So entering the quirky meets urban lobby of Zabeel House by Jumeirah, The Greens for the first time brings a refreshing surprise.
Concrete instead of Italian-sourced stonework is a favoured surface while funky vintage phones and papier-mache Dachshunds are part of a collection of random items adorning shelves.
It’s busy minimalism, if you will. Here and elsewhere, playful artwork, murals and ornaments fill spaces at floor and eye level to have you reaching for your smartphone.
This ‘neighbourhood gathering spot’ is also where breakfast is served – and a commendable hotel-wise anti-plastic water bottle policy promotes the message “more fish, less plastic”.
There’s another missive embossed inside cereal bowls, designed to set you up for the morning and beyond: “Make today amazing”.
Certainly these on-trend Dubai digs will assist with that – not least the accommodation.
In our Popular Room, a largely black and white palette was softened by a plush padded bed headrest, natty rug and trendy seating - all watched over by a shiny pink ceramic monkey.
This fun and funky styling continues even in the corridor, again defying basic functionality to provide a visual treat. Leaving the black, wood paneled lifts you’re faced with individual wall plant displays and a Scrabble-inspired room number guide.
Other communal areas present everything from somewhere travellers can leave each other notes to a mix of framed art showing unconventional sketches.
Alongside a wide range of state-of-the-art exercise equipment, interior designers have again been at work on the decor, including rocking chairs demanding their own Instagram moment.
Outside is an expansive fourth floor ‘rooftop’ area that includes an al fresco screen for sports and a short sprint track and climbing area.
It’s also where you’ll find LAH LAH, a cool new bar and contemporary pan Asian restaurant that serves great food in a street-style setting.
The menu takes its cue from across Southeast Asia’s cuisines, and delivers an unfussy format that suits the venue’s urban design.
This includes generous outdoor seating beside a decent size family-friendly pool area with plenty of sunbathing options; from old school deckchairs and hammock seats to wooden cabanas and funky coloured loungers.
LAH LAH is worth the trip alone and is already proving something of a social hub for residents of The Greens, previously lacking ‘a local’ without crossing over to Barsha Heights (Tecom) for an evening with adult refreshments.
Elsewhere, often-simplistic design is countered by elements that appear bold or even daring. Writing on the lift mirrors asks occupants: “What’s the idea?”
It’s one of many questions, quotes and phrases that pop up on everything from walls to shower panels in a property that often commands an snapshot or a smile.
Zabel House feels more California savvy than hotel tacked onto a mostly residential area in Dubai.
Then closer inspection reveals there’s actually a huge attention to detail - and a lot more going on than casual glance would have you believe.
That said, the hotel doesn’t necessarily want guests to stick around – it offers complimentary bikes for guests to explore the area’s lake and gardens and "what actual residents of the neighbourhood enjoy on a daily basis", according to General Manager Luke James.
“This is the direction I see many guests looking for when they travel. I guess you call it fully embracing the area where they are staying.”
Luke says the early days of the property have seen it drawing a mix of clientele. “Given our location we are welcoming many corporate guests, attracted by our proximity to Media and Internet City, but also the Greens neighbourhood.”
This follows pre-opening focus groups and hard hat tours, establishing what people wanted from a “neighbourhood hotel”.
“I have implemented these ideas and hence they have bought into the hotel from the start,” adds Luke. “Anything from dog friendly cafes to when happy hours should be and what we should offer through to fitness classes, kids club, even what should be on the menus. This has gone a long way to ensuring they truly feel involved.”
It’s fair to say, Zabeel House isn't your usual Jumeirah offering. Or that the curious details defining it’s interior – in stark contrast to the cooker cutter office block exterior – are at the expense of comfort.
Zabel House presents an invigorating and winning template readily adaptable to any city, but for now it is a Dubai first well worth discovering.
FIND Zabeel House by Jumeirah, The Greens at The Onyx Tower 3, Sheikh Zayed Road.
A ONE-night stay for two people in a Popular Room, costs from AED300 (excl taxes, fees, breakfast), based on April 20 booking.
FOR reservations call 04-519-1111 or visit www.zabeelhouse.com