About the project
Housed on the ground floor of the headquarters of ARM Holding on Al Wasl Road, Al Safa, The Grey was created to serve not just their executives and guests but an exclusive local clientele who are connoisseurs of quality and contemporary design. As such, the client’s brief was for the space to reflect not just the context of the building as a hub for business activity and exchange, but also to be refined and engaging in order to maximise social interaction and extend the duration of guest visits. Boutique interiors and product design agency, XO Atelier, completed The Grey, a restaurant, café and lounge in Dubai, using bespoke art and design, and a contrasting monochromatic colour palette to create an interplay of light and shadow, expressing the transition from day to night between the sun and the moon. The design anchor is a powerful art piece, a rippling metal orb titled ‘Dune’, which is a three-dimensional replication of a sand dune designed by the agency’s Creative Director, Vera Dieckmann. This same reflective material is used on the ceiling, reflecting the landscape of the desert and was made using a scan of the dunes in Sharjah.
Modern, clean and contemporary, the design narrative throughout The Grey is expressed across a range of contrasting materials, bespoke commissions and sculptural artwork, playing with textures, tones and transitions. The café lounge’s sleek, grey terrazzo bar is complemented by a soft grey oak floor by Kahrs and Kvadrat upholstery, creating not just texture and tone but a softly masculine look.
The artisanal skills of a glass manufacturer in Hong Kong were employed to develop an ombre-gradient, mirrored glass, and the artwork was commissioned to a local graffiti artist, Colortek, to seamlessly take the wall from white to black, a distinctive contemporary element which subtly changes with the lighting and mood of the space.
“Essential to all our design concepts is a sense of place and context, and to create a sense of difference and subtle wonder, without overpowering,” says Vera. “That’s why we love to innovate and push product design boundaries, often commissioning from our practice’s little black book of incredible artisans, ateliers and workshops.”
In signature XO Atelier style, the design concept of the café lounge places a strong emphasis on creative lighting design to elevate the experience of the space. The designers worked in close cooperation with a global lighting brand. Particularly striking are the delicate iconic wall lights designed by the late visionary and highly collectable designer Charlotte Perriand (1903-1999).
The Grey’s spatial planning is intelligent and purposeful, establishing a sophisticated mood and intuitive flow from the entrance through to the space’s variety of seating options, which are a combination of sculptural and modular furniture pieces, as well as handcrafted pieces commissioned from artisanal workshops in the UAE and Asia. Other areas include a high, open bar counter in the centre of the space for a quick fuss-free coffee and to give guests the chance to interact, study and observe, a dining space for more leisurely meetings, and a lounge-style setting towards the garden.