Lesley Zaal is the co-founder of the interior design company Etcetera Living and the wife of Zaal Mohammed Zaal, the chairman of the family-run luxury property company Al Barari. The family’s latest venture is the restaurant The Farm, which opened in Dubai’s Al Barari residential development last month.
If you could wake up anywhere else in the world tomorrow, where would it be?
Kamalaya in Koh Samui, Thailand. It’s the perfect place to relax and detox and just “be”. It has a truly magical effect on me and my husband. The spa treatments are amazing, the location is stunning and the food is out of this world but also super healthy. A perfect paradise.
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How would you arrive?
If such a thing were possible I would like to be teleported there! I used to watch a lot of Star Trek…
You’re sitting down to the perfect dinner. What are you eating, where are you dining and who is with you?
Dinner would be with my husband and it would definitely have fish as one of the courses, with a decadent dark chocolate dessert. There are so many amazing restaurants both at home and abroad but my most recent perfect dinner was at Gordon Ramsay’s Petrus in Knightsbridge, London. Wonderful food and a great service and ambience.
Which building or property has most inspired you?
From an architectural point of view, the Burj Al Arab never ceases to impress. Interiors-wise, to go into historic houses and see the furniture and old silk wallpapers still there after hundreds of years is truly awe inspiring.
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If you built your own home, where would it be and what it would look like?
I would love to build something on a cliff top overlooking the ocean – anywhere in the world. The house would be quite simple in design with lots of huge windows to let the light flood in and to take advantage of the views. To wake up to that kind of view every morning would be my dream.
Are you a collector?
I’m not a collector as such, but I do tend to buy pieces of furniture or accessories wherever I go. I think that I will use them for a client, but nine times out of 10 I can’t bear to part with them. My favourite thing is to go to antiques fairs in Europe picking up solid pieces of furniture which never date and go perfectly with both traditional and contemporary design. Having said that, furniture from the 1920s has to be my all time favourite: clean lines and a simplicity that never dates.
Who is your designer of choice?
In terms of interiors, Philippe Starck. He has designed some iconic pieces of furniture which will stand the test of time. Clothes can only be Donna Karan. Again, timeless pieces. I have dresses from 1996 which still come out of the wardrobe for black-tie events and always look amazing. Money well spent.
What was your first major purchase?
I don’t remember what I bought with my first pay cheque but I do remember what I considered my most expensive present to myself: a pair of perfect but tiny diamond stud earrings from a jeweller in Sloane Street in London in 1977. That was a defining moment for me: I had grown up and was taking care of myself.
Which grooming product or treatment do you swear by?
Environ Derma-Lac lotion. It makes my skin super soft.
How do you relax?
I do an hour of yoga every day (except Friday) and I read a lot.
What is your most treasured possession?
My giant box of family photos. If I lost that I would be devastated.
Do you have an essential gadget or accessory?
My iPad and iPhone. How did we ever live without them?
What is the most overrated luxury?
Honestly, for me, yachts that cost millions seem a terrible waste of money. I know that they are coveted by most men, but I just don’t understand the passion. It could be something to do with the fact that I get seasick.
Do you have a favourite shop or shopping district?
I love St Germain and Le Marais in Paris for all the cool furniture and clothes shops.
Where is the best service you have ever experienced?
Without a doubt, The Oriental in Bangkok. Service is always impeccable and I love the way that the lift operator never forgets your name. They really make you feel as if you are the single most important person in the world.
In terms of quality or longevity of use, what has been your smartest purchase?
Fashion wise, my Donna Karan clothes. For furniture, my Vi-spring bed. I bought it six years ago and it is possibly the best investment I’ve ever made.