Nothing but Art: Index Tower Penthouse

by Damiana Treccozzi

Compasses Magazine

Usually common people choose art pieces according to its colours, style and whether or not it matches their cozy sofa, but what happens when you put together an art expert and art-sensitive architects? The result is something special and unique, between a home and an art gallery.

Set at the top of Foster’s Index 80 story tower in the heart of Dubai’s Financial Center, a one thousand and six hundred square meters penthouse designed by Studio M. This award winning Interior Design firm was founded in Los Angeles back in 1999 by architect Abboud Malak and has since then embraced a minimalist approach to design. The key words to describe his works are elegance and sobriety, which are then «tailored to clients’ needs and desires». So when architect Malak was asked to design this apartment interiors, the challenge was to satisfy his client’s only request to have «no colour with exception of art». Thus the purpose was absolutely fulfilled.

The house was therefore conceived as a «museum-like space», both in its solemnity and elegant simplicity. The only colours displayed are the black of some partitions and furnishings, the gray of the fabrics and the overwhelming white of the pavement and most part of the walls. The only bright colours bursting into the steady purity of the interiors are those of the famous artists’ paintings and sculptures exhibited, just as the owner had demanded. The most challenging thing perhaps, was managing demolitions within the renovation works, being the triplex penthouse on top of one of Dubai’s tallest buildings.

Everything provides an enchanting visual stimulus. The horizontal lines given by the black stripes of the built in lights crossing the ceiling and by the black monochromy-breaking shelves seem to be fragments of an exploded frame. Though apart from one another, they still succeed in accomplishing their function, embracing the artwork in this “spatial canvas”. Minimalist furnishings in their gray-scale variable colour seem to mediate the harsh contrast of black and white. The latter is the house predominant tone. Just as on a three dimensional artist’s palette, the art pieces enrich these plain surfaces making an artwork of them. After all, as the 20th century master Richard Meier has been teaching since his adhesion to the New York Five, «White is the most wonderful colour because within it you can see all the colours of the rainbow. The whiteness of white is never just white; it is almost always transformed by light […]». Thus in the Index Tower Penthouse, colours “within” the white walls coagulate in the paintings, hence creating a unique and continuous work of art.

In this indistinguishable continuum of “content” and “container” and of shape and function, upstairs and downstairs, outdoors and indoors spaces merge. The stairway finished in charcoal steel is the one steady, unifying central element crossing the whole house in its total height. With its simple design, it stands out of the white surrounding walls becoming itself a piece of valuable design. The house is developed on three levels. On the first one are located the main spaces of the living area with the studio, the kitchen and a double-height gallery. More private spaces as bedrooms, instead, occupy the second level, while the third one is dedicated to leisure. On the 79th level in fact, there are the recreation room, the music room, the gym and the lap pool with external sunbathing areas.

Materials emphasise this ethereal effect with their sheer sobriety. The extra-large size and matte finish of the tiles paving the living area help not distracting from the contemplation of the exhibit, while the ebonised heavy-brushed oak warms up the atmosphere of the sleeping area. Moreover, charcoal textured metal finishes frame the enchanting panoramic views over the city of Dubai.

Balance is maintained throughout the whole house. Every single element has been thoroughly designed and positioned. Custom pieces have been commissioned from top international furniture brands including Antonio Lupi’s unique tubs and counters and Minotti’s «pure, refined and tactile» angular sofa compositions and carefully selected coffee tables. For what concerns lighting, long black slots on the ceiling hide both air conditioning diffusers and movable Viabizzuno light spots enlightening paintings, sculptures and blank walls at night. At daytime, instead, floor to ceiling windows illuminate the interiors with natural light.

The humble, yet never modest, design of the interiors reveres the numerous pieces of art, whereas the nobleness of the materials exalts them. Although making way for art, the house definitely boasts a fascinating elegance and a strong identity. Certainly Index Tower Penthouse is an artwork itself.

Studio M, Abboud Malak


Index Tower Penthouse



Client Location

Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), Dubai, UAE

Project Year


Architecture and Design Studio

M, Abboud Malak


Hisham Samawi, Ayyam Gallery

Project Team

Principal Designer: Abboud Malak

Interior Designer: Ava Monshi


Husam Rasoul, RID Dubai


Studio M

Size and total area

1.600 m²

Image credits

Maha Nasra Edde, 8th Street Studios




Subscribe To Our Weekly Newsletter

No spam, notifications only about new products, updates.

Related Posts

Join our Monthly Newsletter

Sign up to receive the latest updates from Compasses Magazine and get a 40% discount on the annual subscription.