If you love design and you’ve never been to MAISON&OBJET, you’re really missing out. I mean, really missing out. I don’t go to most American design shows anymore for a few reasons. With a New York home base coupled by my media access, I’ve seen a lot of this stuff before the general public. More importantly, the majority of design and decor coming out of the U.S. the past few years is everyone’s ever-so-slightly tweaked version of “what’s trending” stateside. Essentially, it’s all the same stuff. It’s boring, less relevant and one step away from tacky.
There are exceptions to my massive generalization, of course. Kelly Wearstler, Miles Redd, Martin Lawrence Bullard (um, not American) and Jonathan Adler are just a few major talents that come to mind. You have incredible artisans, craftsmen and designers throughout the U.S., but very little attention is paid to them beyond the high design circuit. Instead, we are in a sea of cliché patterns, shapes and finishes that you can find at Target or Home Goods on a good day. Design Bloggers (does that even still exist?) and influencers-whose primary job is commentary-are revered more than the actual designers themselves. It takes courage to design something. You never know how it will be received, but you do it anyway. It is a long process of education, experience and labor. Simply commenting on what someone finds “so pretty” or Instagram worthy is neither journalism nor design. I don’t see a lot of courage in that.
Yeah, I totally went there. Let’s move on, shall we?
In stark contrast, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, the U.K. and Lebanon are designing rather than manufacturing and could give a shit about Blogueuses. France has a large Lebanese community and many of them are separated by six degrees or less from the Armenian community. Since I am French-Armenian (by way of Marseille) and the majority of my paternal family lives in France, I am very familiar with the design scenes in both France and Lebanon. I’ve been chatting up Beirut for years, but since many Americans have a paltry understanding-or more appropriately, misunderstanding-of Lebanon and it’s people, they have remained somewhat under the radar. France, on the other hand, has taken notice. Bravo, France!
This year Maison & Objet awarded six Lebanese designers some well deserved props. The annual ‘Rising Talents Awards‘ is a platform that promotes young designers by giving them a chance to exhibit their work for an international audience. This month, it was Lebanon’s turn to present its talents. Yella!
Carla Baz, Caramel Studio, Paola Sakr, Anastasia Nysten, Carlo Massoud, Marc Dibeh are talented, cutting-edge and fabulous. They represent the future of Lebanese design.
Here’s some of their work:
Carla Baz is French-Lebanese, has a Master’s in Product Design for the Luxury Industry from ECAL Lausanne. In London, she trained with Zaha Hadid Architects and went out on her own shortly thereafter- a move swiftly rewarded by the Boghossian Foundation. Armenians know good design, thankyouverymuch. Image: Borgia Candelabra product by Bonadea. Photo © Bonadea; website: http://www.carlabaz.com
Caramel Studio – Karl Chucri and Rami Boushdid met at the Lebanese Academy of Fine Arts in Beirut. After earning their master’s degrees in Europe, they reconnected in Lebanon and founded Studio Caramel in 2016. Their dual architecture experience has clearly influenced their approach to furniture design, usually with a nostalgic nod. Image: Mirage music box, photo courtesy of Caramel Studio.website: https://studio-caramel.com/
Paola Sakr studied product design at the Lebanese Academy of Fine Arts, but talented in other disciplines that are evident in all of her work. This multidisciplinary approach to design is both innovative and artistic. “Impermanence vases”, Collection of 7 concrete vases made of abandoned pieces and material scraps, photo courtesy of Paola Sakr. website: http://www.paolasakr.design/
Anastasia Nisten – Born in Ottawa, Canada, Anastasia Nysten grew up in Finland, France and Lebanon. After studying Industrial Design at the Lebanese Academy of Fine Arts, she started her career with Karen Chekerdjian. Shout out to my fellow Armenian designers! After spending a few years in London working with Michael Anastassiades, she opened her own studio in 2015, making her mark in Beirut and Dubai. image: Troll chair, courtesy of Anastasia Nisten; website: http://anastasianysten.com/
Carlo Massoud After graduating from the Lebanese Academy of Fine Arts and ECAL Lausanne, Carlo Massoud moved to New York, joining Nasser Nakib Architects to oversee bespoke furniture design for their top clients. His projects fluctuate between functional and artistic, often containing political messages. Image: Mar Mikhayel, photo © Filippo Bamberghi. Website: https://www.carlomassoud.com/
Marc Dibeh – After studying at the École Nationale Supérieure de Paris Val De Seine, Marc Dibeh returned to Beirut to pursue a Master’s in Product Design at the Lebanese Academy of Fine Arts. After working alongside Marc Baroud for three years, Marc opened his own studio in 2009. Still collaborating today-Dibeh’s Wires series took him to DesignMiami in 2013. Image: Camille Cake Stand, from ‘a narrative selection of stolen products’ ; photo © Marco Pinarelli. Website: http://marcdibeh.com/