This is the official blog of the Landmark Group with insights
and stories from the people behind our many brands.

Home Centre Makeover 1: Living Dream

Home Centre turned 15 this year, and as part of our birthday celebrations we gave away complete room makeovers worth AED 10,000 each to 15 lucky winners. In this series, we share five before-and-after experiences.

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Jesika and Aswin Menon are typical of young couples in Dubai: they're recently married, both work full-time and enjoy entertaining at home. They also enjoy living in a space that reflects their essence and lifestyle, but didn't have a clue of how to furnish or accessorize their new Oud Metha flat - so it was a dream come true for them to win a Home Centre room makeover as part of our 15th anniversary celebration giveaways.

Inspiration
As an artist, Aswin spends a lot of time at home in his studio above the lounge. Jesika conducts classes and hosts regular poetry and drama sessions in their apartment as well. Both of them love natural woods and earthy colours, and neither have owned a TV for the past several years. Seeing that they spent a lot of time at home, we wanted to create a relaxing, comfortable and functional space for them to lounge, dine and unwind in.

Before/After

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The airy living/dining area was basically an empty canvas since the couple had just moved in with little furniture of their own. To create a rustic, intimate atmosphere, Ann Hayward, our Senior Visual Merchandise Manager, took cues from a favourite solid-wood chair they own, and selected complementary furniture and accessories. The sofa and dining table were positioned to make optimal use of the space, and we hand-picked ceiling lights to add a dash of sophistication. We took an inspired last-minute decision to paint the walls, adding a welcome splash of warm colour to complete the look. Jesika and Aswin loved the lanterns and candles we added - the room really comes into its own at night, giving a Zen feeling of peace and relaxation.


Since we completed the makeover, the couple has shared their new space with several visitors, all of whom have been bowled over by the transformation. Jesika and Aswin themselves love the look so much that this room has become their favourite - they even considered sleeping on the sofa instead of in their bedroom!

Next up: a grateful son surprises his parents with a much-needed bedroom makeover!

A Thousand Words

My love of photography began when I was barely five years old. We were in Matheran, a hill station near Mumbai, and my father was carrying a black metal camera in a brown leather case slung around his neck. I kept jumping up to try and touch it.

The first time I actually took charge of a camera, though, was when I was eleven, on another family trip. It was a basic "Keystone USA" model - nothing fancy, just a cuboidal body with no detachable lens - but from the first shot, I was hooked.

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Photo Therapy
Photography is an intensely therapeutic experience for me. It adds to my enjoyment of travel - now I rarely see the world with bare eyes. Cameras top my list of cool gadgets (large, hooded zoom lenses remind me of The Guns of Navarone), and the clicking sound these DSLR cameras make is music to my ears.

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Learning Curve
Dubai's a pretty dusty place, which is problematic for shooting distant objects and landscapes. Also, sodium lights and dim lights make it more difficult to capture natural colours and flesh tones. I avoid using a flash, especially because it gives faces a ghostly, unnatural pallor. But as with all challenges, there are always solutions and workarounds that I keep learning along the way.

Tech Specs
I use a Nikon D90. It's a tried and trusted model, and carries most features that later (and considerably more expensive) models like the Nikon D300, D700 and D3X have. In the eternal Nikon vs Canon debate, I finally chose Nikon because most reviews indicated better low-light performance and better sensor quality.

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My Way
My shooting process is quite straightforward: evaluate the lighting, compose the frame, tune the settings and shoot. I review the picture for its frame and colour contrast, then readjust the settings if necessary.

Once I'm done, I don't retouch. I prefer capturing the moment with my own skills, which I'm working on improving before I consider getting into retouching and editing.

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Favourite Things
My favourite photographer is Ken Rockwell. I go to Digital Photography School for tutorials and tips.

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My dream is to have National Geographic magazine publish an original Jatin Mehta photograph! Favourite subjects include landscapes and cityscapes, and I've recently been experimenting with portraiture. Our six-month-old daughter gives me plenty of opportunities to practice portrait photography while spending time with my family - and who knows, maybe she'll be as fascinated by her dad's camera as I was by mine.

