Pallavi Dean’s furniture collection is an exploration of cultural ‘tension’ and balance

Pallavi Dean, design director at Pallavi Dean Interiors will be launching her very first furniture collection, since heading her own interior design firm. The collection, entitled Tension, will be shown for the first time during Downtown Design, as part of the second edition of Dubai Design Week.

Bell chair, Svagata vertical console and matching pouf

Tension is physical expression of the three cultures that have shaped Dean as a person and a designer: Indian, Emirati and British, with symbolism, materials and color palettes referencing each of these three cultures.

‘This collection answers a profound question I’ve been asking myself for years: ‘who am I?’ I’m Indian but never lived in India; the UAE is home but I’ll never be Emirati; my family’s British but at Heathrow I have to stand in a separate queue,” Dean explains.

Svagata console

“Thankfully, as I get older, I’m coming to terms with this. Whereas I used to get really negative and angry, now I see it in a much more positive light – how lucky I am to have this rich, vibrant, diverse background.”


She explains that cultural tension is giving way to cultural balance, which is where the final piece in the collection gets its name and inspiration.

Svagata pouf

In addition to a chair, a vertical console and matching pouf as well as lighting pieces, Dean has created an exclusive piece that will only be unveiled at Downtown on Tuesday, 25 October.

The first piece in the Tension collection is the Bell chair, a semi-formal task chair, designed to inspire moments of deep concentration, thought and creativity. The base of the chair is modelled on the Indian prayer bell (Ghanta in Hindi/Sanskrik) and the ‘OM’ sound that the bell produces, heralds the beginning of prayer or meditation.

Svagata pouf

Created in collaboration with Stellar Works of Shaghai, the top half of the chair fuses Emirati camel leather with British sheepskin. Rose gold accents cover the base of the chair, a nod to Dubai’ heritage with a subtler and a European twist of using rose gold rather than 24-carat yellow gold.

The materials Dean has chosen pay homage to the various cultures that she identifies with, but the designer explains that her choices go beyond that.

Candle holder

“The stories and rituals that inspired the pieces are all stolen from one background or another. Take the upright console Svagata or ‘welcome’ in Sanskrit. It’s a modern take on the traditional reception given to visitors in an Indian home, with a thali (plate) to burn incense and a candle holder for burning small diyas (flames),” Dean explains.

“It’s also a blatant status symbol, making a bold statement the moment guests walk through the door. This idea became fashionable in British entrance halls in the 18th century, when the newly-minted millionaires of the industrial revolution borrowed the fashion from Italy and France.”

Samagree light

As well as being symbolic, the console is also functional, including pegs to hold a laptop bag or scarf, while the thali doubles as a key and phone holder.

The console features a black colour base that anchors it to the floor, including a vertical rod of black wood that connects all the elements together. The face of the mirror is in smoked rose gold, while the touch points around the edges are in black camel leather. The thali (plate) and diya (candle holder) are finished in the rose gold accent that appears throughout the collection.

It comes with a matching pouf that draws on the same material palette as the rest of the Tension range. The seat features camel leather upholstery, a black wooden base, and a rose gold ring binding it together.

Dean explains that her reasons for launching a furniture line, “like many ideas, started with a problem”.

“I was designing the new Delano hotel in Dubai and couldn’t find furniture that really hit the spot, so we started designing our own,” she explains.

“We loved it, lots of other people loved it, and then I thought: ‘hang on, why only design pieces for one hotel? Why not create a collection that potentially anyone can enjoy in their home, their office etc.’ It certainly wasn’t part of some strategic plan: 2016 – launch furniture line. It just crept up on me. I’m not going lie: I was a bit nervous approaching big global design brands like Stellar Works and Preciosa andd asking them to collaborate. But they were amazingly supportive.”

Samagree light

Dean’s last piece is a cluster of two lights that plat on the idea of the positive and negative aspects of Tension, created in collaboration with Czech lighting manufacturers Preciosa Lighting.

The +ve light projects the word “samagree” (Sanskrit for “content”) on the floor. This word resonates because it’s the designer’s goal: resolving cultural tensions to achieve a state of contentment.

Layering and symbolism are central to the design of the +ve light. The first layer is the glass bulb, a source of light and inspiration. The second layer is a sphere of clouded, frosted glass to represent the barriers that sometimes inhibit that light from breaking through. The third and final layer is crystal clear, encourage the light to shine through while projecting the aspirational “samagree” text on the floor below. A ring of camel leather binds the elements together.

“The idea of a “sphere within a sphere” is a powerful cultural metaphor: one culture can exist happily within another, and often it’s the space between the two that’s creates the most interesting experiences,” Dean says.

In contrast, the –ve light is a single, solitary sphere suspended with a large ring. The gap between the two represents the void people can feel when struggling to resolve a multi-cultural identity.

Look out for our follow-up story on the final and exclusive piece in Dean’s tension collection this week!