Fashion designer Mariam Yeya, invites MOJEH into her Jumeirah Islands home to talk multiple house moves, maximum wardrobe space and minimal decor decisions
Scroll through fashion designer Mariam Yeya’s Instagram account – the woman behind one of the region’s most buzzed-about fashion labels, Mrs. Keepa – and it’s rare to see a minimalist aesthetic anywhere. Visit her home in Jumeirah Islands, however, and it’s all about the calm and collected. “My daily life is so full of intense colour and print, and vibrant people and places, that my home needs to be quiet and neutral. This place gives me headspace,” she explains.
Having lived in Dubai for 13 years, the French-Egyptian designer has moved around the city with relative regularity. But her current home – which she shares with husband, Bassel, and their children Isabelle Lilly, aged four, and two-and-a-half year-old Noah – has been the one she’s stayed in the longest. “I’ve moved house seven times since I arrived in Dubai,” Mariam tells us, curled up in the corner of a marshmallow-soft sofa. “We’ve been here for four years, but we’re moving again in the summer – so I’m in full-on house hunting mode right now!”
Keen to move closer to her Dubai Design District atelier, 36-year-old Mariam has big plans for her family’s next UAE domain, which she hopes will be somewhere in the new Al Wasl Square, or close to the beach in Jumeirah. “I’m not very strong with interior design,” reveals Mariam, who believes all of her artistic prowess has been funnelled into fashion. “We’ve moved a lot, and I always get bored with whatever interiors I do, so I never think about investing in wallpaper or big furniture or expensive pieces, because I know I’m quickly going to be fed up with looking at it.”
But that’s all set to change, or at least, that’s Mariam’s intention. “I do like my home as it is right now – lots of white and cream, with wood and just a few accents of neutral colour in the rugs and cushions. I guess it’s quite bohemian, which complements my personal style, but certainly doesn’t reflect it,” she says. A clear sign of her innate, eclectic tastes, Mariam’s current bedroom – an impeccable all-white haven filled with natural light and floor-to-ceiling mirrored wardrobes to increase the sense of space – is set for a dramatic fashion makeover once Mariam moves to her new home.
“I’m desperate to change the look of my bedroom, so I’m currently window shopping for furniture,” she reveals. “I would love to live in a Gucci-style house, that’s 100 per cent eclectic and totally mixed-up. In our next place, I’m going to have the boudoir of my dreams, which truly reflects my style DNA. Lots of clashing contradictions: wallpaper that has nothing to do with the rug, or the bedlinen or the furniture. It’s going to be a test to see if I can tolerate it for a long period or not. Again, it’s a question of me getting bored, and investing in a look I may tire of a few months down the line. But if I’m okay with it, maybe the rest of the house will get the same treatment.”
As she searches for her eighth Dubai property, Mariam’s professional life is also undergoing a period of transformation. Currently working on her cruise collection, which launches just after Ramadan, whilst finishing her A/W19 line, she’s midway through producing Mrs. Keepa S/S20, which will make its Paris Fashion Week debut in September. “Things are really busy right now,” smiles Mariam, whose daily routine begins at 6am. “I get up, work out with my personal trainer, get the kids ready, and drop them to school and nursery. Then I drive to the atelier to meet clients, get into the workshop and oversee quality control as well as doing any paperwork. After that, I attend any meetings or events. I’ll leave there around 3pm, get some lunch, get back into mummy mode and then it’s me and the kids at home, where I like to continue with my design work. Any spare time I get during the week, I want to spend at home with my family.”
As far as hanging out at home goes, Mariam likes nothing more than chilling out with Netflix and a coffee in the living room – her favourite room in the house. “This is where I spend most of my time with my family, quality time. It’s where I can relax and be myself, and just enjoy my husband and my kids on our sofa.” And it’s the living room that’s central to weekend activities, too. “We’ve always got people over, so the dining table gets a lot of use. Bearing in mind that I don’t really get attached to houses or decorations or furniture, I really love this dining table, because it’s always the focus of the best of times in our house. We’ve spent a lot of time at this table with the people we love the most.”
And while Mariam says she isn’t emotionally connected to any items of décor she owns, there’s one she simply couldn’t call a place home without. “Monsieur Le Gazel oversees everything that goes on in this house,” laughs Mariam, pointing to the wooden stag head that hangs proudly above the huge sofa chosen by Mariam’s husband. “He’s much better with proportions of furniture than I am. Nothing I choose ever fits.” Monsieur Le Gazel was the man in Mariam’s life before she met Bassel. “I got him about nine years ago, when I was single and surviving in Dubai on my own,” she tells us. “He was the best companion. When I was feeling really lonely, or having a low point, wondering what on earth I was doing here, or having one of those ups and downs with work or relationships or whatever, I’d just sit there and talk to him: he’s a good listener. He’s lived with me in maybe five places now, and he’s a really important element in the house, and the family. Wherever we go, he goes.”
With the whole house painted white – which “makes it much easier to deal with when the kids start drawing on the walls” – while the downstairs of their family villa is a neutral-toned sanctuary, upstairs is a multicoloured treasure trove that’s all about Mariam and her four-year-old daughter Isabelle’s love for fashion.
Mariam and Bassel’s all-white master bedroom is accessed through her walk-in closet, which was converted from the lounge area of the couple’s bedroom to accommodate her vast clothing collection. With garments hung in specific categories, and shoes displayed carefully on two full walls of white shelving, the room is like a mini Mrs. Keepa boutique. Two huge mirrored wardrobes hold yet more of the designer’s season and colour-categorised clothing in the main bedroom, while her beloved collection of sunglasses – her style trademark – are displayed on yet more open shelving as you enter the room, along with a treasured number of handbags. “I do let Bassel have some wardrobe space, but admittedly, I’ve taken up most of it,” she smiles.
Passing on the sartorial genes, daughter Isabelle’s bedroom is dominated by two rails of cute, colourful outfits, all of which are curated by her budding fashionista daughter. “On the weekend, she likes me to help create looks for her to wear and go out in. She’s very creative with her wardrobe,” says Mariam. Despite there being no paintings anywhere, aside from a work gifted to her by an Egyptian artist that sits on her dressing table, dozens of photographs of friends and family are dotted around the house, bringing life to every room. “I’m not much of an art collector,” says Mariam, admitting she’s never bought into any significant galleried piece for her home. “My likes are clothes and shopping.” she explains. “I really appreciate fashion, and I believe it’s timeless, so if I have a beautiful vintage coat or gown that’s too fabulous to put in the wardrobe, I’m more likely to hang that on the wall as my choice of artwork.”
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- Words: Lucy Wildman