For this year’s Interior’s issue we are excited to be bringing together three of Egypt’s most prominent names in the interior design industry for a one-of-a-kind cover and feature story. Through the years, we’ve been following the careers of these extraordinary designers, Mohamed Badr, Hossam Nabil and Ahmed Hussein and featured them in the magazine on different occasions. While each one is known for his own distinct design style, they are all trailblazers who have broken their fair share of new ground in the industry. eniGma’s Ezz Al-Turkey caught up with our exciting cover stars to get to know what they’ve been up to lately.
A Design Perfectionist
Having established his design house in 1995, Badr’s MB Designs has been going strong for no less than twenty-five years. Despite the many challenges that the industry has faced over those years, Badr was able to weather them and to adapt to changes in the field while keeping his job fresh and enjoyable for himself and for his staff.
Badr’s design inspirations are great designers like Philippe Starck and Cappellini, who have influenced his personal style, a blend of contemporary and modern design. Notwithstanding his personal style preference, Badr prides himself on his ability to design for clients with different tastes, and on his skill at blending different styles to produce an out of the ordinary design for every one of his clients. “It’s important to be continually exposed to what’s happening internationally in interior design, to keep up with world trends, which are always changing. That’s a crucial part of what we do and it’s how we keep ourselves different from the rest. Not all designers are capable of easily adapting to new industry trends,” Badr explains. “Constant reading plays an important part in that, because just like books, designs tell a story,” he adds.
Since we caught up with Badr last July, he has continued to prove he is a force to be reckoned with, breaking new ground in every new project he undertakes, most notably in his commercial projects, specifically those for F&B projects and for well-known brand stores in malls. “Commercial projects can often be tough. They are sort of like a puzzle. You have to put the pieces together to make the design work efficiently, and it must also look stunning,” Badr explains.
Clearly, Badr is not intimidated by challenges. On the contrary, they motivate him even more. “Commercial projects can be very challenging, but challenges drive me. Most such projects are undertaken for rental spaces, so the client has a small time frame that we need to stick to. We’ve been working on commercial projects since 1995, so we know exactly how to deal with projects like these,” he adds. But Badr has not been confined to commercial projects, and has been working on exceptional residential design projects as well over the past year. His residential portfolio has expanded in Memaar El Morshedy, Palm Hills and Uptown Cairo compounds, among many others.
Maintaining a positive vibe in the office is crucial to Badr’s success. “Our office consists of over 24 employees and it’s important that they all feel like they are family. Our collaborations with contractors and suppliers are also very important to keep things new and exciting. We are always focused on staying energetic and keeping our motivation for our work strong, no matter what,” he stresses. With the current pandemic and everyone working from home, Badr makes sure to maintain his close relationship with his team members. He makes sure to keep in touch with his work family as often as he can, every day, through online meetings. “I’ve been engaging with my team more than ever lately. We have to do that, so that we can stay inspired and keep delivering our best work. It’s noteworthy that the pandemic has itself impacted the way we work on residential projects because people have changed the way they see their homes. Staying at home has made people realise how important practical interior design can be,” Badr confirms.
With a natural disposition to being positive, Badr remains hopeful despite these difficult times, and looks forward to things getting better soon. “I’m a positive person in general, and I always take bad situations and turn them positive. I believe that whatever happens, happens for a reason. I always think about how I can learn and improve from any situation. I look at hardships as chances to change and evolve,” he says in conclusion.
Absolute Luxury with Simplicity
Hossam Nabil’s fascination with design and art (in general) goes all the way back to his teenage years. “I used to just draw and sketch everything I saw. I started travelling on my own since I was 15, before I went to college. I loved visiting Paris, London and the U.S., and these trips inspired me growing up. Anything that is new or different really catches my eye and captures my attention fully. When I was young everything left an even bigger impression on me. Everything I saw has stuck with me,” he recalls.
Today, Nabil is one of Egypt’s preeminent interior designers, known for his masterful blending of simplicity with absolute glamour. While he does not credit a specific international design figure as having a major influence on his style, Nabil notes that Zaha Hadid and Michael Graves were among many of architects/designers who inspired him as he was growing up.
When describing his own design style, Nabil explained that it’s modern luxury that captures his attention. “I love a lot of different things. I love contemporary-modern, but it has to be different and not basic. If it doesn’t have a twist then it bores me. I also love eclectic. The one thing these two styles have in common is that they are different or unique in some way. That’s the key. I try to stay away from being basic as much as possible,” he explains.
When eniGma last sat down with Nabil for our October 2019 issue, he already had a reputation as a cutting edge designer with a unique ability to achieve that elusive combination of absolute luxury and simplicity in his designs. His reputation has been bolstered even further since then. “We’ve been honoured to work on many projects this past year, mainly relating to hospitality and big hotels,” he recounts. “We also got to work on office spaces for factories and large corporations. That’s what we’ve been up to lately. We also have done residential work in Katameya Heights and in Views in Swan Lake, among other compounds, as well as several summer houses,” he adds.
