Salalah Facilities, the owners of a number of food and beverage venues throughout the UAE, aimed to create a new beach lounge that opened directly to the Arabian Gulf.
The design team, helmed by Fady Chams, managing director of Prospect Design International, looked to maintain a white and simple interior inspired by nature’s whimsical beauty. Aptly named Cove Beach, the new location is a off-the-path nook located directly on the sand, hidden between Jumeirah Beach hotel and the Burj Al Arab.
“When we sat down with the owners, the idea was to create something different than what you could find in Dubai. It was to create a beach restaurant directly on the sand, and this was the perfect location to do it,” explains Chams.
“The challenge was to fit everything on this small plot of land, which is naturally shaped. You have the marina on one side and the public beach on the other. So we started with the interior design concept, which was the distribution layout, and then after it was finalised, we approached an independent architect to work out the structure.”
Being able to work on the project’s layout before the architect was a massive advantage to the designers and client. It allowed the team the chance to create exactly what they wanted, without structural restrictions.
“It made our lives easier and the client was able to get what he wanted. We were able to translate what the clients wanted into a reality and the architect came and created the structure. It think it’s every designer’s dream, actually,” explains Chams.
Upon entering the low-roofed Cove Beach, one is immediately welcomed by white, soft hues and natural materials like timber and seashell. The entrance houses the dressing rooms as well as a shop for beachwear. The narrow entrance hall leads visitors to the restaurant, which follows a square shape enlarged by openness to the outside. Timber screens that display ocean-inspired patterns add context to the width of the room, while a long catwalk in the centre provides a sense of length.
At the front of the restaurant is a bar, lit up from above by wooden light pendants from Secto Design. Behind it, a horizontal mirror is hung on the wall that reflects the beach view to those sitting. Facing the bar are blue cushioned seats that display soft, geometric shapes.
“My inspiration was Greece,” recounts Chams. “My wife is Greek and we go there every summer. I love it because everything is white there and it’s part of the architecture. Even though here it’s modern, you have the touch of blue in the towels, the bar seats, the pillows and then everything else is whitewashed walnut wood.
“It’s quite simple, even though it was very complicated to design until the very end. But again, it looks very simple and that’s what we wanted to achieve. We wanted to insist on the view as opposed to a loud design.”
Cove Beach is thoroughly designed from floor to ceiling. Above the catwalk is one of the space’s main design features: a series of organically shaped lights that encourage the direction toward the water.
Chams says: “We have skylights that let the natural light come through the ceiling. We were able to create this because we participated in the design from the beginning and before the architecture was developed. The others like the spotlights and the recessed lighting—all the lighting, actually—can be changed easily.
“There’s no particular reason for the shape of the lighting feature. But we did want to round things out a bit, because so much of the layout has sharp angles. It continues the direction of the catwalk toward the sea.”
While the restaurant’s chairs were supplied by Dedon, the tables and booth seating were designed by Prospect Design International. The tables are polished white wood with veneer inserts to add a bit of contrast.
Decorating the booth seating are pillows by Deny Designs that display ocean imagery, like crashing waves and washed up pebbles. White, pearl and turquoise blue, inspired by the window shutters in Greece, complete the colour range.
The restaurant’s main design feature is the 4.5m height open windows located at the backend of the restaurant. Left open during the cooler months, the open windows encourage a connection with the outdoors.
With the entire backside open, the restaurant connects with the desert and water just beyond its boundaries. Nothing divides the interior from the exterior, allowing visitors to easily traverse the two planes.
“We want people to feel that they are always outside, even during the summer months when it’s very hot outside,” says Chams. “The windows are all glass, so even when closed you have this feeling of being directly on the beach. And in the winter, when you’re sitting inside, the windows are open and the air is fresh from the outside.”
Beyond the main restaurant space, Cove Beach includes a rooftop, a pool, a Rose Bar off to the side and its private beach seating. While the rooftop continues the main design theme, the Rose Bar adds a touch of quirk to the overall layout.
Located outdoors off to the side of the restaurant, the Rose Bar is decorated by plush bougainvillea planted on top that drapes along the façade. The designers photographed the wild flowers and had the image blown up by tile designer DG Mosaic. The image of the bougainvillea was then used to adorn the façade of the Rose Bar, which is backlit at night.
“In the Mediterranean countries, you have the bougainvillea everywhere, so we started with that ontop of the Rose Bar since you can see it from the rooftop lounge. We filled it with the flower so it will later drop down along the sides. It’s always very simple ideas—we’re trying to use something that already exists, transform it and make it look good.”
While Pedrali chairs, barstools and tables fill the Rose Bar area, customised beach seating was designed by Prospect Design International and outsourced for manufacturing. Sleek and contemporary outdoor showers by Myyour continue the modern approach to the classic Mediterranean feel of Cove Beach.
According to Chams, the main challenge for the project was the basic fact of building directly on the beach due to the natural restrictions of constructing near water.
He says: “The challenge is that first of all, you’re on the beach—there’s a low tide and a high tide. Also, you have restrictions from the municipality concerning where you can build and how far you can go with any kind of construction. Like the elevated platform for the Rose Bar. So you have restrictions from the municipality as well as the natural challenges, like when you dig in the sand, you have to dewater the land—it’s pure construction challenges.
“But at the end of the day, it’s the fact that you could be sitting at the beach and walk up to the restaurant holding your sandals—it breaks that high-end feel that everyone has here. You can sit and have a nice lunch, and not worry about anything.”
This article was originally published in Commercial Interior Design magazine in July 2015. Photo credit: Prospect Design International.