Continental journey

Designer of Dubai's best-kept secret talks exclusively to CID about his inspiration for the interior design of the World Trade Club.

Dubai World Trade Centre
Dubai World Trade Centre

Designer of Dubai's best-kept secret talks exclusively to CID about his inspiration for the interior design of the World Trade Club.

The members-only World Trade Club, high on the 33rd floor of Dubai's World Trade Centre, recently opened its doors to the public for the first time.

As one of Dubai's most famous landmarks, two years ago design consultant Chadi Tabbah, who at the time worked for a German design firm, was given the task of refurbishing the space for the first time in 25years.

Transforming the World Trade Club into the businessman's club it is today.

Combining international influence, in the design features, art and artifacts, the 400m2 area is comprised of the Falcon Lounge, Seven-Sands restaurant, the Boardroom, Club room, Pearl room, Windsor room, Mogul room, and the Majlis - each with its own unique concept.

"I had an initial design brief handed over to me from the owners of the World Trade Club," said Tabbah.

"They asked for a technical, yet functional design. So, I took what they said into consideration and added my own personality into the design to create something special, with a inimitable and very personal twist."

"The story of the design for me is the signature element of the World Trade Club - the entire concept weaves together to create one space," Tabbah continued.

"I created a journey through several continents, which took me nine months to design, and one year to execute."

Upon exiting the elevators, behind the reception desk, members will find a huge painting of a maritime inspired map incorporating geographical lines, stars and the moon.

"This is where the story begins," said Tabbah. "The journey through the World Trade Club is like visiting different continents, as the map is also repeated on the carpets in the corridors, but on a much bigger scale. Here, I used the same map theme to guide the way to the rooms, signifying each geographic stop-off."

"To the right of the reception desk is a golden plate, symbolising the North Star, another signifier of direction. Beneath it, flooring is made from black absolute granite sourced from the UAE, mixed with tiny gold mosaics from Spain, creating a grand flooring space.

This concept of navigation between continents brings a combination of cultures together in one set, and seen as guests move from room to room.

Authentic local artifacts and early photographs of Dubai and the ruling family of the UAE, gives the club a local ambience.

"The pictures on the wall of the corridor are dated from the 1940/50's, showing the heritage of Dubai - the owners understandably wanted to keep these images, and make a special display. I took the old pictures and scanned them onto a film - inserted them inside a mirror and placed tiny lights behind the mirror," said Tabbah.

The first rooms that come into sight in the World Trade Club are the lounge and dining areas.

A black grand piano welcomes the guests as they enter the Falcon Lounge, where floor to ceiling glass allow members to enjoy the panoramic views of the city's skyline.

Here, Tabbah incorporated sofas upholstered in dark shades of brown, armchairs with Ostrich leather and high barstools covered with Crocodile skin, all meshed together on a carpet with a pattern designed to reflect raindrops.

"Ninety-percent of the members here are gents, so I needed to provide a space - particularly in the lounge - that was very male orientated. "The lounge is more like a smoking area. The huge counter is made from onyx, edged with Ostrich leather. At night, the top of the bar glows in the dark and there are fibre optics across the base," said Tabbah.

"Another significant feature of this room is behind the bar. The World Trade Club may host events where having alcohol on display wouldn't be appropriate, so I designed these coloured panels, made from blown-glass, so that they can slide and neatly disguise bottles behind them."

Next door to the lounge is a restaurant simple in character and design, but with an unusual feature wall Tabbah created a dining space resembling the UAE.

"There wasn't a theme for the restaurant originally, so I was asked to find the character or the story for the space. So I came up with the name 'Seven-Sands' relating to the different coloured sands of the seven emirates."

"Everything is simple in here, in terms of the use of neutral colours. However, it's the feature wall that makes this room special. Seven different colors of sand are collected together to form an abstract composition of proportionate cuttings, inspired from Mondrian paintings," said Tabbah.

Following on from the Falcon Lounge and Seven Sands restaurant is the digitally controlled executive boardroom. Modern in its design, this room, blends seriousness with the informal.

A digital world clock display across the back wall shows the time of eight different time zones over the world by a digital LED green light. Electronic control is key to the boardroom's modern design.

"Everything in the room is controlled from a panel at the door. You can dim the lights, change the music, and adjust the air-conditioning settings from the touch-screen panel," said Tabbah.

Next door in the Club room, members are greeted with a completely different atmosphere, inspired by a mix of traditional French interiors and other European tastes.

The main element of the room is the floral detailing of the classical hand-made Aubusson carpet. A black crystal chandelier is a signature piece of the room, although in colouring is a contrast - without looking out of place it reflects the light against the gold leaf painted ceiling, and bold colour scheme used by Tabbah.

"The colours in here are a mixture of modern and classic fabrics - using striped silks as curtains, and floral, damask prints on sofas makes a statement in this room. Some people are often afraid to mix such bold colours and daring prints with each other but here, it all meshed so well together - it just works, especially with the use of antique gold and antique silver," he said.

Next, is the Pearl room - dedicated to sailors and pearl hunters, the space which, can be used for dining and small conferences is connected to the Club room and be joined together, for larger events.

"The colours used in here are very glamorous. Pearls were the obvious inspiration to set the concept of this room, a soft colour palette used to give the impression of the moon, and the tide," said Tabbah.

"Silk paneling is used across the entrance, and the carpet has an Arabian feel to its pattern, to remind ourselves of Arabian heritage. The chandelier, made up of singular lampshades all grouped together, creates a focal point against the gold leaf painted block of wood on the ceiling," he added.

Although designed to resemble a different continent, Chaddi's daring use of colours and prints in the Club room are also apparent in the Windsor room - it's concept, inspired by traditional English heritage.

"This is my favourite room," said Tabbah. "The focal point is the two paintings to the left and right - for me, they symbolise English heritage. To the right is the countryside, with horses, and a landscape painting on the left. I selected the pictures that I wanted and a local artist did it on a larger scale using oil paint."

"Gold leaf paint was used for the walls, and chairs, and due to the small size of the room I covered the ceiling with a mirror - brightening the room and giving the impression of more height," he added.

In an Asian Persian style, the inspiration for the Mogul Room next door came from the Taj Mahal, evident from the wooden arch paneling against the window.

The walls, are upholstered with printed silk sourced from India, and the ceiling printed with a mogul-style flower and Persian calligraphy - a love poem printed on the canvas.

"This room offers an exotic ambiance, boasting a dramatic painted ceiling with floral details laid on a golden background, the Mogul room also has an inter-connecting door to (the last room) the Majlis, and one can use the two rooms together," said Tabbah.

"The design was intended to recognise and celebrate the heritage of the history of Dubai through bold prints sourced from the old Bastakia in Dubai," he added.

In addition, the Majlis features four large wooden tables, which can be pushed together providing a low setting/eating concept.

Despite the many rooms, and many different concepts all woven together to create the World Trade Club, Tabbah claims that he was not faced with any technical challenges.

"When I design, I study it all together - I don't decide on a wall covering and a floor covering separately for example - I think in three-dimensional, when we draw, it is only two-dimensional. If you imagine how it's going to look the less mistakes arise. Because of this not one part of the design was altered, everything was perfect. I had time to think and design, nine-months in total, and one-year to implement," said Tabbah.

"If I had to name one challenge, for me the biggest was to mix all these styles and cultures together in one space, the modern, the classic, the English, the Asian - in an all-encompassing area."

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