Freelance journalist, Style Editor at one of our favourite mummy/lifestyle sites The Grace Tales, artist and mama to ‘little O’ (her gorgeous daughter Olivia), Georgia MacMillan is honestly one of the nicest and most talented people we’ve ever met (her paintings are at the very top of our interiors wishlist). Georgia’s Dubai home style is a beautiful mix of modern and classic, combining family heirlooms and antique pieces from her native Australia with local finds and everyday essentials from our fave Swedish furniture store. We loved having a good old snoop around Georgia’s awesome abode – from Olivia’s colourful bedroom to the eclectic living area – prepare yourselves for mega house envy mamas!
How did you decorate your own home? Was it very planned out or impulsive?
Definitely both. Like most people moving to Dubai, we had no idea where we would live, which made it difficult to plan. I imagined us in a bolt-hole Downtown. Instead we ended up in a rather grand villa with space galore! Regrettably I had a fire sale in Sydney and sold the majority of our big furniture (with this apartment living in mind. What was I thinking!!?), so we were on a mission to find key items to fill the voids. Shopping with a particular piece in mind is always harder of course – and in a city we were completely unfamiliar with! – so we narrowed down the design stores, kept an open mind and made a lot of decisions on the spot. The whole moving-living in a hotel-finding a villa-getting around in a taxi with a baby-kitting out the villa-shipping delayed-nothing to cook with etc etc etc- blitz was a crazy whirlwind and I’m proud of how we managed and survived!
The decorative pieces (or ‘clutter’ as my husband would say) and art are treasured items, collected over many years, which I have stumbled across and fallen in love with. The personal things that make a home sing.
Modern classic with a Scandinavian and Australian influence.
What are your best places to pick up home furniture in Dubai?
Do you gravitate to a certain colour palette or design style?
I went through a beige/cream/greige phase in Sydney and knew I wanted to brighten things up in our new home in Dubai. I adore the fresh look of our couches (two matching white couches had always been a dream) but of course they’re hardly practical with an active child, dog who picks up all the dirt and desert dust! So I’m using beautiful blue and white striped kate&kate linen throws to hide the stains. I love blue and it has inadvertently become the anchor colour for our living room.
I’m in the throes of developing a range of linen using my watercolour art and having it digitally printed onto the fabric. Some of the early prototype cushions are on the couches and add another element to the blue and white idea. For me, decorating a space doesn’t stop. It evolves over time. I’d like to think the couches will eventually be covered with slip covers in my linen fabric.
Olivia’s room is a whole other story of course. It’s a complete mish mash of beautiful things that are lovely, full of goodness and make us happy. Everything just seems to ‘work’ in there. We’re about to create a more grown up space and convert the Kalon cot (which she now climbs out of!) into a single bed.
As a mum how do you balance functioning design and a pretty home?
My mother never put the beautiful antiques and artworks away when I was a child and I have followed her lead. I don’t want to live in a Spartan ‘overly child-friendly’ house. It would really bore me. There’s no point compromising the aesthetic of your home –where’s the beauty in that? Children have to learn to respect possessions. I hope Olivia will eventually appreciate antique silver just like her mother and grandmother! I have left all the precious bits and pieces out on display, in easy reach. If something breaks, well, it breaks (hasn’t happened yet, touch wood. We’ve just ended up with dirty couches!).
What did you splurge and save on when decorating your house?
We had a second shipping container sent over from Australia at the end of last year with old furniture laying dormant in my parents’ basement – things we really needed like a coffee table, (comfortable) dining chairs, arm chairs, bedside tables, books we left behind etc etc. We did the sums and new furniture would cost more than shipping, so it was a no brainer. It’s such a delight to see Olivia sitting on the little stool that I used as a child at same old coffee table where I did colouring-in. We definitely saved – and there’s the added bonus of giving old pieces (with a meaningful history) new life.
