French expat Emilie set up Dubai's most colourful and fun home styling service, Stella + the Stars, in April 2015 after retraining as an interior stylist. Dedicated to helping those in need of home decorating ideas or inspiration to make their pad unique, she named the business and its accompanying blog after her daughter, Stella and has gone on to become one of the city's go-to sources for tips and info on making your home look its best...
Not a lot of people know this, but I actually started my career as a medical journalist and then worked in PR for a long time until I had my daughter, four years ago... I took a year off to look after her and essentially had an epiphany during my maternity leave! I realised I didn't want to go back to my corporate job in London (with the long commute and inflexible hours that came with it) and wanted to use all the creativity I'd had in me, dormant, for all these years to do something I was really passionate about. After completely revamping our home in London, I realised I wanted to do more and thanks to the support of my number one fan - my husband - I quit my comfortable media job in 2014 and retrained with KLC Design School in London to reinvent myself as an interior stylist. It may sounds cheesy but it's the best decision I have ever made and I have never looked back. I absolutely love working with people to help them feel happy in their own home without breaking the bank. I am completely obsessed with everything home decor and am so lucky I managed to carve myself a niche within the industry and do something I truly love.
Above: We caught up with Emilie just a few weeks before she was due to give birth to her second baby (a little boy named Teddy). Her four-year-old daughter Stella was the inspiration behind Emilie's career change to interiors, and is the namesake of Emilie's hugely popular Instagram account, Stella and the Stars. In the picture, left, Stella is wearing a dress from French brand Little Demo.
When I found out I was expecting a baby boy, I decided to have both kids share a room, so I had to be clever with the design and create a space that's not too girly or too boyish. I wanted a room that's fun, fairly gender neutral, with lots of pops of colour. I was limited with the space as I already had most of the furniture from my daughter's bedroom, so I just created a new little corner for the baby. I had kept Stella's original crib, which is orange, and really wanted to reuse it. I then became obsessed with tigers, which worked well with the orange crib, so a loose scheme started to take shape and that was it! After years of neon pink and unicorns it's been lovely to design a space that's not super girly. I moved the kids' bedroom to my old home office, which had very dark grey walls. I originally thought it wouldn't work and would be too dark for a baby room, but actually I am completely in love with the contrast it creates with the bright furniture and accessories against it.
"Kids' bedrooms are the one place in a home where you can really let your imagination run wild without worrying about going over the top"
My favourite piece of furniture in the room is definitely the orange crib in the baby corner. We bought it for Stella from a wonderful brand called Bloom and I ended up keeping it and even had it shipped from London when we moved to Dubai. It's foldable and on wheels so super easy to store. Stella's house bed is also a favourite of mine. When I was looking to source it in Dubai two years ago it was impossible to find anything like it here, and shipping from Europe was so expensive that I ended up having it custom-made by a local carpenter. It took weeks and was not cheap (of course there are so many options available ready-made now!) but was worth it as it's such a statement piece in the room. I am also obsessed with neon signs and wanted something for the room, so the Love sign from kid-friendly brand A Little Lovely Company is the perfect final touch (and a great alternative to a night light). And finally, I love the photo wall. I am so bad at getting photos printed - I have about 30,000 on my phone and zero photo albums for my daughter for example - but at last I got myself together and printed a bunch of my favourite shots of her through the years to create a gallery wall in the bedroom. We look at them everyday when I get her dressed, it's such a lovely reminder of how lucky we are and how quickly they grow!
I love the total freedom to go completely crazy with the colour scheme and ideas that there is with kids' rooms. My style is bold and slightly bonkers, but I always have to restrain myself when designing adult rooms so as not to go completely over the top. On the other hand, rooms for little people should be fun and over the top and it's the one place in a home where you can really let your creativity run totally wild without worrying too much about getting it wrong. The three most important components of designing a really impactful child's room for me would be: being bold, using statement accessories, and creating a space that reflects the little one's personality.
When designing a child's bedroom for a client I usually start with asking about the child's taste and favourite animals, book or characters. It's the equivalent of getting an adult client to pin their favourite inspiration images on Pinterest! For example, we recently designed a little boy's room who's obsessed with dinosaurs. We sourced some really fun art work options as well as matching accessories, including custom-made dino door handles, to give an existing chest of drawers a new lease of life.
Above: The central bookcase is by UK brand Rowen & Wren, while the mobile (right) is by Numero 74, available from Smallable.
When we moved from London two years ago, it was a shock to discover how challenging sourcing affordable design was in Dubai, especially as very few retailers had their collection available online and shipping from abroad was quite prohibitive. Since then, things have really shaken up, and I've enjoyed witnessing the interiors scene developing at a great pace. It's such an exciting time for the design industry.
Photos by Aiza Castillo-Domingo