Do you have a hobby that's become a passion? Share it with us here!

These boots were meant for talkin'

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Delicate ballet flats in pastel hues. Outrageously high platform heels. Super-sexy stilettos or cut-out canvas sneakers: this year, let your feet do the walking and the talking.

Footwear fashion for the Autumn/Winter 2010-2011 season is all about making strong personal style statements. Boots are classic during winter months, and this year we're seeing embellishments like fur, laces, elaborate buckles and seductive spike heels. Thigh-highs look especially irresistible when paired with short dresses or mini-skirts and leggings. Flattering stilettos burst forth in bouquets of vivid fuchsia, red and black.

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If you prefer funky over sleek, cork and wedge heels remain popular, with platform shoes getting an extreme height boost. Look out for chunky moulded heels, grungy laser-cut designs and bold mixes of colour and texture.

Canvas prints are hot this season, as is denim; Victorian romanticism sees an unexpected revival in crochet, lace-accented and bejeweled creations in tan and coral hues.

Shoe Mart serves up this season's trends at attractive prices. Pick styles that speak your mind from our new collections:

  • Nature's Garden offers a gorgeous garden-party of shoes for the modern age;
  • Tribal recalls jungle chic with hints of primal influences; and
  • Nautical coasts the high seas of fashionable footwear with marine colours and aquatic nuances.




Expressing yourself through your shoes has never been easier - and you don't have to say a word. Go on, give your feet a mouth of their own

What do your favourite shoes say about you? Share it with us here!

New Year, Fresh Start

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End-of-year festivities can be tons of fun for the spirit, but wreak havoc on the body. Are stored-up toxins having a party of their own inside you? Gift yourself a little extra care this New Year with the detox regimen at Spaces Salon & Spa. Our personal pick is the Relax, Cleanse and Revitalize trio.


Relax: Moroccan Bath
Our bodies can efficiently expel toxins through the pores of the skin. To boost this process, we recommend our Moroccan Bath. Moroccan.jpgKnown in Arabic simply as hammam, the Moroccan Bath is a relaxing indulgence for women as well as men. Traditional Moroccan black soap hydrates and nourishes the skin in a steam bath; this is followed by an invigorating loofah exfoliation and another soap massage before finishing with a final mask.

How it helps:

  • Improves skin elasticity and clarity
  • Balances oil secretion; controls acne
  • Refines skin texture by removing layers of dead skin
  • Rehydrates skin; soothes redness and flakiness


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Cleanse: Micro Dermabrasion & Rejuvenating Facial
A face that's been repeatedly experimented upon with layers of makeup deserves a special treat. Micro Dermabrasion is a professional treatment that uses a safe, pressurised steam of minute crystals to gently exfoliate the upper layer of dead skin cells; our version is topped with a Rejuvenating Facial massage, customized especially for your skin type.

How it helps:

  • Leaves skin with a fresh glow
  • Reduces the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, enlarged pores and coarse-textured skin
  • Facilitates the penetration of high-tech skin care products into deeper layers of the skin
  • Builds collagen, which keeps skin looking young


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Revitalise: Foot Reflexology
If too much high-heeled dancing has your feet aching, a Foot Reflexology massage will energize not just your feet, but your entire body. The reflexology technique includes an "inchworm" movement of the thumb and fingers across the foot as well as localized pressure on specific areas. Invigorating menthol oil and soothing lotions are used liberally to soften hard, calloused skin.

How it helps:

  • Relieves tired feet
  • Eases aches and pains
  • Improves circulation

Here's to a relaxed and happy new year for all the senses!


What are your favourite ways of rejuvenating your body after a hectic holiday season?

Wisdom of old: start when you're young

"Study hard until you're 25 - what you learn during this time will help you earn until you're 60. Work hard until you're 60 - what you earn during this time will help you save for your retired life until you're 90!"

My father shared those words of wisdom with me when I was young. It's easy to understand why most young workers don't think much about retirement, though - 20-somethings are usually more concerned with kick-starting their careers, not ending them in the distant future.

