What or who are your influences?
I am constantly inspired by my surroundings and my travels, more specifically, the historic culture and architecture that I encounter. I am drawn to the past, vintage objects, and everything with a story to tell. I think I had to have lived in the 20’s, in the time of Hemingway, Dali, Man Ray. I constantly try to re-invent traditions with a new fresh contemporary touch.My former collection ‘Damas’ was about the spirit of the Orient linked to my Lebanese roots; the current collection is nurtured from the essence of my Armenian background.
The ‘Remen’ collection involves geometric representations of pomegranates, which symbolizes fertility and abundance in the Armenian culture. My aim is to revive our past childhood memories by the distortion of that pomegranate pattern that becomes associated to the idea of ‘dentelle’ embroideries found in almost every grandmother’s home.
What inspires you?
Society is a major inspiration for me. Most of my installations raise an issue or a subject regarding our everyday life. My latest creation, #we chair, was inspired by numerous faces and personalities of Middle Eastern women; intricate and complex beings caught in the middle between modern and traditional, between strong and modest, between conservative and liberal…
This chair symbolizes a woman, looking fragile and weak hiding behind a veil or covering herself with a shawl, represented by the metal laser cut traditional cane weave, while also reliable and tough from the inside, represented by the metal armor and structure of the chair that holds everything together. As a result, a new metallic chair that blends femininity with strength.
Tell us a bit about your production process: where do you produce? What materials do you work with?
I enjoy experimenting with different materials. I am very curious by nature, which is why I tend to use various resources and try to create diverse designs in acrylic, wood, and metal. Each material is produced in different factories. My dream project would be to start up a fully equipped design workshop/atelier of my own with a team of specialized craftsmen and artisans, and the latest machinery.
How long have you been in business? When did you start?
Coming back from New York City to Beirut wasn’t very easy. I came back in 2009, and started working on interior projects that led me into the furniture world. I designed a set of tables for an apartment I was working on in Gemayzeh, and after many calls and orders the collection started growing from diverse pieces of furniture (stools, coffee tables, side tables, mirrors) to home accessories (trays, tea boxes, coasters, table lamps, placemats). The fact that they were affordable, fun, and modern pieces made them popular. So the process came naturally, and the business started seriously by the end of 2010.
Why did you decide to become a designer?
As a dreamer, I remember being back in school when everyone was hesitating between what majors to apply for, and then there was me who was certain and applying for only one thing! I can’t imagine myself being anything other than a designer.
Describe a typical day in the studio.
As a multi-disciplinary designer, I tend to move a lot. Not sure if I mentioned it before, but I get easily distracted and bored. I have a tendency to jump from one thing to another, from a product design creation to another interior design idea in a fraction of a second. Not to mention I give classes at the university. So a typical day is always a hectic day.
Who is your favorite Middle Eastern designer and why?
It is someone I look up to, Salwa Raouda Choucair, a pioneer of abstract art in the Middle East. An Avant-garde, she was a great visionary ahead of her time. She represents the strength and perseverance of women artists in the Arab world. Otherwise, I would choose Royere. He isn’t technically Middle Eastern, but he spent most of his time between Beirut, Jordan, Iran, and Egypt. I am fascinated by his unique vision and I love the finesse of his furniture pieces.
Where did you study? Train? Work?
I started my design journey a while ago, taking drawing and painting classes with Paul Guiragossian. Then I majored in Interior Architecture at ALBA (Academie Libanaise des Beaux Arts) Beirut. I then participated in a product design exchange program at ENSAD (Ecole Nationale Superieure des Arts Decoratifs) in Paris, and then moved to New York City to pursue a Masters in Lighting Design at Parsons, The New School. I worked in New York City for a couple of years in lighting and architecture firms until I decided to move back home to Beirut.
How would you describe your work in three adjectives?
Contrasts, Fusion, and Storytelling.
Anything you would like to add?
I am addicted to patterns!
Sandra has been featured in notable publications and was awarded first prize for original luminaire design in the 2008 Robert Bruce Thompson competition in the United States.
With contribution from Hala A. Malak