My favourite memories of Ramadan are the early morning meals, suhour. I always have it at home and even though it happens at weird hours the whole family gathers and we all have it together. Another of my favourite Ramadan memories growing up was when we used to set up a tent inside the house in the courtyard. It was just to have a different setting and a different feeling. Sadly, we don’t do it anymore.
BEST FRIENDS BREAKFAST TOGETHER
I wake up very early in the mornings, 6am, on a Friday and then after some exercise – a run by the beach or a trip to the gym – my best friend and I have this breakfast ritual that we do. We used to visit a different place every time, but then in the last year or two we started picking favourites and sticking to them. You’ll find us usually at either of the Baker and Spice outlets in Jumeriah or Al Manzil Souk or Tom and Serg.
STAY AT HOME
Once the Friday prayer is done I immediately go home and don’t step out afterwards, it’s a family day. I would rather stay in and spend time with my niece and nephew and my sister, who visit on weekends, and waste all my energy on them. Everything outside is too hectic – the traffic, the crowded malls.
I pursued two degrees in university – business and interior design. The interior design course had a module on furniture design that required us to design the mock-up of an art-deco [piece] of furniture. That’s when I had this enlightening moment of realisation that this [furniture design] is exactly what I want to do, to make furniture with my label and keep producing things that are functional. However, it was only after five years that I quit my marketing job and started the journey in design.
STORIFICATION OF OBJECTS
What fascinated me about furniture design is how most of us treat furniture as just [an object] that serves a function and never look at them aesthetically or think about the stories from the past that these objects tell. For example the Auction Coffee Table was inspired by merchants who would go around the houses carrying a sack filled with fabrics and toys during my childhood. Housewives would hear their call of ‘lelam’ [Malayalam for ‘auction’] and come out to bargain with them. So the table has a fabric compartment inspired by the merchants’ sack, and is not just a table but also allows storage.
PRESERVING THE PAST
We can’t deny or step away from our identity, our roots, I believe if you don’t have a past, you don’t have present and you can’t move forward into the future. So I try infusing traditional crafts and handicraft techniques into my furniture because even if we can’t preserve those particular crafts at least their story will survive through the contemporary objects I make. I mimicked the patterns of Talli embroidery – a type of embroidery using gold and silver threads that Emirati women use for the cuffs and hems of kaftans and dresses worn for celebrations and special occasions – on a collection of rugs for Tai Ping, an international carpet company.
PALM OF YOUR LAND
I found the inspiration for the Palm collection in the palm trees around my home; it was a very simple observation of things like a towel or plastic bag hanging on the palm trunk and I was wondering how I can make something that could mimic that natural function of the trunk. That’s how I started created the Palm coat stand. The collection is currently on display at Level Shoe District as part of The Secret Life of Date Palms Ramadan campaign highlighting the importance of the date palm.
I’m afraid to bite [into] an apple. I’ve always had this image in my head since my childhood that somehow my teeth will get stuck in it. I can eat all other fruits whole, taking bites out of them, but I can only eat an apple if it’s been cut into slices.
LIVE WITHOUT REGRETS
There’s an Arabic proverb that translated means ‘don’t regret what you miss’. So whenever something bad happens I don’t grieve about it or regret a missed opportunity. I just move forward and just keep moving on. This saying is something that’s really helped me a lot during the downtimes of my life.
MY WEAKNESS IS…
Khameer, a round, small Arabic bread sweetened with date juice – it’s my favourite dish in the world. Whenever they make it at home I will eat a minimum of six to seven, even eight of them. If they’re made every day, I’ll eat them every day. I don’t care how many carbs they have.
After a search of around one-and-a-half years I finally found bag called Hector Brown by the brand Thom Brown. It’s named after the designer’s dog and even looks like it! It cost around $2,500 [around Dh9,000] but I just went and bought it anyway because I’ve wanted it for such a long time. It’s a sculptural piece, a piece of art so you probably can’t wear it every day, definitely not here [Dubai]. When I did carry it around in Milan it was the talk of the town the whole week.
EAST OR WEST, ISTANBUL IS THE WEST
Istanbul is a place I’d keep travelling to every single week if I could. I just feel myself and more relaxed when I’m there. Sometimes I joke that I should make a deal with an airline and take 12 tickets at one go so I can visit Istanbul all year long. What I like about Istanbul is this balance between east and west, a nice harmony between tradition, history and new modern life that I’m trying to strike personally. I visit Istanbul a lot and love taking long waterfront walks in a neighbourhood called Debek – it’s got all these cafes on the waterside and I love it.
NOT A CARPENTER
One of the biggest challenges of my job is explaining to people what I do. In the beginning of my career people would always mistake me for a carpenter – I lived in New Zealand from 2010-2011 where I did a yearlong course of professional handmade furniture and used all these tools of carpenters. So when I came back they all thought I was a carpenter and I had to explain to people that what I was doing was woodworking and there’s a difference between the two. The audience in Dubai don’t understand industrial and product design.
LIFE IS A BEACH
Running or jogging on the open beach in Jumeirah de-stresses me. I always start my day with a run so I begin the day on a calm and relaxed note. The beach is so quiet early in the morning and there’s a serenity in the whole scene. I just love that smell of fresh sea-breeze. It’s my happy place.
I’m a big fan of Brazilian furniture designers the Campana Brothers. Their most iconic works are their Banquete chairs – they use stuffed toys and teddy bears and stitch them together to create a sofa. I saw those pieces assembled when I spent a week with them at their studio doing a workshop.
THE NEXT BIG THING
I’m a co-founder of an initiative called DRAK [Design Ras Al Khor, which coincides with Design Dubai each year]. The vision is to make Ras Al Khor the next big design district, to bring people in and show them that there is potential in this area. Ras Al Khor already has a lot of the elements such as production, raw materials and spaces like warehouses available. The place just needs a committed set of designers who can work from here and attract the community and audience to come over and see their [creative] work; that’s what we try to do with DRAK.