Walking into Karen Wazen Bakhazi’s abode in Meadows is akin to a meeting with the Dubai-based style and fashion icon herself. The house, home to Karen, her husband, Elias, and their three children – George, 3, (who she affectionately calls “Georgie”) and twins Karlie and Kay, 2 – offers an immediate sense of peace, elegance and positivity. Light emanates through the windows of each room, casting welcome shadows onto the home’s fresh, white walls that are accentuated by collectible pieces of modern and contemporary furniture. Each one has a story to tell and Karen, with a few hours to spare from her hectic schedule, delightfully describes the wonderful experience of renovating and designing her family’s house. “For this new house, my husband and I wanted colours that were super light – we wanted to offer this experience of openness and freshness,” she says.
What many may not realise is that Karen grew up in a family where architecture and interior design were of utmost importance. “Both my parents are in the design business – they are both architects,” says Karen. “I am from a family where I really understood the importance of having a home that reflects you and makes you feel comfortable.”
Karen Wazen’s charming living room area featuring a sofa by Vitra (right); a sofa by Edra (left), and a table by Muuto
Before moving in, Karen spoke to her mother, who runs interior design company H&D Architects, and her father, who owns design boutique Vivre in Beirut, about how she envisioned it – the furniture, the colours, and look and feel. Her family then executed everything. “When we bought the house it didn’t look like anything like it does now,” says Karen. “In fact, I said to my mother, ‘How am I going to live here?’” But then, bit-by-bit, the workers broke down the walls, put in cladding and panels and transformed the house into a completely different space. Karen then spoke to her father about the kind of mood she wanted the house to have. Collectible design objects decorate the rooms of the Bakhazi home. Brands such as Edra, Baxter, Orizzonti, Riva, Normann Copenhagen and Vitra can be found in each space, endowing it with a contemporary feel, elegance and zest. The design too is reflective of Karen’s fashion tastes. “I care about the way I look – to be fashionable but quirky – to have something that is elegant but a bit creative in the way that I am.”
Karen wears blouse, Dhs1,100, MrsKeepa.com; Jeans, belt and loafers, Karen’s own. A long wooden table with chairs by Vitra offer a rustic feel to the room
The home is where Karen spends 90 per cent of her time. “It has been and is the most important place for me,” says Karen. “It’s where I spend most of my time with my kids. So I always felt that my house should be a place that really reflects me and should be a place that I feel really comfortable in.” The downstairs area is defined by a large kitchen space, a study, and an open living and dining room area complete with large floor-to-ceiling windows that look out onto the family’s backyard.
We look outside. Summer is quickly approaching in Dubai and the heat is encroaching on the city’s outdoor landscape. Still, Karen’s children happily play – running around, full of life and enthusiasm. The green patch of lawn has a relaxing hammock, jungle gym, balancing beam and even a large white toy dog that immediately brings to mind a contemporary sculpture by American artist Jeff Koons. “My kids love the dog,” smiles Karen. “The outdoor area is their play area – it’s their special place,” she smiles. “Everyone wants a dog but we are so many at the moment that we can’t take on another living thing right now. So we got the white plastic dog for the kids and they love it.” It clearly has done the trick – the dog couldn’t be a more loveable design object. The outdoor area is also a place for family time. The Bakhazi’s have lots of barbecues and dinners with family and friends. “Lots of bonding happens here.”
Many of the design pieces, Karen says, will stay with her as she moves from house to house. “People find it easier to buy a nice bag that costs as much as a couch but they don’t realise that you will be using that couch for so much more than the bag,” she laughs. “For me, it is not about what I am showing but about where I am spending most of my time. When I come home I put my bag in my closet and I won’t see it again, but the couch is where I am sitting and spending most of my time.” Karen – who defines herself as a “content creator” – is constantly on the go, hopping from one photo shoot, panel talk, and event to international fashion weeks and film festivals in order to cater to her 436,000 Instagram followers. But it is at home where she finds the peace and space to think and digest everything that she does. “My home is my office, it is my date nights with my husband – it is everything,” she exclaims. “I really am such a Beitute – an Arabic word used to describe a homebody. I am that because I love, love spending time at home. If I had a choice to have dinner outside or have it at home I would always choose home.” It’s the nature of Karen’s work – lots of socialising and a hectic but fun lifestyle – that makes her desire time at home with her family. “I also wanted to create a space for my three kids that is inspiring – where they feel that they can play and be creative,” she says.
Rainbow stripe shirt dress, Dhs1,200, AllThingsMochi.com; Jeans, Karen’s own
The home is a place for memories – where love and light reign at all times. It’s a happy place. “I look back at my childhood and I remember a lot of it in my house and I want my kids to have the same experience. I want them to remember all the fun times here,” she says. Jetting off several times a month, Karen says when she’s travelling she dreams of coming home. “This home resembles me; it’s a reflection and extension of who I am, my personality and my life,” she says. “I think my house looks like me.” It truly does. It exudes the same irresistible charm, positivity, happiness, grace and beauty that define Karen Wazen – the very traits by which all have come to love her. “It’s energy – it’s fresh and it’s comfortable,” she laughs. “I would like to consider myself someone that people feel comfortable around and I would like my house to be a place where people feel a sense of peace. This is how I want people to feel around me.” It all needs to be, underlines Karen, “relatable and attainable.” It’s a place for everyone.