Also, we have nine Carrefour stainless steel-shelving units stationed all over the house which I LOVE! The best buy. In fact I’m tempted to buy another. They’re functional and look surprisingly chic, in a modern industrial way. It would have cost a fortune to have custom shelving made.
Splurge wise – prior to leaving Sydney we bought a beautiful round dining table from my favourite design store MCM House. It was a ‘farewell gift’ to ourselves I suppose! And antiques and artworks have been collected along the way.
Did you use any websites or interior design apps to brainstorm ideas?
Not really to be honest. I adore Instagram (I follow heaps of interior designers) and websites such as The Design Files and The Grace Tales. It’s inspiring to read about creative people and see the exciting projects they work on.
What’s your favourite room/area in your home and why?
It used to be Olivia’s room but my husband and I are spending FAR too much time in and out of it all throughout the night (sleep issues at the moment), so there’s a little bit of resentment! I really, really love our home, so it’s hard to narrow it down. Even the powder room makes me happy with the fab Ferm Living wallpaper. This replaced truly the most hideous wall paper I have ever seen – just imagine a faux brown chesterfield lounge stuck on the wall. All of the maroon doors had to go too – now painted ‘Dior’ grey! It’s a toss up between my studio and our dining room.
So I’ll talk about the studio. The landing has evolved into a brilliant studio space, which I absolutely adore. It can be credited for kicking off my crazy creative pursuits. Initially, we had no idea what to do with it so plonked down a very smart desk and chair from BoConcept for my PC and hung a few pictures on the wall (the desk is now in our bedroom which my husband uses for study). Then a long Ikea table and high stool came along when I started painting. Now there’s a beautiful big antique dining table as well (it was the ‘laundry folding table’ in its previous life at my paternal grandfather’s home – and came in the shipping container). It is a highly functional space – desk-work on one side (I am a freelance journalist and Lifestyle Editor at The Grace Tales), and messy painting on the other. Without sounding too corny, the space inspires me to work hard and stay focused. I spend every spare moment up there.
If you had unlimited space (and budget) and could turn one room in your house into whatever you wanted, what would it be?
We have a random ‘out house’ behind the villa which is the size of a small shipping container and used for excess storage. My husband wouldn’t hesitate to answer this question – and request a Man Cave (which every other fellow who visits agrees upon) complete with unlimited sporting channels on the super-size wall-mounted TV, reclining chairs, bar fridge fully stocked, etc etc you get the idea. Clearly this will never happen (but I’ll allow him to dream).
Playroom or bedroom and playroom in one?
The playroom is in our dining area which works so well – it’s easy for me to keep an eye on Olivia while I’m downstairs. It also means I can leave her with our helper and escape to the studio upstairs to work without distractions.
Do you have any tips for easy ways to update décor without breaking the bank?
Work with what you have and rearrange pieces around the house.
I’m a big fan of updating cushion covers and adding beautiful throws to couches and beds. They don’t have to cost the earth and will change the look in a second. Don’t be afraid to mix high and low. An eclectic mix is so interesting. Look to Ikea for budget buys, and the new Marimekko store in Dubai has an excellent selection of fabrics if you’re prepared to spend more.
If art isn’t it in the budget then have some lovely prints framed – even if it’s a page torn out from a vintage magazine that resonates with you. Framing is fairly inexpensive in Dubai and art gives a home so much depth. Indoor plants and ‘stacks’ of coffee table and reading books are instant lifters too.
Get the Look
- Sumner Extending Pedestal Table in Rustic Pine Finish, AED 10, 340, available at Pottery Barn
- Wooden Boats and Crab Pots by Georgia Macmillan, available at Georgia Macmillan Paints
- Armadillo & Co. Junior Dandelion Rug, AED 2, 100, available at The Corner Shop
- Candle Stand, The Ring in Brass, AED 130, available at The Bowery
- Peeking Owl Storage, price on request, available at Wild Child Designz