Just like the clothes she designs, Judith Hobby’s home is all about pared back chic.
BY SHALAKA PARADKAR
PHOTOGRAPHY BY KISHORE KUMAR
Judith Hobby answers the door of her Arabian Ranches home with a huge, welcoming smile, looking quite chic in a structured, taupe silk blouse, distressed jeans and little bejewelled clips in her hair that catch the sunlight. Her shoes are pretty, though somewhat obscured by three ridiculously adorable pugs falling over themselves to greet me. One of whom spotted the opportunity for adventure afforded by the open door and bounds out. Judith disappears after him, and returns a little later – smile intact, renegade pug tucked under her arm and still looking relaxed after that midday jog down the street in high heels.
It’s a vignette which sort of captures Judith’s home: classy yet easygoing, this is a much-loved and lived-in place where animals, children, wearable yet luxe fashion and fine art amicably coexist.
“We bought this three-bedroom home because we love living in the UAE and wanted to put down roots here,” Judith says.
Her other house is a 200-year-old heritage property in the south of France that she took on and refurbished in period style. For the Dubai home she knew she wanted something modern and comfortable, which wouldn’t be too much of a project.
Originally from New Zealand, Judith and her family have lived in the Middle East for 20 years. She now runs an eponymous fashion business. “This is a very Kiwi place,” she says, taking in the sweeping open-plan living area. “My husband, Gerard, and I love collecting modern art and we needed an environment that would complement it.”
Judith’s art collection is the focal point of the living area. But the art also spills over into the kitchen, the bedrooms, the staircase walls and the entryway. On the living room walls hang works by Roy Lichtenstein, Keith Haring, Joan Miro, Alexander Calder, several New Zealand artists and Steve Kaufman (a colleague of Warhol and clearly much influenced by him). A Picasso sketch is housed in an alcove and a Damien Hirst hangs in the kitchen. “We decided quite early that the house would be done up in neutral shades so the artworks could talk to you,” she says.
A huge plus point for the house in Judith’s book is that while it is an open plan space, it can be divided into completely self-contained halves by shutting the kitchen doors – vitally important for a family with teens. “When my teenaged sons, Alex and George, have friends over and we have company too, we are able to use both sides of the house, almost like separate houses. I cannot fault the layout of the ground floor; it’s just as I would have wanted it myself.”
On the upper floor though, it’s a different story, Judith says. “It’s almost as if the architects lost interest or ran out of ideas and gave up. So much of space has been wasted that could have been used to make it more comfortable. Our bedrooms for instance have two balconies, at least one of which could have made a great walk-in wardrobe.”
Judith shares her home with three pugs, three cats, budgies and a rescued wild pigeon who comes and goes. Her pets have made her reconsider a decor decison taken earlier. “I installed dark wood floors. Though they look pretty they are not practical for a house full of animals. Keeping them clean is a nightmare.”
Judith says she is a big fan of Bauhaus and it’s functional, stripped down aesthetic. In the living room, an overscaled dining table bought in Bali has been teamed with polycarbonate chairs. “The table is made of recycled teak panels. I wanted it bigger but we were limited by the size of the planks. I deliberately chose modern chairs as the table is so rustic. The transparent chairs are visually lighter and you can still appreciate the art as well.” The centrepiece is a basket that Judith stuffs with natural, wooden decor elements such as dried twigs, a bunch of brush, pinecones and the like.
“I love beachcombing as well so there are shells in the jar on the coffee table from all over the world.”
Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona chair and the Eames chairs and ottoman are also particular favourites in the Hobby home; with four of the latter in the bedroom and lounge. An antique chair from New Zealand and kilim cushions picked up from Turkey sofa continue the rustic chic theme of the dining table.
One of the most major construction changes that was carried out to the original home was the demolition of the fireplace. It gave the family more useable space in the living room, including an alcove for the piano that once belonged to Judith’s mother-in-law who was a con- cert pianist in Christchurch. “It’s played every day by my husband,” Judith says.
In the kitchen, Judith wanted the same open and spacious feeling, so she removed all the upper cabinetry. “I wanted to display my art on the kitchen walls as well. And by taking off the cupboards, I actually gained space. The pantry became more streamlined with pull out drawers and I thus got rid of the clutter of kitchen cupboards.” Judith is proud of having accomplished her kitchen makeover on a tight budget, using cabinetry sourced from IKEA and high chairs from Dragon Mart.
The doors to the garden are usually open, so her cats and dogs have free run of the property. A Home Centre suite of furniture in wicker, meant for indoor use was painted with outdoor paint and kept outside. Three years on it’s still going strong so Judith is pleased with the buy. The area is strewn with metal sculptures and ac- cessories picked up on the family’s holidays. The garden was a challenge to work with as all the walls are angled differently in the irregular-shaped plot. “I am quite a ‘linear’ person, so I wanted everything to be straight. My solution was to build a low height wall next to the pool, so that it tricks the eye into thinking you are in a rectangular garden.”
For now Judith has no plans of moving out of the easygoing, fuss-free home and garden she has lovingly built over the years. “I simply love living in the Ranches; my sons have the same kind of lifestyle that I had growing up in New Zealand. That kind of freedom when we cycled to school in the morning and returned when the street lights came on, in the absence of mobile phones? That kind of freedom doesn’t even exist in New Zealand any more. It’s why we bought this house, so we would have some continuity and the boys would have a home. Dubai has been great to me. It is home now and we will always be here.”