Like many other professionals, Nabil has turned to working from home during the current pandemic. “My point of view regarding work has completely flipped,” Nabil admits, describing the effect of the coronavirus pandemic on his business. “I used to think that work should be done by the book; meaning that you have to go to the office, work at your desk, surrounded by your staff. What I discovered was that everything can actually be easily done from home, while keeping the same work ethic. If anything, working from home saves a lot of time, especially because you don’t have to commute back and forth. It’s something I never thought about before,” he explains.
And while at home, when he’s not working on a specific project, Nabil spends his time honing his talent. To him, no matter how successful a designer becomes, the learning process is never over. To Nabil, the continuous ability and readiness to learn is a testament to a real artist. “I have a lot of time at home now, especially since I don’t go out as much anymore. I find myself researching a lot in my field, looking at new trends and reading about different topics. That taught me a lot. Lately, I am making sure to dedicate about an hour a day to just researching designs and looking up new things that I can learn from. I have made it a priority to incorporate that in my new day-to-day routine, and it’s really made it very clear to me what I want to do with my own work in the next couple of months,” he explains.
In an attempt to lift up spirits in the current climate of uncertainty, Nabil was firm in his desire to convey a positive message to people in Egypt and around the world at the conclusion of his interview. “Life goes on. It never stops. We have to adapt, in order to stay creative and be happy. If we stay negative, we’ll never get anything done. Life can be hard sometimes, and although things, especially work, can seem endless and very stressful, it gets done. I always remind myself of that.”
Designing with Passion
It’s been about a year since interior designer Ahmed Hussein, already a rising star in his field, sat down for his first interview with eniGma magazine. Hussein and his firm, Ahmed Hussein Designs, have been stepping up their projects and taking on newer and bigger challenges, since then. “This past year has been crazy, different from any other. We started taking on larger residential projects. Clients have seen our work and what we’re capable of, and they trust us more than ever now. They have given us their full confidence. We also have been working with more celebrity clients, which is great. I’m very grateful for how work has been going,” says Hussein.
While some designers prefer commercial projects, Hussein is more inclined towards working on residences. “I feel like homes and residential projects tell bigger stories. While I find commercial design very interesting as well, personally, I just really love designing homes,” says Hussein, who is particularly proud of two of his large residential projects, the homes of actress Yasmine Sabry and of television presenter Amr Adeeb. He also stresses the importance of his sit-downs with his clients and getting to know them well, in order to produce the design that suits their personalities and lifestyles.
“The testament to our success lies in the feedback we receive from our clients and how fondly they speak of us. Yet, no matter how successful we are, I still feel like it’s not enough,” says Hussein humbly.
“I am a perfectionist by nature. It’s funny how I can love a project so much, and then look back at it a couple of years later and think it’s not so good. But I think that just means that I’ve grown since then, as did my design style. This actually makes me feel like I’m doing something right,” he explains. “While I can be very hard on myself sometimes, I think that’s a good trait. Acknowledging mistakes and flaws, leaves room for constant improvement and gives you the opportunity to learn,” he adds.
Constantly seeking inspiration from the world around him, Hussein loves visiting different countries and places. “When I travel, I focus on the details of every single place I visit, whether it’s a restaurant or a historical monument with amazing architecture. A designer’s eye is like a computer; you save up all of the information you see in your everyday life and it comes out in your designs. Everything I see and experience is usually reflected in my work!” he exclaims.
Like everyone else, the pandemic is putting a damper on Hussein’s life and work these days. Yet, he chooses to focus on the positive side of it all.
And while working from home has been a tough situation for most, Hussein admits that although it has been hard, it has come with its own set of advantages. Not only is his team more creative than ever, working from home is allowing him to focus on family and is also relieving him of some of the work stress, temporarily. By sticking to a daily schedule, he finds that he is getting enough sleep and spending quality time with his family, while also getting all his work done. Hussein explains, “I am convinced that working all day, every day, is unhealthy and can really place a heavy burden on a person. I’ve tried to create a healthy routine. It’s a struggle sometimes, of course. Some weeks it works and some others it doesn’t, but I’m trying.”
Looking ahead, Hussein explains that he and his team plan out their work five years in advance. “Right now we’re planning on expanding our company, to have a bigger team and to relocate to a bigger space. We were supposed to do that in 2020, but that has been postponed to 2021 due to the current circumstances. We also hope to work on even bigger projects in the future and to expand in Dubai, Qatar and Kuwait, where we are already working on several projects. There’s also an important project coming up in Florida in the U.S. It’s going to be big,” Hussein says excitedly.