If you're smart, you'll grab the opportunity to start saving early for retirement, when the beauty of compound interest can work its magic and maximize your savings. Consider this scenario: If you start saving for retirement at 25, putting away AED 6,000 a year (that's AED 500 a month) for 35 years, you'll end up with about AED 1 million when you retire (assuming earnings grow at 7.5% annually). If you wait until you're 35, you've got just 25 years until retirement to put that same AED 6,000 a year to work for you - so at the same annual growth rate, you get around AED 450,000 when you retire - less than half the money!

"Forget investment - I'm barely out of credit card debt!"
Before you start investing, get yourself out of the red. Credit cards can be a great financial tool if managed properly, but you pay more interest on credit cards than you'll ever earn on investments. All credit card companies earn profits, pay staff salaries and bonuses and offer attractive cash-back incentives to customers from the money they make on late payment fees and interest - so make it a point to pay your credit card's complete outstanding amount by the due date.

investment-pyramid.jpgWider is better
Investment types perform differently under dynamic market conditions, so it's important that you have a wide variety. Known as diversification, owning different types of investments help reduce your risk, and potentially increase returns within your portfolio.

Your investment mix could include investments from each level of this pyramid. The amount at each level depends on your personal situation and level of risk tolerance. Remember this golden rule: always start from the base of the pyramid and move up.

Although you might have limited investible surplus early on in your career, age is on your side. Be regular and systematic in your investment pattern, and you're sure to retire wealthy. My father's advice hasn't failed me yet!

Have any good investment tips that family or friends shared with you? Feel free to pass them along here!

Have Harley, Will Travel

As the CEO of international beauty store Beautybay and a Harley Davidson aficionado, Shuja Jashanmal has it clear: there is a passion for your life, and a passion for your soul. I talk to him about the latter.

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What fascinates you about motorbikes?
Our innate desire to travel, to be surrounded by the openness of the landscape and expanse of beauty around us. Man has been travelling since our earliest times - on horseback for most of our history, and, more recently, on motorbikes. The urge to travel is more pronounced in some individuals, though, and I think I'm one of them. Motorbikes for me are "steel horses".

Do you remember your first experience behind handlebars?
It was exhilarating! I was eight years old when I got a small tricycle. I rode over sand dunes near our house, much to the applause of my father and a look of absolute shock and dismay from my mother. It was my first taste of independence, of being in control of another entity all by myself. I was instantly hooked.

What's your current set of wheels?
The Harley Davidson Ultra Glide Limited.

What's your dream bike?
The Harley Davidson Screamin' Eagle Ultra Glide. It's as good as they'll ever get.

Cruiser? Or street racer?
Always a cruiser.

Dream road trip?
That'd have to be the infamous Route 66 - Chicago to Santa Monica Beach, California. Fortunes have been made and lost on this highway. Towns have come and gone. Rock stars and Hollywood celebrities have been discovered. Drive-in food chains have been founded... the list goes on. This is the Mother of all Roads and the first national highway ever created. It's the blue print of every nation's road and transport infrastructure today, and I'd absolutely love to ride it.

Are you a lone ranger or a pack wolf?
A Lone Ranger all the way, baby! I ride Harleys for me.

How do people react when they find out you're a corporate manager?
Adults that get it smile knowingly. Those that don't get it ask silly questions, which I generally ignore. But it's the kids that get a real thrill. I like telling them that you can have two passions: one for your life, and one for your soul. For me, riding Harleys is food for my soul.

Do you have any advice for those starting their own love affair with Harleys?
Make sure you're getting into it for yourself, and not because it's cool or a fad. It's an expensive love affair that will last you for life. If it's your heart's desire, then every penny is worth it. RIDE ON.

What's your passion for the soul? Share it with us here!

