Petal pusher: Hannah Carter Owers

The co-director of Universal Design Studio welcomes id to Fine Blooms Dubai.

“A flower blossoms for its own joy,” said Oscar Wilde. Embracing the beauty and power of the beloved petal in Dubai, Universal Design Studio – co-directed by Hannah Carter Owers and Jason Holley – recently revealed its new florist concept store in Box Park.

Hannah Carter-Owers credit Alisa Connan

Visitors are greeted with lush, seasonal plants and foliage marking the entrance, exquisite floral centrepieces are visible even from the street, while bespoke monochrome enamel planters line the store windows.

Inside, the refined 111-square metre space is a bold departure from a traditional store, with clean lines and thoughtful composition. It’s divided between a minimal back of house, in which most of the flower assembly takes place out of view, and a refined gallery-style shop floor where the customer is presented with a final floral arrangement.

The small scale was a bit of a departure for Universal Design, which made it even more coveted by the firm. “This project is a gem,” says Carter Owers. “It’s far smaller in size than most of our current work [which includes large hotels, retail malls and big workspaces] but it contains a huge amount of detail and design consideration.”

The duo’s recent projects include a redevelopment of a mall in Canberra in Australia for QICGRE, Frieze London Art Fair and the At Six Hotel in Stockholm.

Fine Blooms, designed by Universal Design Studio Credit Musthafa Aboobacker

Carter Owers explains how she prepared for this special project: “As a London-based studio it was important for us to first understand the culture around buying flowers in Dubai, which is really quite different from back home in the UK. We are more casual about it, whereas in Dubai we understand there is much more ceremony to the occasion of buying flowers; they are a luxury item and the arrangements are far more crafted and exquisite. So, from the beginning we knew this boutique would be unlike anything we have back home. We made a field trip to the region early on to check out what other florists were doing, and also to spend time in the desert getting a feel for the local nature, as we wanted the store to feel connected to its environment.”

Their attention to detail resulted in many challenges. “For such a small store, we had many hands at work,” says Carter Owers. “We collaborated with London-based Matter of Stuff on the undulating wall and enamel planters with London Mouldmakers on the sculptural counter, local artists Talin Hazbar and Latifa Saeed on a ceramic installation, and Emirati initiative FBMI on textiles. It all makes for a rich and detailed interior – but it did mean lots of coordination for our team. However, everyone involved was a pleasure to work with.”

This also resulted in some surprising design elements: “The huge bespoke refrigerator is made from polished stainless steel and textured glass! To us Londoners, the need for a refrigerator in a flower shop was a surprise at first!”

VIP appointments can be arranged within a private consultation space, which is partitioned from the main shop floor and backed with a curved screen of recycled leather to soften acoustics and create a sense of enclosure.

And although the level of detail makes it nearly impossible to choose, Carter Owers tried her best to find just one favourite design element to share with us. “We worked with lots of fantastic craftspeople and artists to bring the store design to life, so it is hard to pick just one element. I do love the undulating exposed aggregate wall in sandy tones, that runs the full length of the store and acts as a showcase for a collection of vases and glassware, and which was inspired by our team’s visit to the desert.” We look forward to seeing the duo’s next project blossom.