replica of a mosaic tiled floor that can be seen in it’s original version in a Byzantine church in their homeland of Jordan were just a few of the projects the couple undertook.
“Out of all the big structural things we did, designing the staircase was a challenge because we needed to make the most out of a relatively small space,” explains Ghada of the stunning floating staircase that’s the focal point of the ground floor living area. “All of the steps are made of natural white, single-piece slabs of Jerusalem stone that were imported from Palestine.”
Framed by an array of artworks, including Ghada’s favourite piece in the house, a huge oil on canvas painting by Syrian artist Majd Kurdieh, look away from the staircase, and there’s not an area of her home that doesn’t have something to make you stop for a moment and admire the view.
“Art is incredibly important to me, and plays a significant role in my life, both in my work and in my home,” says Ghada. “Every piece I have here is significant and special, because they are works of the artists that I believe in and promote and support in full force. I believe in their talent, and in what they want to say to the world, and how they want to say it.”
As far as how she has chosen to display her collection, Ghada has placed pieces in specific areas so that she can enjoy them at particular times of the day and night. “Each corner of the house has a different artwork that works with what I want to see when I’m sitting in certain places doing a certain activity,” she explains.
“I designed the house to suit how my family. For example, Majd Kurdieh’s early works are something I love to see in the morning when I sit to take my coffee and want to see my garden at the same time. Hossam Ballan’s paintings are great to look at while having my aperitif quietly roaming around with my thoughts. His work makes me think about human beings, their struggles, status quo and hopes. It’s all planned out, and relates precisely to how I want to feel when I’m enjoying a particular part of my house.”
Clearly a very lateral but supremely creative thinker, Ghada’s inspiration for her home comes from many different sources. “Inspiration in general, not just for my home decor, comes from all details that I observe at all times. It can be from a book I read, or a movie I watch, or a conversation with a good friend or one of the people that I admire and look up to.”
“I designed a lot of the furniture in the house, along with the kitchen and the bathrooms,” she explains. “But if I’m actually shopping for the house, you’d probably find me in a contemporary furniture store in France or Italy, or getting carried away at an antiques market.”
Combining aesthetics and design principles of old and new is something that Ghada has expert knowledge of. “I like to recycle and re-use,” she says. “For me, antiques are environmentally friendly – they are sustainable pieces that are made to last and be loved forever.”
“I had a small, French antique table that I loved, but it was totally impractical as something that a decent-sized group of people could actually sit and eat dinner around. So I created my own version of a contemporary dining table with historic foundations by topping that little table with a huge, custom-made piece of crystal glass so I could show o the table in its original form and make it a more practical piece of furniture.”
Surrounded by chairs upholstered in plush, pea green velvet that Ghada designed, and anchored by a pair of restored antique chairs from around 1880 at the head of the table, above the dining area is a chandelier hand-made using coloured glass, beads and embroidery, while a beautiful pale yellow Murano chandelier draws the eye to a painting by Jordanian artist, Omar Najjar.
While her home is as perfectly curated as her gallery, Ghada says that if she had the chance to change anything, the biggest adjustment would be to make more room for her ever-expanding art collection. “I’d love to dig a huge basement floor under the house for storage where I could actually bring all of the antiques from my warehouse so I could go through them and see them every day, because those old pieces give me new ideas on how to re-use and re-purpose them.”
“On a totally selfish level, I would love to add a retractable staircase to my office, like the ones they have on yachts, so I could climb into my private space, then pull up the stairs after me so I could be totally disconnected and simply absorb the beauty of the paintings that surround that room.”
And while she dearly loves the work of all the artists displayed around her home, Ghada thinks that she does indeed has a favourite artist overall. “I love the candour and honesty of Majd Kurdieh, in his narrative, his characters, his use of colour and how his work reaches each and every person that views it. It brings a smile, while still recognising sadness and pain. I feel blessed to have discovered his work, and very lucky to be able to display his incredible talent on the walls of my home.”
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- Words by Lucy Wildman
- Photography by Ausra Osipaviciute