Designing with the stars: Celeb architect Tony Ashai recruited for Dubai
But trying to get the architect to name the stars who live in Ashai-designed abodes is like trying to get past the Jolie-Pitts’ front gate.
“The reason people hire me and work with me is because they know ‘Tony is going to be very discreet’ about their life… because when you are designing for a celebrity or multi-millionaire VIP, the most important thing is privacy,” he explained.
“I really have to dig in to see how many dresses a star has, how many shoes she has, how big a closet she needs. This is what I used to do in Los Angeles… I used to make an inventory of how many hats so I can plan how many shelves to put in for them.”
The Californian designer is now taking a break from working with celebs and is teaming up with Dubai-based Orion Holdings, a private-owned residential and commercial property group, to design projects in Jumeirah Village Circle and Dubai Silicon Oasis. Speaking to 7DAYS about working in Dubai, he revealed
his pet hates with designs in the emirate, with one in particular that caught his eye. “I saw this L-shaped building with an amazing view of the ocean. But all the apartments are facing the other side. The lift and corridor face the view! What the hell was the guy thinking when he was designing this place?”
Ashai asserted the need for designers to think about how residents are actually going to live in the homes.
“When you design a home, you think it through to the point where you even figure where the resident’s underwear and socks are going to go,” he said. Ashai, who led the design for Dubai Lifestyle City, is also behind projects such as the scrapped Tiger Woods Golf Resort and the under-construction Shah Rukh Khan Boulevard in Ras Al Khaimah.
Commenting on the Woods project, he said: “Unfortunately it went bust, but I’m hoping
one day they’ll start again. It would have been incredible. The villas would have been top of the line - higher than Emirates Hills or anything else.”
Although Ashai would not reveal which celebs he works with, he did let slip what the insides of some of the homes look like. “Man caves are a huge thing in LA now – anybody who’s anybody wants one,” he said. “It’s just an area in the house for a man and his male friends to go crazy.”
Ashai said the ‘caves’ boast everything from private grottos and waterfalls to games rooms, huge TVs,
bowling alleys and moving walls that open to reveal wine cellars. The Beverly Hills architect also shared his designs for “a very famous director who was being stalked”.
“He was paranoid that someday someone is going to break into his house and kidnap his children. So I designed this house with a secret door in his bedroom, leading to a secret corridor that connects to his children’s rooms through secret doors as well.”
Let’s hope some of these inventive ideas make it to Dubai soon.