Sitting by the pool in her garden in Dubai’s leaﬁly luxurious Al Barari compound, British-born Caroline Stanbury is feeling “much more zen.” The 40-year-old star of the TV reality series Ladies of London moved to Dubai only at the end of August with her Turkish-born ﬁnancier husband Cem Habib, 42, along with their three children, Yasmine, 10, and twin boys Zack and Aaron, 6. “We moved for my husband’s work, he’s setting up an ofﬁce here. I’ve lived in London since I was 16. I really enjoy a change and challenge. I’d achieved everything I wanted to in London and I was sick of the weather. I ﬁnd the grey weather everyday so difﬁcult to motivate myself. I wanted time to relax, chill and be with the kids.” She looks over at Cem, lying in the sun as he works on his phone. “I mean look, tough day in the ofﬁce! My secretary is coming out for a month, so we’ll take our Monday morning meeting in there,” she says gesturing to the pool, two giant unicorn lilos, ubiquitous in the back gardens of Dubai this year, poised for action.
Since 2014, Caroline has been a lead character in Ladies of London, about to launch for its third season on Bravo, which follows the drama-ﬁlled lives of six women living in the UK capital. It has a cult following, particularly in the US and Australia, with viewers glued to the spats between the women. As a group, they’re not shy of confrontation. “We have big rows and make it up afterwards, that’s just the way we are,” says Caroline. She shows me the trailer for the third series, in which she storms out of a dinner party in Scottish castle after an argument. “That really happened,” she says. Does she recognise herself when watching it? “No. I feel quite detached, like I’m watching someone else. But my friends say that is just how I am.” Living in London, she didn’t get recognised much, only in airports, “But in America they go nuts. It’s fun to be able to dip in and out.” The anonymity of Dubai adds to its appeal. “I get invited to everything and I haven’t been to anything. When I moved here I said on principal, no events. I just want peace, because in December I’m off to New York, then I do a press tour, then the show starts again. I’m still going to London once a month for a week to ﬁlm so I get my dose of crazy.” The tranquil environs of Al Barari were perfect for Caroline. “I need green. I grew up in Dorset (a county in rural England) and if I don’t have green I feel suffocated. Al Barari was discreet, secure and has everything I need: the spa, the gym and an amazing restaurant, The Farm. So if I really want to be lazy I don’t have to move.” She still has her home in Surrey, on the outskirts of London. “I love that house. My family is there, so I go back as often as possible.” Her career has taken many twists, she explains. “I mean this isn’t exactly where I saw myself. I was a stylist in London for many years. Probably one of the most successful ones there was in the UK. I worked with Sarah Harris from Vogue for years, I love her. ” In 2008, she started The Gift Library, a luxury online shopping site, and ran it for seven years before it shut down earlier this year. It was in 2014, while still at the helm of The Gift Library, that she was approached to be on Ladies of London. “I was one of the ﬁrst, if not the ﬁrst, chosen. I didn’t expect to get it. I only did it in fact to see if I could get it, I thought no one will see the tape that I made.” Now, Caroline ﬁlms three to four months a year. “It’s a big part of our lives. We’re in 22 countries, our second biggest market is Australia. Look, you don’t survive anywhere in America if you don’t pull in the viewers, so it must be doing something right.”
The Al Barari villa – originally with seven en-suite bedrooms, now six after Caroline converted one to house her huge wardrobe – was completely overhauled before she moved in by Earlcrown Design, a London-based luxury interior design and property development company owned by her friend Bianca Ladow. “It was very dark, lots of dark wood. So I painted all the windows, doors, walls and ceilings white. The kitchen I changed to pale Dior grey.” Earlcrown did everything in six weeks, the whole process documented on the third series of Ladies of London. “We designed everything together in London, including all the furniture.” The Caroline Stanbury range for Earlcrown, including chairs, sofas and tables, will shortly launch online. Her aim was to combine sleek design with the practicality necessary for a family home; the suede effect chairs at her dining table, for instance, are wipe clean. Belying the fact it is home to three children, the house is immaculate. “I like it to be perfect, like a hotel,” says Caroline. Her inspiration here was LA living, bright white light, with pops of colour, in contrast to her more traditional UK home in Surrey. She’s currently looking for a bronze giraffe to stand by the front gate, its head poking over the wall. “You can have fun with a house like this.” “I wanted it to feel cosy, like my children are next to us which is nice for them. The children love it. They’ve said they don’t want to go home. What child doesn’t love playing sports in the sun?”
A combination of turning 40 this year and moving to Dubai has changed Caroline’s style. She has all but given up wearing heels during the day here, though Gianvito Rossi remains her weakness. “I’m much more relaxed here. I wear denim cut offs, shirts, T-shirts, jeans and ﬂip ﬂops most days. But then you just add your Birkin and big jewellery – I’m currently obsessed by my Cartier Panther ring – and you’re done.” When she was younger, she had a more polished look that consisted of Chanel jackets and jeans. “Now I’ve turned 40 I don’t want any of that. Everything that I used to wear aged me. I’m planning on going backwards. I’m calling myself Benjamin Button from now on!”
Read the December issue of Harper's Bazaar Arabia for the article in full.