Weekend Five: Up Close and Personal with Nada Debs

It’s an exciting period for esteemed Lebanese designer Nada Debs. End of this week sees the opening of Nada Debs’ new studio space where clients can experience the design process up close… That’s not all, before talking about the new space, we have to mention that Nada Debs is working towards her first solo showcase during Milan Design Week, which is inevitably the biggest event in the international design calendar this April. She will be showing at Rossana Orlandi Gallery where she looks forward to exhibiting her Funquetry Collection and Tatami Collection to an international audience. FR talks to Nada to learn more about this amazing new chapter in her life!

Tell us what ‘Up, Close and Personal’ means according to Nada Debs.

Up, Close and Personal was a phrase I chose very carefully and which I think sums up my objective for our next chapter quite well. So what does it mean?

‘Up’ as in up the winding staircase of an old Lebanese building block in Gemmayze into our newly-reimagined studio: our creative home.

‘Close’ is a response to my own observations about materialism today and how we connect to objects. I realize increasingly that when we are involved in the Creative process of any piece, we feel far more connected to it.

Getting ‘personal’ is about how we build relationships, as well as our personality as a studio. Basing ourselves in our own studio home and welcoming people in to get to know us and our design process feels like a natural way of making our relationships personal.

Studio Space

Tell us about the space.

The space is a 300m2 Lebanese apartment from the 1930s. The floor tiles are the traditional tiles with different patterns in each room. We have different spaces for guests to visit: the Salon, which features our classic collections and prototypes of our works; the Curatorial room, which highlights special pieces or where we do our installation; and the Sample room is the heart of the studio, where we interact with clients to discuss designs. We also have a workshop where we do our cutting and small craft projects such as blockprinting.

Studio Space

How would you describe this new approach (to organizing your studio, showroom etc)?

By opening up my studio and inviting people in, my intention is to bring people closer to the design process, and to share ideas. Ultimately, I want to help people connect to the pieces we create; to break the often transactional or impersonal side of design – where objects arrive finished, on shop shelves to be bought. Our approach is rooted in connection – connecting different cultures, connecting time-tying old and new techniques; mixing unexpected materials such as mother of pearl and concrete. You can also see this through our different collaborations with other brands.

What collections will be showcased?

I’m thrilled to say we will open with a great number of fantastic and very varied new collections. The Funquetry collection is a play on marquetry and takes a very traditional craft that is often used in natural wood tones and inlaid in backgammon games and traditional artisanal wooden boxes to create new patterns with brighter colors and a ‘fun’ edge. We are launching our ‘N’ candle, which has olfactory scents of different woods; and our Refraction mirrors, which are rotating tinted mirrors that can be placed anywhere and which create reflections depending on how they are rotated. We will be showing several collaborations: our You & I carpet collection, which is a collaboration with FBMI, an initiative to empower women carpet weavers in Afghanistan; a special color called ‘My Beirut’ for JotunArabia, a paint company based in Norway; and a wallpaper based on our Concrete tile with Danish company NLXL.

Sample Room

Do you have a favorite collection and why?

I suppose if I had to choose, I’d say I am very excited about our Funquetry collection. For me, finding new ways to take traditional craft and to add a modern edge to it is what I enjoy working on the most.

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