MOJEH explores the eclectic home of Emmanuelle Sawko, the woman behind lifestyle destinations Comptoir 102 and Wild & The Moon
If you’re a Dubai dweller who’s in any way interested in eclectic interiors, fashion and healthy living, Comptoir 102 and Wild & The Moon are no doubt on your list of favoured weekend hangouts. The concepts are co-founded, curated and directed by Emma Sawko, a cosmopolite Frenchy with a Jumeirah home that’s full of lifestyle envy.
Emma, as she prefers to be called, cites musician Patty Smith, journalist and model Caroline de Maigret and fashion designer Isabel Marant as her personal style inspirations, with stints in Paris, New York and Dubai honing in her rock-chic aesthetic. The 49-year-old Parisian’s beachside villa shows off the innate sense of internationally-admired style that’s won her a clutch of design accolades, and made her one of the region’s most sought after tastemakers.
Moving to Dubai almost eight years ago with her husband and children, after living on both Palm Jumeirah and in Umm Sequim, it was the opening of Comptoir 102, the first of her concept stores, that led the family to move to one of Dubai’s most coveted neighbourhoods.
“When we decided to open Comptoir 102, I didn’t want a shop in a mall. I found an old house on Jumeirah Beach Road, and immediately fell in love with the area, so this is where we settled,” says Emma Sawko. “The city has changed a lot in the last few years. But in Jumeirah, there’s still the soul of that ‘old’ Dubai I cherish; of original villas, big trees and suspended time, right next to the beach.”
“My home is a reflection of who we are as a family and individually,” she explains. “Home is important to me, and I’ve always had a keen eye on interior design. I choose to have items and furniture that are comfortable, inviting and cosy, as well as incorporating uplifting colours that appeal to everyone in the family.”
Working with a palette of mainly light colours and a variety of tones inspired by her beach neighbourhood, alongside splashes of blue, green, gold, grey and black, the neutral canvas works as the perfect foil to Emma Swako’s collection of eclectic pieces she has sourced throughout her travels.
“I’m not sure if there is a word to describe the feel or aesthetic of my home – it’s simply a mix and match of things I love,” she smiles. “When I came to Dubai, I discovered artists and designers from the region, but many of my pieces of furniture you’ll find in this house are from cities I’ve lived in or places I’ve visited; lucky finds from Paris, flea markets in New York, or just things I picked up on my travels.”
“I don’t know if you can call what I have a collection – more a selection of curated objects,” she explains of the pieces displayed around her home. “I started with buying a little bit of art from contemporary artists when I lived in New York, and continued when I moved here, as I find regional art very rich. I particularly love the artists presented at Isabelle Van Den Eynde Gallery, and I am always looking forward to discovering new artists during Dubai Art Week.”
With such a passion for discovering local artists, following the successful launch of Comptoir 102 in Jumeirah, it was a natural progression that Emma Sawko’s next business lead her to the beating heart of Dubai’s art scene.
“I love to go to galleries and museums, and Al Serkal Avenue is one of my favourite places to hang out in the city,” she smiles. “So that’s where we opened our first Wild & The Moon. I know pretty much all of the gallery owners there now, and it’s such an amazing place to hang out and enjoy a late lunch.”
As one would expect of a woman whose job it is to discover beautiful things, Emma Sawko’s day-to-day role of buying for a lifestyle concept store has the inevitable consequence of being a personal shopping exercise too. “I’m constantly on the lookout for items to buy for the store,” she explains.
“When I opened Comptoir 102, many of the items I wanted to bring in were from some of my longtime favourite designers. We only sell special items that I fall in love with, and sometimes – well, most of the time – I can’t help buying them for myself too.”
One of her most cherished pieces of furniture is her Nada Debs Pebble coffee table, which takes pride of place in the centre of the living room. “It’s very special to me because it was one of the first things I bought in Dubai. I also have a particular crush on my stools by India Mahdavi, because I love ceramics. She has a very personal approach to both architecture and design, and a magic eye for colour.”
Indeed, the eclectic mix of pieces dotted around Emma’s home tell the tale of a woman whose love for fashion, art and design has allowed her to explore some of the world’s most vibrant cities, picking up beautiful memories and physical objects to match.
“I have so many treasured pieces. They’re all ‘coup de couer’ – which translates from French as ‘a blow to the heart.’” she smiles. “I particularly cherish my Nara paintings, and my little birds that I found in New York. I have a lamp from French artist and designer Hubert le Gall, which I received as a gift for my 40th birthday that reminds me of my really happy years in New York. But I love them all.”
An ongoing personal project of curation, much as Emma’s concept of Wild & The Moon focuses upon sustainability, with ethically-sourced, vegan food that’s as good for the planet as it is for the body, Emma is incredibly selective at what she puts inside her home.
Combining vintage finds with covetable designer classics, her preference for quality over quantity is evident in every corner of her home. “I tend to look for timeless pieces rather than fast fashion items,” she explains – a principle that also extends to her enviable wardrobe.
“Not only is it more eco-responsible, this is how you create your own style. But I only add objects here and there, and move things around to change the look of a room. I hate it when things are frozen in time. My home is not lifeless decor, and I need things to move and change often to keep things fresh and alive.”
Thanks to the rapid success and subsequent expansion of Wild & The Moon – there are now three in Dubai, one in Abu Dhabi and seven in Paris – Emma constantly travels, and has homes in both Paris and Dubai.
“I’m a hard worker, and a strong believer that the best is yet to come. Comptoir 102 has become very recognised and won a lot of awards, and we will keep on opening our Wild & The Moon restaurants both locally and internationally. My ambition is to make an income while making an impact on the world.”
With such a hectic working schedule, when Emma is back in Dubai, her favourite room to relax in at home is the kitchen. “I spend so much time shuttling between Dubai and Paris now, that when I’m back in Dubai, I look forward to some much-needed catch-up time with friends. I often come home to find a couple of them in my kitchen talking to my cat, Minou, who has decided to be the boss of my Dubai house, while waiting for me. We fix some dinner and talk, and sometimes put the music on as more people show up.”
Weekends are all about enjoying Dubai’s array of activities with family and friends, with a big focus on making the most of the beautiful beach that’s right on their doorstep. “It’s then that I get the chance to spend quality time with my family. So we’ll head to the beach, and I take the opportunity to go for a dip in the sea,” says Emma.
“We have a really great restaurant called 3 Fils just around the corner from our house. I don’t like anything too fancy, and this place is very relaxed, but the food is absolutely delicious. We can walk there along the beach in ten minutes.”
Living a pared-back, mindful and healthy existence – albeit an incredibly stylish one – extends to Emma’s daydreams of having another home by the water’s edge. “If I could have another place anywhere else in the world, it would be a little eco beach house under palm trees, or a cabin by a lake. Wood and glass, very simple, and surrounded by nature,” she says. Simplicity is key for Emma, for who the term ‘effortless style’ could have been invented.
From her basic beauty regime of coconut oil for the body, light serum for the face and no make-up, to her cool and casual dress code, Emma Sawko’s simple approach to creating that easy-breezy, elegant aesthetic – both for herself and her home – is a method that many busy women are sure to admire.
“I don’t like to complicate things,” she explains. “Having style is not about falling for the latest fashion trends, or buying things for the sake of it. The people whose style I admire are those who have their own, unique way of showing who they are. These are people with true style.”
- Photography by Ausra Osipaviciute
- Words by Lucy Wildman