Noora Hefzi’s stylish ambitions were realised at a young age. What started as a desire to give Barbie a contemporary makeover, swiftly progressed to the ingenious reupholstering of a doll’s house, and later matured into the birth of her eponymous fashion label (in 2005) and expert cultivation of her current family home. Sitting pretty in a plume-like skirt from her current collection and a crisp white shirt, the Saudi mother-of-three opens up to Bazaar about her modern and cool interior surroundings, and the journey involved in making her dream home a reality.
Noora, 34, shares her home in Al Khawaneej with her Emirati husband, Faisal – whom she met while studying Design Management at the American University of Sharjah – and children, Abdulaziz, almost 7, Ghalia, 5, and Rayyana, almost one. “I’m lucky, my husband doesn’t have the patience for these things,” she muses, referencing the room’s décor. “He is super busy with work and he trusts my taste. I’m extremely picky, too!” The initial plans for the house started in 2010 with nothing but a desolate plot of land, “I started sketching, creating mood boards of ideas and concepts I wanted to implement in our home. The beautiful thing about building your own home is that you get to design it yourself to suit your style and serve your purpose,” she tells Bazaar.
Noora wears: Skirt, Noora Hefzi. Shirt, H&M. Top, vintage. Shoes, JCrew. Vintage jewellery, all Noora’s own
As someone who doesn’t spend a huge amount of time outside, Noora wanted a home that had a Mediterranean feel and captured the essence of an indoor-outdoor lifestyle. “I wanted something that let in plenty of light and which allowed greenery from the garden to bring the outside in.” Easy access for her children to play was also high on her priority list, ultimately she wanted the house to feel ‘designed’ but not at the expense of homeliness.
Noora controlled every element of the project from start to finish. “I was the designer and the architect,” she tells us. All she did was employ someone to translate her vision into industry-approved drawings. “It was so exciting seeing my sketches and ideas come to life, and eventually, becoming comfortable in a space I had designed on paper.”
With her namesake label favoured for its elegant and spirited edge, it’s clear to see these attributes employed in her home, too. Characterised by rich colours and bold geometric shapes, the house has been transformed into what Noora describes as “glamorous, liveable, fresh and comfortable – all in one.”
Noora wears: Dress, Dhs2,850, Noora Hefzi. Earrings, designed by Noora. Ring, Dhamani, all Noora’s own
“I’m influenced by a love for Art Deco style but I have a lot of modern classic and mid-century pieces as well,” she says, citing Bloomingdale’s, Marina Home, THE One, Pottery Barn, Cottage Chic and Darwaza as her go-to interior stores, she says, alongside the many vintage additions that pepper the house. The moodboards Noora created for “each and every space,” were key in projecting her personal taste and conveying the right atmosphere for each room. “For the living room I was going for comfortable, cosy and relaxed. For the office, bold, fun, adventurous, playful and eccentric. My office is my girl cave,” she enthuses. “It has everything that is essentially me – corals, deep green velvet, chevron marble floors, lots of gold, pineapples, stones and crystals, family photos and my vision board. It inspires me to be creative and fun and just put my ideas into action.” A fascination with coral is evident throughout: a sculpted gold bowl takes centre stage on the shelf, a coral print cushion on the sofa, a striking lamp base in the corner. “I love everything about it, the coral eco-system, the colour, the unusual organic shape and the texture,” she explains. Noora shops the globe for unique pieces, often shipping her finds in from the US, while the coral lamp and bowl were imported from Onekingslane.com. “I got these from the States, too,” she explains, gesturing to the immaculate display of books on the shelf. “They’re collectibles, classics with beautifully decorated covers.”
An affection for pineapples is also apparent, they make regular appearances throughout the house. “I love pineapples, they have so much character and the shape is just so regal and elegant. They remind me of palm trees but in a fruit, like a miniature crown or chandelier. This is also why I love Aquazzura shoes,” she laughs, “they are an excuse to collect more pineapple-embossed boxes.”
