A Modern Twist on Middle Eastern Aesthetics in Beirut | Interiors

Ohen furniture designer Nada Debs first moved to Beirut from London in 2000 in a bid to reconnect with her Lebanese roots, her parents gifted her the apartment they had purchased in the 1980s. back then, it was rented and they just said, ‘Why don’t you take it?’ So it was more of a marriage of convenience than the thunderclap of love at first sight.

Located on the 10th floor of a 1970s building in a residential neighborhood in West Beirut, the space was nothing immediately remarkable.

“The apartment is not something I would have chosen,” Debs says. “But I made the most of it and because it was simple, I had a lot of freedom to use my furniture. I would prototype, take it out and see what it looked like, before making it collections. I used my house as a sort of place for experimentation.

When Debs first got her hands on the apartment, she began to imprint her vision of the space, knocking down the walls to let in light and make the most of the stunning sea and mountain views.

“When I arrived in Lebanon, I was looking for furniture from the Middle East and I realized that it was stuck in the past”: designer Nada Debs, on her Yves Klein Blue sofa. Photography: Ianniello / Living Inside

“I love breaking down walls,” she says with a happy wink. “The apartment was originally designed for a family and had four bedrooms, but it’s just me here so I tried to make it less for a family and more of an entertaining space.”

Today, her home is flooded with light as Debs leads the way through a series of elegant living spaces, bursting with jewel colors. Her curvaceous Yves Klein Blue sofa, which she designed herself, is a striking focal point. “I’m a big fan of blue – Beirut blue is beautiful. And every day the color of that sea and sky is different, so that definitely influenced me,” she says.

Then there’s the cozy pink kitchen/dining room, which was inspired by the lush visuals of the film shot in Hong Kong. love mood. From here we walk through the yellow TV room, which was originally the balcony, but now serves as an indoor/outdoor living space that catches the morning sun.

“I always like to start with the color or the color combinations, before thinking about the shape and then, finally, I get to the details,” she says. “In this house, each room is thematic. I wouldn’t do this for a client, but it’s more of an experimental space and I think the colors work together.

The living space with a dark door and an oval table on a rug
“Dramatic dark doors add an extra layer of sophistication, while area rugs play a key role: the living space. Photography: Ianniello / Living Inside

And with three different living rooms to choose from, there’s a room for every mood. “It’s, ‘Oh, am I going to be blue today or am I going to be yellow today?’ And it’s really interesting, when I have guests, people are drawn to different colors. Some people look at the pink room and say, ‘Oh I’m not going, it’s a little too cozy, I won’t get up again.’ So it’s more for later in the evening.

Dramatic dark doors add an extra layer of sophistication, while area rugs play a key role in separating spaces.

“I based the apartment on carpeting first,” says Debs. “When you have an open space, it’s really hard to put the furniture in first, but when you put down a rug that defines the space.”

When it comes to shape, Nada is big on rounded corners and spherical shapes, in part because they make a home more user-friendly, “we’re just looking for things that are soft when we want to touch that we all need, especially right now after Covid.

the yellow room.
A room for every mood: the yellow living room. Photography: Ianniello / Living Inside

But also because it allows him to push the limits with the machine. “The Romania dining room table uses a technique called marquetry strips and I noticed I could bend it, so I decided to create a whole line of furniture where I could do that,” he explains. she.

Of course, the large apartment, with its clean lines and open space, is the perfect backdrop for his striking furniture and many pieces, like the Coffee Bean coffee table, so named because his son, who was six at at the time, said it looked like a coffee bean, are available to order on its website.

Despite her own sleek, streamlined aesthetic, Debs is wary of hotel-like interior spaces. “Too perfect is soulless. You have to have trinkets,” she said firmly. “A house should be personalized and not so rigid. The frame can be a little off to the side, it doesn’t have to be perfect, that’s okay.

For her part, she likes to mix finds from the Basta antiques market in Beirut alongside favorite works of art and strange family heirlooms, like the oversized round Chinese terracotta rug in the living room, which her uncle bought out in Shanghai in the 1950s.

contemporary furniture in the dining room.
Refined aesthetics: contemporary furniture in the dining room. Photography: Ianniello / Living Inside

Originally trained in interior architecture at the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design in the United States, Debs had worked with marquetry in the United Kingdom, a technique used to create patterns on furniture, but her move to Beirut inspired a bold new direction in his work.

“When I arrived in Lebanon, I was looking for Middle Eastern furniture and realized it was stuck in the past,” she says. “Everyone was buying B&B furniture imported from Italy, and all these contemporary European brands, and they were neglecting their own furniture because it was too dated. I was like, ‘Where is the Middle Eastern furniture?’ And that didn’t exist. So I made my own.” She began working with local artisans and artisans, reconfiguring Middle Eastern designs to give them a more contemporary feel.

“Because I grew up in Japan, I introduced my Japanese aesthetic, which is about simplifying and bringing things down to their essence.” They didn’t think they were allowed to do that. They stuck to the old ways, because that was what they thought was the right thing to do. But I kind of gave them the OK. You could change the patterns. You can change patterns, you can keep it simple, and suddenly you open this whole door.

The concrete tiles that line the wall of the yellow TV area with their modern take on traditional Middle Eastern geometric patterns and the white arabesque chairs with their swirling foliage pattern and lattice screen, are all examples of his “neo-Arab” aesthetic, as she calls it.

“When I moved to Beirut, after Japan where no one was like me, I was looking for like-minded people, but I realized that I was not Lebanese either, because of my upbringing, so my work reflects that,” she explains. “It’s the little twist of my work, because the Japanese style is quite sober, while in the Middle East everything is exaggerated.”


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