Wrenn Associates Dubai specialises in the interior design of luxury hotel and resort properties, corporate offices, and upmarket retail for clients such as Accor, Dutco Hotels, Emaar, Emirates, Hilton, Hyatt, Inter.Continental, Marriott, Millennium & Copthorne, NCTH, Oberoi, Radisson SAS, Rotana, Starwood Group, and Union Properties.
Founded in 1978, the UK-based company expanded its operations to Dubai in 1993 from where many notable projects have been completed throughout the Middle East. Recent Dubai projects include the JW Marriott, Al Maha Desert Resort, Jebel Ali Hotel and Golf Resort, The Pyramid Club, Khalil Al Sayegh Jewellers, Al Owais Cultural Centre, Marriott Executive Apartments, and Emirates Hills Golf Academy.
One of the latest projects to be completed is the Millennium Hotel in Abu Dhabi, where Wrenn Associates was responsible for the public areas and all F&B (food and beverage) outlets. "The Marakesh restaurant is a wonderful combination of everything Moroccan," says Claire Craig, Wrenn's design manager. "This has been created by various methods using natural wood products such as the teak planked floor, warm ochre-coloured walls, and traditional zalij wall tiles decorating ornately carved arches. Items of furniture such as majlis-style benches, brass tray tables, inlaid pearl chairs and iron wall torches all assist in creating the Moroccan theme. Burgundy and gold velvet drapes overhead produce a tented ceiling. The final medium for creating an atmosphere of Marrakesh is the elaborate mural of Morocco, beautifully painted between the arches behind the stage."
She continues: "The theme for Sevilo's restaurant was based on a traditional Mediterranean street scene. Classical architectural details are generously used throughout the restaurant. Traditional iron gates enter onto a cobble-stoned style street or passage. The open kitchen and food display areas further enhance the lively atmosphere. This side of the restaurant resembles the façade of a traditional classical building. The entire restaurant with its numerous columns gives the impression of walking through a colonnade or portico attached to a typical Mediterranean building. Tables and chairs have been loosely placed throughout the colonnade just as you would find in any Mediterranean city. Colonial-style chairs and iron tables create a comfortable atmosphere. Olive green walls, and red and green fabrics further complement the casualness of the spaces.
"To one side of the restaurant, a tall glass conservatory-style extension has been added which allows tall trees to grow and brings an enormous amount of natural daylight into the restaurant. The exterior terrace continues the street theme, with its lively geometric paving and fountain, spurting cool jets of water. Classical pergolas have also been introduced to allow interesting seating areas. The view from the terrace is one of the prettiest parks in Abu Dhabi and again this adds to the charm of Sevilo's.''
Being the cosmopolitan city that Dubai is, there is a real market for executive living accommodation. "The highly-acclaimed Marriott Executive Apartments is an excellent example of this trend, for which Wrenn was responsible for," says Craig.
"The two apartment towers, soon to be connected with the longest bridge between two buildings in the world, sit in the heart of Dubai. They are adjacent to the Dubai Creek and boast the best views of Dubai. The towers are made up of one, two, and three bedroom apartments.
"They are probably the most exclusive furnished apartments in Dubai. Our brief was to create beautiful apartments, which are both practical yet warm and inviting. We wanted a 'residential look'' which would appeal to everyone's taste. We wanted to create the impression that these apartments evolved over time just as one's own home.
"The Marriott corporate colours of green, red and gold feature strongly throughout the interiors of all the apartments. However, variations in patterns, textures and colour combinations clearly establish individuality between the apartments. The concept of a 'residential look' gave us an opportunity to suit everyone's desires and an eclectic mix of furniture, both modern and traditional, continues the idea of collecting pieces over time.
Additional accessories, artwork and individual furniture pieces enhance and upgrade the apartments.
"The kitchens are also very upmarket, in dark, luxurious, walnut cabinetry and golden brown, granite in one tower and cool, steamed beech cabinetry and Giallo Topazo granite in the other. The bathrooms as well are fitted with varying marble tops and intricate wall tiles with classic wall friezes to ensure variety and interest.
"The artwork again has been carefully sourced, and unique Middle Eastern pieces have been selected with the individual care and attention one expresses in one's own home.
"It was also a Marriott requirement that these apartments were not only stylish and comfortable but the needs and demands of the business executive also had to be considered. Internet connections in various convenient locations, excellent lighting, generous working surfaces and comfortable chairs have all been allowed for.
"The 6-m-high entrance lobbies, with elaborate marble flooring and huge gilt ceiling pendants, create a very impressive entrance. The walls of both the entrance lobbies are panelled in warm, cherry wood. However, the floor marbles are distinctly different, with one lobby mainly in Rossa Alacanta and the other in Classico Botticino and Indian Green marble.
"At the end of the day, the apartments are designed as a place to work, to relax, and to come home to."
As Dubai is the business hub of the Middle East, the demand for new and innovative offices is also on the increase. Says Craig. "Wrenn has diversified to meet this market and was recently appointed to design the new headquarters for the reputable company NCTH in Abu Dhabi. The project includes five levels of offices, executive offices, public areas and a VIP majlis."
The design is 'contemporary classic', so Craig and the team have executed their extensive hotel experience into this headquarters project efficiently and effectively.
The next Wrenn Associates' design to be 'experienced' will be the Al Owais Cultural Centre, in Dubai, built in commemoration of Sultan bin Ali Al Owais. "Being a renowned poet of this region, the centre will be dedicated to poetry and literature exhibitions," she says. "Sultan Al Owais is infamous for his extensive collection of pearls. We have reflected this in the centre by the use of various translucent materials to represent the Gulf. One of the main features is a large, 'pearl' fountain, surrounded by stacked glass, situated in the main entrance of the centre."
"With these ongoing projects in the Emirates, as well as Egypt, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia, the decline in business at the end of last year is certainly on the incline for Wrenn Associates," she comments.