Crafted by culture
Designers, including several from the Middle East, present a range of products inspired by craftsmanship and their cultural heritage.
Hawa Beirut by Richard Yasmine
Lebanese interior architect and furniture designer Richard Yasmine showcased two collections during Milan Design Week, both stemming from a message to spread love and bring awareness about heritage and the natural environment.
One of the the two collections is Hawa Beirut (right) — an Arabic word meaning “a light summer breeze” or a deep love or passion for something. Described by the designer as a “light or airy furniture [collection]”, its forms are inspired by Lebanese architecture, such as arches that are prevalent across the entire Middle East.
Funquetry by Nada Debs
Funquetry (below, right) explores a playful and contemporary interpretation of the traditional technique of marquetry. Strips of different coloured wood are inlaid to produce what’s known as a “mother”. In some pieces, these are then sliced and shifted to create a break in the geometric pattern. In others, they are applied to what Debs calls pleated wood: a triangulated cut into the solid wood.
The collection consists of a cabinet, a console and occasional tables with marble surfaces, a desk and swivel stool finished in green leather, a bench, a shelving system and bedside tables.
It also includes desk accessories and smaller items with the same playful application too. All are handmade in Beirut using either American Walnut or bleached American Walnut as a base.
Postcraft Collection by BD Barcelona
Spanish design brand BD Barcelona celebrated creativity in the Arab world through a selection of works entitled the PostCraft Collection (below, left), bringing together designers from five different countries across the GCC, including the UAE and Saudi Arabia.
Curated by Samer Yamani, a Syrian-Spanish designer based in Barcelona, PostCraft featured furniture pieces, design objects as well as installations.
“PostCraft is an attempt to draw the creative scene of the Gulf’s post-oil era, the major economic shift in the region that will definitely affect all cultural and creative aspects,” Yamani explained.
Featured designers include Sheikha Hind Bint Majid Al Qassimi from the UAE, Maysam Al Nasser from Bahrain, Loulwa Al-Radwan from Kuwait, Gazzaz Brothers from Saudi Arabia and Aisha Al Sowaidi.
As handcrafted textiles continue to be popular globally, designers embrace the trend to present them in myriad forms.
Spanish brand Loewe, helmed by creative director Jonathan Anderson, presented a collection of blankets, tapestries (right) and tote bags, forming an expressive collective showcase of diverse craft techniques that have been carefully selected from around the globe.
The luxury label specially-commissioned, large-scale tapestries features images of various origins, woven at an atelier in Aubusson, central France, known for fusing traditional craftsmanship with of-the-moment digital methods. As a self-confessed fan of fabrics, this year Anderson wished to focus the brand’s annual participation in Milan on exceptional forms of textile crafts from around the world. The landmark project took over a year to develop. Anderson and his team travelled to remote corners in Europe, Asia, Africa and South America, exploring various types of artisanal textile production methods, focusing in particular on workshops that bridged tradition and modernity.
The collection features ribbon hand-embroidery from India, items made with the ancient method of boro in a Japanese atelier using highest-grade Japanese fabrics, as well as an exquisitely hand-painted silk tapestry. Iin Senegal, highly skilled craftswomen applied an elaborate African patchwork technique to achieve the complex patterns Anderson and his team envisioned entirely by hand. Loewe had also sourced an exceedingly rare fabric gathered from the back and neck of the vicuña, a llama-like animal that lives in the wild in the Andes for the collection.
Kilim by Nani Marquina
With the desire to transfer the experience and knowledge of the textile world to a three-dimensional element, Nani Marquina adds the Kilim Poufs collection (below, left) to the brand’s catalogue. The architect and designer Marcos Catalán proposes a light, versatile, and user-friendly version of the classic home accessory that combines perfectly with the brand’s products.
Aiming to transfer the warmth of the rug to other decorative elements has led to the creation of cylindrical poufs filled with flame-retardant padding inside a birch base, fully upholstered with geometric kilims.
Garden Layers by Gan
A long-time collaborator of Gan, designer Patricia Urquiola sought inspiration in India for her latest Garden Layers collection (below, right) for the Spanish brand. Urquiola travelled to India, and says that she was captivated by the delicacy and harmony of Mughal architecture she found there. She took her cues from oriental gardens, terraces and miniatures, inspiring a new collection for gardens and outdoor spaces, and juxtaposed them on occidental influences such as tartan fabrics, creating a fusion of materials and translating them into versatile pieces. The collection comprises rugs, mats, roll pillows and cushions.
