Hanna Karonen is the head designer, founder and chief executive of Simply Design Interiors in Dubai. The 35-year-old, from Finland, moved to the UAE in 2007 after her husband’s job brought the couple here. Ms Karonen started her interior design business in 2008, through which she brings her Scandinavian style of expertise to the market. She lives on the Palm Jumeirah with her husband and two children, a five-year-old son and a daughter, one.
I have no need for an alarm, as my daughter usually wakes me up. I make breakfast – brown bread, bacon and eggs – and have a cup of coffee to help kick-start my day. I then spend time with the kids. I either read a book with them or we build Lego together.
I send my son to school and wait for my yoga teacher to arrive. I have a daily session with her on the beach in my backyard. I’ve been practising yoga for about a year as it makes me feel more energetic. I used to play tennis, but since I had my daughter my life has been too hectic; I don’t have time to pursue sports so it’s easier for the yoga teacher to come to my house.
At the office I catch up with my team. We are a team of three – another designer, a lady who does our social media and other office tasks, and me. We talk about new design ideas, the status of each project, and what steps need to be taken. I then check my emails and missed phone calls, and take care of any admin. I rearrange all the samples that we have – wallpaper, fabrics, custom-made carpets, and curtains – before our clients arrive. I also prepare some mood boards. I gather inspiration for these from design magazines; I’m quite an old-school designer in that I still love reading books and seeing photos on paper. I collect all my design ideas and add them to a big folder that I have, which is categorised by room.
Clients come to the office. We start consultations over a relaxed cup of coffee; we have sofas and armchairs in the office, so it looks more like a living room. We also have books, magazines and samples, so people can find inspiration. Once we have a better idea of what the client wants, we offer our opinion on what will work and show them mood boards. We primarily work on private homes and offices, although we’re now also expanding into more commercial work, such as restaurants. In terms of design trends, what we’re now seeing is that natural, neutral and organic materials such as wood, leather and linen are becoming popular. I’m happy that interior design is heading in this direction, as it reflects how our lifestyles are becoming more organic and relaxed than before.
I leave the office with a client to visit various furniture and lighting stores. Some clients like to come with us on these trips, whereas others opt for our turnkey solution; this essentially means we buy everything on their behalf to save them time. Many clients opt for custom-made furniture. We have a great local carpenter, so we have fun designing unique pieces together.
I have a quick lunch – usually salad or some fruit – and pick my son up from school. I drop him off at home to the nanny and then head back to the office. Our nanny lives with us, and without her it would have been extremely difficult for me to be an entrepreneur and take care of two kids, too. I spend the next hour talking to suppliers and preparing the next day’s plans.
I visit all the sites we’re working on at least every other day to check their status, see if there are any outstanding issues, and confirm handover dates. In Dubai sometimes you need to push contractors to ensure deadlines are met.
Working late on occasion is unavoidable when we’re nearing a deadline, however, because I have two small children I try to leave the office around this time every day. At home, I cook dinner. Both my husband and I love to cook, and we entertain friends during the weekend. However, during the week, I like to cook something quick and easy. I then sit and feed the kids.
I take the children for a walk on the beach behind our house; I like us to do outdoor activities together. Back at home, I prepare them a healthy evening snack, bath them, read them a story and put them to bed.
My husband comes home and we have dinner together, or go to a nearby restaurant. During the week, we like 101 at the One and Only The Palm, as it’s got a relaxed atmosphere. However, some of our other favourite restaurants include La Petite Maison and Zuma.
This is “me time”. I watch TV and read all the latest interior design magazines to source new ideas. I’ll also call a few friends to catch up.
I’m a morning person, so I like to get to sleep early. By 11pm at the latest, I’m done for the day.
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