Some people just have it. An eye for the unusual that lets them spot a hidden treasure amongst flea market tat; An innate sense of style that means a simple jeans-T-shirt-and-tousled locks combo looks effortlessly cool, rather than rolled-out-of-bed dishevelled. Emma Sawko, 45, definitely has ‘it’ and thankfully she is willing to help us emulate her coveted bohemian style through her work. In 2012, Emma teamed up with fellow Parisian Alexandra de Montaudouin to open Comptoir 102 boutique on Jumeirah Beach Road. Mixing homeware, fashion and jewellery with an organic café, the concept store is Dubai’s answer to Paris’ Merci, and quickly became our go-to for hard-to-find pieces, such as DCW lamps and Jérôme Dreyfuss bags, along with a side order of guilt-free matcha cake.
“We were struggling to find the designers and brands in Dubai that we loved so much from Paris or New York so we opened Comptoir 102,” Emma tells Bazaar Interiors when we visit her at the stylish four-bedroom villa she shares with her husband and three children in Jumeirah. “The house is next to the boutique as I wanted to be able to walk to work and be close to the sea. I also wanted my children to be able to swing by often.” Dressed in her trademark skinny Balmain jeans, Emma is a walking advertisement for the healthy-living ethos she pioneers at the Comptoir 102 café. She has built on its success by partnering with vegan chef Sati Faulks to open Wild & The Moon café on Alserkal Avenue in March, along with two restaurants in Paris. “It’s wild and slow food for urban people,” she explains. “You grab a juice, a snack, a salad. It is pure, organic and grown sustainably on local farms.”
The hall table from Marina Home, is complemented by a LED lamp from Le Deun and artwork by Iranian painter Reza Derakshani from his The Rose & Nightingale series
But don’t be fooled… Emma is not all about kale chips and green juice. “I’m very busy at the moment with the restaurant openings and all I want after a long day of work is to cuddle my three children, slouch in front of the television or curl up with a book,” she says. “But once all this is over, I plan on dancing all night long!”
When the time comes, Emma’s spacious and welcoming pad is the ideal place for a party. Eschewing a theme, Emma prefers to take a magpie approach to decorating the space. “I fall in love with objects or pieces of design,” she says. “They tell the story of our travels, our lives, our family." She adds,
Emma says she wants to avoid the home looking like it has been designed by an interior architect, as she believes it steals the life out of a space. “I don’t deliberately look for mismatched furniture, I just go for pieces I love and I find it more lively that way. I believe a house tells a lot about your personality, if you do it on your own terms.”
Artwork by Morteza Zahedi
One of the perks of Emma’s job is searching for new designs from around the world, both for the store and her home. “It’s never difficult, always a joy,” she explains. “I moved from Geneva to Paris, to New York and then Dubai, and I believe moving gives you new energy. I love decorating houses and finding the good spots for my pieces. The pieces I love travel with me everywhere.”
Such items include a rare Chanel-clad Bearbrick figurine designed by Karl Lagerfeld that Emma received at an event in New York and a mix of vintage chairs sourced from Parisian flea markets.
She adds, "Since then, Nada has become a friend and we are now selling her designs in Comptoir 102.”
Another striking feature of the home is Emma’s enviable collection of contemporary art. “When I arrived in Dubai, I immediately wanted to know more about the local art scene. The heart artwork is from Iranian artist Morteza Zahedi and it was one of our first purchases at the XVA gallery.”
With such a chic abode, it’s no surprise that when friends come to visit, they don’t want to leave. “I have a big tribe and friends sometimes settle at home for anything from a few days to a few weeks,” she says. Even the cat refuses to go. “She came one day and chose to settle here. We do not own her... She owns us. She’s the queen of the block.”
Words: Julia Maile. Photography: Ausra Osipaviciute
This article first appeared in the Summer 2016 issue of Harper's Bazaar Interiors