Wood continues to be a favoured subject among designers, who celebrate an interplay of material and form.
DeKauri and Cosentino
DeKauri is a freestanding enclosed bathroom vanity (above) created in collaboration with Riva 1920 by designer Daniel Germani. The cabinet is made out of 50,000-year-old Kauri wood, exclusive to Riva 1920. The washbasin is crafted from Dekton by Cosentino.
NO1 by Fritz Hansen
Danish brand Fritz Hansen, known for their design classics, enlisted Japanese studio Nendo to launch a new chair, called NO1 (below, left). This is the first time in 61 years, since Arne Jacobsen’s Grand Prix chair, that the manufacturer produces an entirely wooden chair, one that is contemporary yet maintaining the traditions and heritage of the brand.
Torsion Table by Natuzzi
Italian architect Mario Bellini designed a round table for Natuzzi Italia, equipped with a 2mm extra-clear glass top. Called Torsion (bottom), it has as support a weave of six petals of solid olive wood, which opens to support the glass top. Designed as a sculpture, the table features twisted olive wood support, mimicking the centenary plants of Puglia, bent by the winter wind.
Liberty Lounger by Moooi
Sculptor Joep van Lieshout set himself a goal: to create one chair per day for a month. He named the project Prototypes as part of his utopian project New Tribal Labyrinth. This futuristic vision focuses on the reinvention of the industrial revolution by recreating an ideal world based on the lost relationship between individuals and raw materials. The first lounger of this series was handmade with no room for mistakes, no sketches and no measuring equipment but purely based on the senses of the artist and the physical interaction with the object. Atelier Van Lieshout’s Liberty Lounger (below) is the result of intuition showing that a good product needs no adjustments.
Light as leather
Leather upholstered furniture remains a classic choice among the discerning.
Furrow Sofa by Natuzzi
Dutch designer Marcel Wanders has designed the Agronomist collection, inspired by the rich and vibrant Puglian landscape. The rounded sofa covered in reddish-brown leather with saddle stitching references cocoons and shells.
Gentry Sofa by Moroso
To mark 20 years of collaboration with Patricia Urquiola, this year will see the comeback of one of the company’s best sellers, the Gentry sofa, in a lighter, resized version. The new Gentry Extra Light takes a fresh look at the concept of an elegant, compact sofa whose use extends from the home to communal spaces.
Edgy new suspended lighting designs launched by a host of companies show the innovative use of materials, technology and form.
Heat by Northern Lighting
Gleaming brass mesh was the starting point for this pendant lamp, which the designer artistically transformed into a glowing cloud of fire. Once the light is turned off, the ‘fire’ disappears, giving the shade a cloudy appearance. Heat (right) was born out of the designer’s experiments with clashing materials, and the inspiration to create a large pendant light characterised by contrasts. The lamp appears fiery one minute, then tranquil the next, creating eye-catching features in either mode.
Arrangments by Flos
Michael Anastassiades has designed a collection of modular system of geometric LED elements for Flos (below, extreme right) that can be combined in multiple compositions as single or even connected chandeliers. The sculptural modules are easily fixed together electrically and mechanically, balancing perfectly on each other to create the dramatic effect of a big chain of light. Each combination can be changed any time, with a different order, type or quantity of elements, with no need of technical assistance.
“I have always been fascinated with the parallel that exists between lighting and jewellery. Starting from the simple fact of how each piece relates to the human scale: one is designed to be worn on the body whereas the other is made to decorate the space someone occupies. I’m challenged by how the delicate nature of something small can be translated spatially and still manage to retain its preciousness in the way materials are presented. It is no coincidence that the word ‘pendant’ has a double meaning. Existing both as a piece of jewellery that hangs from a chain worn round the neck, and a light designed to hang from the ceiling,” said the designer at the launch of his collection in Milan.
Mega Chandelier by Moooi
The Mega chandelier (below, left) by Marcel Wanders is a custom-made lighting composition made of a unique selection of lamps from the Moooi collection. Each lamp within the chandelier is a nod to Wanders’ fantasy-filled style, which translates into statement pieces and works of art.
Legato by Matter Made
Italian designer Luca Nichetto presented the Legato (below, centre) modular lighting system for New York-based firm Matter Made. Like a musical score where every note is played in a smooth and connected manner, Legato represents the stave where notes, in the shape of cones, are organised so to compose different melodies.
Every lamp is anchored on a rigid structure in aluminium made of several tiers, and individual modules that allow for different combinations. The double directionality of the light sources creates a play of reflections and shadows between the cones, emphasising the volumes.