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Nada Debs STIRred 2023 with designs that reference arabesque motifs
(L-R) Spiritual sphere by Nada Debs; Portrait image of Nada Debs; and Tree Trunk by Nada Debs
Image: Carl Halal, courtesy of Nada Debs

Nada Debs STIRred 2023 with designs that reference arabesque motifs

STIR revisits a wide array of launches, exhibitions and achievements that defined the Lebanese designer oeuvre in 2023. 

by Almas Sadique
Published on : Jan 08, 2024

Nada Debs is a designer from Beirut, Lebanon, whose practise is defined by a unique identity—one that lies at the juncture of traditional designs and cultures from the Arab world and the minimalist attributes designated to contemporary design. By reinterpreting age-old crafts and traditions to fit a contemporary expression, Debs manages to keep archaic cultures and their symbolism alive. At the same time, she manages to create objects that easily blend in with contemporary spaces. In almost all her projects, Debs collaborates with local artisans and craftspeople, to imbibe a sense of precision in the designs physically manifested. Over the years, she has worked on both small-scale and large-scale projects. From product design, furniture design and the design of homeware objects, to installations and interior design projects, the Lebanese designer manages to adjoin her elegant style in works of all scales.

STIR enlists the best of 2023 for Nada Debs.

1. People

Peshawar Carapace TableImage: Courtesy Nada Debs

Nada Debs designed the Gandhara Carapace Table with Pakistan-based Studio Lél. A reinterpretation of Debs’s Carapace Table, this new table design is a meld of two cultures and crafts. "I was inspired by the colourful city of Peshawar which features bright colours, intricate patterns and a variety of architectural features," says Nada Debs of her first experience visiting Peshawar, the oldest city in Pakistan and one of the oldest cities in South Asia. Rooted in the philosophy of her brand to explore different crafts from around the world and find material expressions that speak the language of a place and its people, Nada Debs envisioned a recreation of her Carapace Table using Lél's craft of stone inlay. The Gandhara Carapace Table was also showcased during PAD Paris from March 29 to April 2, 2023.

As part of House of Today’s The Candle Project, Nada Debs created the Spiritual Sphere. House of Today is a non-profit organisation that is committed to cultivating a sustainable design culture in Lebanon as well as strengthening the presence of Lebanese designers in the global sphere. The Candle Project comprises a limited edition series of illuminative objects by ten Lebanese designers, with each piece being developed with the help of local artisans at the Centre Hospitalier Beit Chabab Workshop, through the processes of sketching, testing and transforming wax into sculptural candles. Debs’s candle design is characterised by a rhombus texture. “This Spiritual Sphere was originally carved in wood to be used for meditation. Staring at the degrading rhombus texture is mesmerising and takes one to another realm. We translated this into a candle, which adds another layer of spirituality, where the light reflects on the texture and creates an even more mesmerising effect,” Debs elaborates.

Debs collaborated with Lebanese jeweller Selim Mouzannar to create the Arabesque Rings. Backed by a team of skilled Lebanese artisans, Mouzannar worked for over a year to come up with the perfect prototype for the ring designed by Debs. Nada Debs’ limited edition Arabesque ring collection harks back to the golden age of Islamic architecture, highlighting the geometric and scientific excellence of ancient civilisations. The Arabesque rings come in white, yellow or pink gold, and they are then adorned with either black or white diamonds.

This year, Debs also collaborated with fibre artist Adrian Pepe to create the Braided Floating Stool and the Entangled Matters wall art; and with THAT Concept Store to design and produce the From Sunrise to Sunset Pebble Chairs - a six-piece collection that captures the captivating colours and tonalities of the sun from dawn to dusk.

2. Pieces

Debs’s Coming To Life table collection comprises the Coming To Life Console, Coming To Life Center Table, Coming To Life Low Table, and Coming To Life Occasional Table. The table designs are a representation of contrast and duality. The table’s organic wood top retains its natural state in contrast to the slanted and spiralling mother-of-pearl patterned legs handcrafted by artisans. The concept reveals the balance created through a combination of noble materials, natural textures and crafted patterns.

Tree Trunk is a sculpture made from reclaimed tree trunks. It measures 30 x 45 cm and is adorned with exquisite mother-of-pearl, coloured veneer, and tin inlay. It showcases the limits to which sustainable design can be extended. The sculpture was showcased at the Upcycled Tree Art exhibition at Dar El-Nimer for Arts and Culture in Beirut.

The Arabesque Love Seat is a furniture piece that marries modern form with exquisite craftsmanship. The continuous arabesque motif is perforated on the American walnut chairs and cushions are down-filled and removable.

Crafted Mandala is Debs's esoteric way to interconnect the region’s diverse artistic expressions and transform them into something universal yet tangible. "The beauty of Mandalas lies in starting from the centre and progressively adding layers, incorporating random patterns. This provided the perfect opportunity for our craftsmen to experiment and showcase their skills," shares Nada Debs.

The furniture designer also launched her latest collection, namely Retro Couture, in her studio space in Beirut.

3. Events to remember

The Arab World Institute bestowed the Lebanese designer with Prix du Design de l'Institut du Monde Arabe's Grand Prize of Honour, this year. The first edition of the Arab World Institute’s Design Prize was presented to support a young designer's initiative and the work of a design firm from the Arab League. It was conceived as a way to honour a recognised Arab designer or firm. The Grand Prize of Honour, awarded to Debs, celebrates her contributions to the world of art and design, particularly her ability to distil and reinterpret culture and craftsmanship from the Arab world in a contemporary mien.

Debs also showcased her works at the exhibition Beirut. The Eras of Design, curated and showcased by mudac in Lausanne, from April 7 to August 6, 2023. Additionally, the designer partnered with Kohler Middle East to design the installation Versatility of Water that was showcased at Downtown Design Dubai 2023. From December 6 to 10, Debs presented her work at Design Miami, with Galerie Bsl and Studio Lēl.

STIRred 2023 wraps up the year with compilations of the best in architecture, art, and design from STIR. Did your favourites make the list? Tell us in the comments!

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