At Home With Aziza Tanani

Famed Egyptian interior designer Aziza Tanani transformed her own Zamalek apartment into an inviting wonderland of colours, curves and comfort. With a flair for humorous flourishes and an eye for the dramatic, Tanani proves that good things really do come in small packages.

whilst renovating her two bedroom home, interior designer and society darling Aziza Tanani grappled with how best to utilise the small space. Tucked away on a leafy, quiet street in Zamalek, she strived for comfort and a sense of casual cosiness; a sanctuary for her son Kareem, cat Hero and dog Ella Fitzgerald. And she has successfully managed to create pockets of airy comfort. “I had a friend who came to visit who said she didn’t want to leave. She felt she was in her own home and too comfortable to get up! It was the greatest compliment I could receive,” says Tanani. 27 years of living in London, where she often had to content with awkward spaces, slanted ceilings, and stairways that cut into a room – gave her ample experience when it came to transforming constrained spaces into seemingly expansive living areas. Never does the house feel chaotic, or crowded. “To arrange the house in the best possible way, I had to let go of certain Egyptian expectations of how to arrange the furniture, and what sort of furniture to select,” she explains.

Walking into the house, a small entrance greets you. Stickers of stylised French furniture are plastered to the wall, reflective of Tanani’s humour and ability to enjoy a good laugh. It is a very personalised home, as art hangs in every room. A Klimt reproduction by her son Kareem takes pride of place in the dining room, and as you sit down on dining chairs upholstered in an orange velvet fabric, you can’t help but feel the warm tones of the house emanating into your spirit. A three- tiered lighting fixture with an Arabesque pattern etched all around it references palatial magnificence, while stickers of cherubs and foliage are plastered to the ceiling. Although the dining room doesn’t adhere to one particular genre of furniture, it has a slightly surreal appearance. A mirror, which hangs on the central wall, was designed by Tanani to complement the table, and create the illusion of continuity and space. The glass dining room table waves and curves, mirroring the soft lines of the chairs and releasing any sensation of rigidity in the room. This is not a room where you will have to be concerned with rigid table etiquette, but an intimate space to relax with your friends. “I never like to throw large dinner parties. It’s either dinner for 10, or wine and cheese for maximum 15.”

There is a constant conscious striving effort for intimacy on Tanani’s part. “Kareem and I both cook often, and I spend quite a lot of time in the kitchen. It’s a space in which we gather and entertain.” Stools are arranged around a granite island counter, and a tepanyaki stove top allows for casual entertainment as she cooks for her guests.

Art works by Salah Taher, Mohamed Abla, Gazbia Sirry and George Bahgoury are displayed in the various rooms of Tanani’s home. Bahgoury, a friend of Tanani’s, has even drawn a sketch of Tanani with only one continuous and uninterrupted line. It is signed with a very personal note to Tanani, indicative of her rapport with artists and the artistic spirit of her home. Art of various forms is present in every room and bathroom of the house. A small guest bathroom is highly decorated in a very antiquated manner, “I had this bathroom styled in a more traditional Egyptian-French salon style than I did the rest of the house. I always tell people to never be scared of creating a very dramatic look for small spaces such as a guest bathroom. People will be engaged looking at what you’ve done to such a small space, they’ll never feel cramped.”

Colours run the whole spectrum in this house. An extension to the main salon is splashed in shades of purple with subtle allusions to English countryside aesthetics. Tanani counts world renowned British interior designer Nina Campbell amongst her closest friends, and the design guru has no doubt influenced her distinctly English aesthetics. Floral embroidery and references, and various complementing hues come together beautifully. Juxtaposed against a living room in cooler shades of a dark turquoise blue, with timber nailed to and running across the ceiling. “I was able to play with the ceiling somewhat because of its height, and I made this room for my son Adam who currently lives in Japan while he visits. So really, this has become a three bedroom house.” With a makeshift bed cunningly hidden, and ample storage space for both DVDs and clothes, function and practicality were never compromised. The living room has a more contemporary feel to it, and is more familial with family photos and Kareem’s imitations of Henry Moore’s abstract figures resting by the TV.

Yet the real sanctuary in the house is Tanani’s own bedroom; a not so subtle homage to English sensibilities. With blue and white as the only colours, Tanani created a very feminine space for herself. “I chose this pattern because I loved it and the colour blue because this particular shade of blue is very calming psychologically. And so as not to get too bored, I have used a number of patterns: plaid, check, stripped and patterned. People are always hesitant to use a variety of patterns, fearing they will clash, but as long as you stick to a few colours, it’s bound to look good.”

Ultimately Tanani’s manner and method of design execution is unique. With a flair for the risqué, an eye for dazzling detail and a love of art, she has transformed a small space into a pristine pad to truly call home.