Holiday Gadgetry

I love my electronics. Working for Emax sure has its benefits - I get first dibs on some of the best gadgets on the market today. Here's what's on my personal wishlist this holiday season:

Micromax Bling Q55

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Highlights:

  • Unique square shape
  • Dual GSM feature
  • Elegant, feminine styling
  • Great value

I've been looking for a functional phone that also makes a style statement, and this one clearly stands out from the rest. It's sideways-sliding square design was an instant hit with me, and ladies will love its three elegant Swarovski crystal buttons. Apart from all the expected goodies, this phone's dual GSM feature will let me use just one phone for my two GSM cards. Not only is this phone a great value from the get-go, but through Emax's "cash for mobile" offer you can save even more.

HP G62 Laptop

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Highlights:

  • 15.6 inch laptop
  • 2.13 GHZ Intel card
  • Windows 7
  • Built-in HP webcam & microphone
  • 3 USB ports

Emax made it easy to spot my perfect laptop. I love how easy it is to use the HP G62's keyboard, and the fact that the keys don't make that annoying clackety sound when pressed. The specifications suit me fine, and the laptop is slick in all-black, which is my favourite colour.

Remington CS3000 "Ceramic" Hair Straightener

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Highlights:

  • Fast, high heat-up
  • Ceramic plates

I trust the quality of the Remington brand, and am sure this this hair straightener will live up to the mark. What's more, the ceramic plates of this model will help to protect my hair from heat damage.

Remington D3701 Dual Turbo Hairdryer

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Highlights:

  • 3 temperature settings
  • 2 airflow settings

This hairdryer won't just dry my hair quickly - its temperature settings will allow me to control the amount of heat so I don't damage my hair.



iPod Nano Touch: 6th Generation (8/16 GB)

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Highlights:

  • Light, portable & colourful
  • High resolution multi-touch screen
  • Shake to Shuffle feature
  • Built-in radio

I go cycling every evening, and have been wanting an iPod that's small, light and easy to carry around. The new iPod Nano Touch is half the size of its predecessor, available in a range of juicy colours and features a hi-res multi-touch screen that will let me manage my music with a swipe of my finger. The neat Shake to Shuffle option would be handy when I don't feel like choosing music. I could simply clip this new toy on my shirt, hop on my bicycle and go for a ride with my favourite songs.

GE Microwave: PEB2060DMWW

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Highlights:

  • One-touch cooking make operation easy and fast
  • Easy adjustment of time and temperature

Emax has a range of microwaves for everyone from the novice to the expert cook. I'm not the kind of person who likes cooking or spending time in the kitchen, so I'm gunning for this uncomplicated model - it'll prepare my food quickly and simply, just the way I like it.



If anyone's looking to buy me the perfect gift this holiday, you know what to get!
Are you a gadget geek too? Tell us which ones you covet this season.


'Tis the Season 3: Festive Fragrances

Olfaction is perhaps the most underrated - and yet most powerful - of our senses, stirring up everything from forgotten memories to pangs of hunger. This season at Lifestyle, we've got a nose for festive fragrances that put us in a merry mood.

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Our exclusive snowflake-accented Colony scented candles and Santa- or Snowman-shaped diffusers are a great way to spread a bit of warm-and-fuzzy through your home. If you're having a tough time choosing between our popular Hollyberry, Winter Berries, Sparkling Snowflake and Gold or Frankincense & Myrrh scents, why not pick up a few of each - you can alternate between scents on different days (how about Winter Berries on Wednesdays? Frankincense Fridays?), or assign them to various parts of the house, creating specific scent profiles for every room. They make great holiday gifts and stocking stuffers, too.

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Clear glass candle-holders of varying heights are a great way to present your scent - you could arrange them on the mantelpiece or side table along with holiday cards and family photographs. For a bit of dining room pizzazz, try our silver or crystal candle holders atop a purple or maroon Adore table runner, with placemats to match.

DIY scents
Add a few drops of a natural essential oil (sweet orange, vanilla bean and cinnamon are traditional) to a misting bottle with water, and spray it around the house for a quick pick-me-up. Stud whole oranges with cloves as a fragrant addition to your table centrepiece, or add them to an aromatic holiday gift basket. Homemade potpourri is another wonderful way to create a warm and welcoming mood.

