Lebanese designer Nada Debs will be debuting her solo design show during this year’s Milan Design Week, showcasing a series of new collections at Rossana Orlandi Gallery.
“Rossana is the perfect partner and place to show during Fuorisalone del Mobile. She has an expert
eye, a diverse passion and a compelling sense of fun, too. I have always admired her ability to bring
people, products and ideas together, and to host them beautifully and effortlessly,” Debs said.
For her first solo show, Debs will be presenting four new collections under the title ‘Up, Close & Personal’, which all tell the story of the designer’s new take on craftsmanship.
“We recently redesigned our studio in Beirut to create not just a working space but an open-door
welcoming space for people to connect to the pieces we create, and to break the often transactional
or impersonal side of design – where objects arrive finished, on shop shelves to be bought,” Debs explained.
“Getting ‘personal’ is about how we build relationships, as well as our personality as a studio. Inviting people in to get to know us feels like a natural way of making our relationships personal. In Milan, we look forward to recreating a sensory slice of our Beirut creative life.”
Craftsmanship has also been at the heart of all of Debs’ projects, however in her new collection, the designer aims to address a new approach to production techniques.
“The discussion around craft and craftsmanship is as loud as ever, but too often it’s taken too
seriously. I want to begin a new dialogue around craft that has room for playfulness and joy too,” she explained.”
“My aim has always been to start with traditional techniques and skills and then inject a bit of life and
fun into them by taking a more contemporary approach. It’s still respectful to the care, time and skill of
craft, but it helps people to emotionally engage today.”
The four collections include Funquetry, My Beirut, Refraction, and Tatami, as well as her You & I carpet collection, a collaboration with FMBI who works with craftswomen in Afghanistan, which was first unveiled during the 2017 Dubai Design Week.
Funquetry explores a playful and contemporary interpretation of the traditional handcraft 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 shelving system and bedside tables, and a bench.
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.
“I am interested in duality and how you balance and combine different ideas,” Debs said. “Here it
was about reinvigorating a traditional technique with a modern, almost rebellious approach.”
For the second collection, Debs worked in collaboration with Norwegian paint firm Jotun to create a colour called My Beirut, which will be applied to the gallery’s walls.
The colour is inspired by the warm tones and textures of old Beirut, consisting of a versatile hue, somewhere between terracotta and grey.
“There’s a practicality and an authenticity to this colour,” Debs explained. “Over time I walked through the
streets of Gemmayze in old Beirut where my studio is, and took in the colours and the feelings of the
rooftops, the cobbles, the architecture and the tiled floors. I put all these sensations in a melting pot
and blended them.”
The third collection, Refraction, is a family of pivoting mirrors which bring daylight into a dark stairwell, as well as bringing the view from outside in.
The four shapes (circle, square, rectangle and pentagon) come in six different but complementary colours, and are intended to be clustered. Fixed to the wall on a pivoting mechanism they can be adjusted to reflect different parts of a room, or to bring more natural light into spaces.
For her last collection, Debs will be showcasing Tatami which consists of a series of trays and boxes that combines woven Tatami flooring from Japan with marquetry craftwork from Beirut.
Having grown up in Japan, Debs has long been fascinated by the similarities and juxtapositions in the design sensibilities and techniques across the two cultures.
The collection brings together the subtle charm of two traditions, featuring a degrade of neon colours, inspired by the kimonos of modern-day Geishas.
Debs has recently also merged her showroom in Beirut with her studio space in a effort to join all operations of her brand under one roof to allow visitors to better experience both her designs and working environment.