Speaking of sartorial choices, Noora explains the thought process behind her meticulously organised dressing room, a luxury hideaway with wall-to-wall white wardrobes, a mirrored-top centre piece chest and a sumptuous velvet chair. “I have lots of accessories, which I want to see and look at every day, and I thought it would be best to display most of them on the island in the centre of the wardrobe,” she tells us. An avid collector of vintage jewellery, sunglasses and scarves, plenty of storage was vital when conceptualising the space. “Under the mirrored cabinet I have drawers to store the extra accessories.” Noora is so visually punctual that she files all the brighter pieces in the drawers so they don’t affect the overall look and feel of the area which is made up of opulent golds and crisp whites with grey and blush accents. “The other drawers are for undergarments, workout gear, jeans, belts, scarves and swimwear,” she goes on. “In the closets are long dresses, short dresses, shirts, tops, pants and skirts. The clutches and bags are organised on shelves made to fit the highest length bag I have, which is the Hermès Birkin, so the handles don’t have to be bent.” The shoes are equally well arranged, ascending by height with particular consideration to colour, “I wouldn’t place a red shoe next to a yellow, it just doesn’t seem pleasing to the eye.”
Left: Kenneth Jay Lane and vintage bracelets collected from vintage stores around the world. Middle: Noora’s favourite Manolo Blahniks. “I love how they remind of the ’80s, with their geometric cut that is modern yet classic.” Right: Earrings custom-designed by Noora
“My personal style is essentially luxe, dressy, playful, modern classic, refined and still comfortable. So it’s about using classic pieces mixed with bold statement pieces. When I can’t something and can’t find it, then I’ll usually make it myself,” she says, admitting this ethos is also apparent in her home. Noora’s attention to detail is also evident throughout with custom-made air conditioning vents taking form in an Art Deco style grid, and bespoke marble flooring. Even the wall colour required special attention, “It took me months of trial and error to get the shade of the wall colour right,” she explains. The pale grey-white she settled on serves as the perfect blank canvas for bold furniture choices. The focal point of the hallway, for example, is a black and white bone inlay console from The One, Noora’s favourite piece in the house. “It’s just so beautiful, it speaks for itself. It also fills the space under my stairs perfectly.”
Left: The showpiece chest in Noora’s walk-in wardrobe was expertly designed to be as functional as possible. Right:“I’ve always wanted a four-poster bed,” she says, “So I designed the space and high ceilings around it”
As for the kitchen, “I wanted it to feel fresh, crisp, elegant, classy and sophisticated,” she explains. The space is one of Noora’s favourite places in the house, not just for its flawless design but for its ability to bring everyone together. She ordered the lighting online from the US and designed the entire kitchen, as well as the island, herself. “I love hanging out with family around the island, the kids love doing art projects and drawing in the kitchen, too. On weekend mornings, we often make healthy pancakes or waffles - gluten-, sugar-, egg -and dairy-free – and green juices.”
Noora’s lifestyle mirrors the kitchen’s clean aesthetic. She confesses to always keeping supply of “tender coconuts in the fridge, probably around 10 to 15,” and having one a day. A quick glance reveals platters of fresh fruit and vegetables for easy snacking, coconut milk, almond milk, home-grown sprouts, still and sparking water. Her lifestyle is disciplined, “I’m super cautious about food choices, I don’t buy anything refined or processed. I only use Himalayan rock salt and coconut sugar, or honey in recipes, and have avoided dairy and meats over the past year or so.” When Noora is cooking or entertaining, she swears by books from The Barefoot Contessa, and another amazing Arabic book, A Taste of Home by Rania Almoala.
Noora wears: Earrings, custom-designed by her. Shirt, H&M. Trousers, 3.1 Phillip Lim. Shoes, Salvatore Ferragamo. Belt, Mango. Bracelets, Hermes, all Noora’s own
Despite painstaking delays from contractors and subcontractors, the hindrance of a stifling summer climate and a circus of official hoops to jump through, Noora’s patience and persistence (which was in part aided by meditation) has paid off. She is now well on her way to achieving her dream dwelling. “The main concept is here, it’s just about enhancing and adding to it. It is definitely evolving, a work in progress,” she says. As for now she is “happy” with what she has, “It represents me and my style.”
With a world of luxury at her fingertips, Noora is quick to reassure us that the most treasured pieces in her home are the handmade cards by her children and family. “My mother always told us that the best way to show appreciation to someone is putting an effort into what you give them. She never wanted material things, she wanted us to sit and design cards and write inside them. I’ve taken this tradition from her and I’m passing it on to my children now.” And perhaps it is this personalised, hands-on approach to design that has resulted in the resounding success of the self-built style haven that she can now call home.
Noora wears: Top, Dhs699, skirt, Dhs2,500, both Noora Hefzi. Necklace, BCBG MaxAzria, Sunglasses, Karen Walker. Jeans, Topshop. Shoes, Nicholas Kirkwood, all Noora's own
Photography by Richard Hall
This article originally appeared in the October 2017 issue of Harper's Bazaar Arabia