Fresh for the family
The smell of freshly-baked cookies is another scent that's traditionally associated with the holiday season. Throw a batch in the oven (kids most willingly help lick the batter bowl clean) and serve the results with milk and a read-out-loud session of Christmas stories.

What's your favourite scent this holiday season?

'Tis the Season 2: Bright Ideas

From the cheerful to the contemplative, thoughtful lighting instantly invokes the festive spirit.
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  • Liven up dark corners with Q Home Décor's stylish Designo chandeliers, metallic silver Hollywood floor lamps and dark-pink Vestavia table lamps, which give the room a mood makeover at the flip of a switch.
  • Small changes in light bulbs make a big difference - save the bright ones for shaving in the bathroom, and try soft yellow or warm white lights in the bedroom for a cosy atmosphere.
  • Use seasonal candles to create customized centrepieces: arrange pillar candles of different heights together for a traditional tabletop look, or place single tall floor candles sparsely around the house for a more minimalist display.
  • Strings of twinkly lights draped around the house are the easiest way to bring holiday cheer. Colour-coordinate them to match your Christmas tree ornaments, and loosely wrap rainbow-coloured ones around banisters and patio railings for a burst of festivity. Power-saving LEDs are a smart choice - they create dazzling displays that don't drain energy or generate much heat, making them much less of a fire hazard.

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Safety First
Make your holiday a safe one for the whole family: place candles clear of obstructions and out of the reach of children; be sure to turn them off before you leave the house. Check holiday lights for frayed wires and gaps in the insulation, and don't overload electrical sockets. Loose cords can be tripped over - use masking tape to secure them without damaging the paint on your walls. 

A spot of glimmer
Strategically-placed decorative mirrors make the most of natural sunlight, adding a festive sparkle in the daytime. Lace curtains help make small spaces look bigger, keeping out glare while letting in light. And we love how our elegant silver and copper statues and metallic candle-holders lend holiday shimmer with a touch of old-world class.

What are you doing this holiday season to bring a bit of shine into your home?

'Tis the Season 1: Deck the Halls

December heralds festive cheer - and here at Home Centre, we love finding easy ways of expressing it. If you enjoy having a Christmas tree, choose one that's in keeping with the style of your home. Pick from real or synthetic, upside-down or miniature, traditional green, red and gold, or an über-cool all-black.

A tree decorated entirely in glass - or even metal - may well suit a minimalist interior; we also recommend blue and silver as a contemporary colour scheme. For an old-fashioned family Christmas, look to red, burgundy, purple, chartreuse and gold. Hand-made ornaments - especially when the kids get involved - add an extra-special touch.


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Dining-room decor
Colourful Christmas-themed disposable napkins brighten up the dining table for children. For more formal holiday meals, jingle all the way with a coordinated theme or colour scheme. Add festive touches to place settings with a small Christmas party favour or elegant napkin rings from Home Centre.

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A vase of flowers in festive colours, potted poinsettias or a miniature conifer make joyful and easy table centrepieces. For a more elaborate display, lay a wreath flat and intersperse it with our pillar candles or tealights.

If your chandelier can hold the weight, use satin ribbon to hang pretty baubles or delicate snowflake cut-outs at different heights. This adds festive flair, and eliminates the need for a centrepiece.

Seasonal suggestions
Transform your house into a holiday home with these simple ideas:

  • Give ordinary candles a holiday makeover with red ribbon and a dash of glitter.
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  • Attach silk flowers, like poinsettias, to existing flower arrangements or house plants. Decorate big indoor plants with a shower of lights or colourful (and energy-saving) LED lighting.
  • Dress up your patio table with a themed table cloth or table runner.
  • Swap everyday throw pillows on your sofa or bed with seasonally-themed cushions; our Christmas bedspread and curtains will keep visions of sugarplums dancing in your head.
  • As a Yuletide treat, decorate windows with garlands dressed up with shiny baubles or Christmas trinkets. Kids will love making cut-outs of snowflakes or stars to add to the windows.

What are you doing this season to decorate your home? Share your ideas with us here!