A true curator of fine taste, Mohamed Badr has been making strides in the field of interior design for the past 25 years. A pioneer in innovative commercial spaces and a master in creating residential havens, Badr is an expert on all things design. Although he is a well-known figure in the interior design field, not much is known about the man behind some of the best interiors across the region. eniGma’s Farida El Sayed sat down with the design maverick to discuss his journey to success, as well as get the exclusive scoop on his plans for the future.
As far as he can remember, Badr was an artist by nature. As early as the tender age of five years, he was passionate about drawing. He jokingly recalls, “As long as I had colour markers in my hands, I would draw on anything. From the walls, to the floor, I saw everything as my canvas.” As he matured into a teenager, he developed a love for sitting in cafes listening to music. “What I really enjoyed was observing the people around me. I would see how they walked, talked and ate. From this, I soon became inspired by movement,” he recounts. His instinct for keen observation, along with his bursting inner creativity, led Badr to pursue an undergraduate degree in applied arts with a specialization in interior design and product design.
During his five years at university, Badr was a standout student. Nothing demonstrates this better than his graduation project. While the norm was for four to five students to work together on one graduation project, Badr decided to take on the entirety of his graduation project by himself. “For each project, students would usually submit three to four boards that are two meters wide. I submitted a whopping 28 boards. There was actually a problem on presentation day because they couldn’t find a space big enough to showcase my work,” he recalls. The attention to detail he demonstrated on that occasion, and his eagerness to go well beyond what was expected, are professional traits that have remained with the prominent interior designer to this day.
Coming from a family of architectural consultants and engineers, deciding to become an interior designer did not stray far from his family’s traditions. Badr’s many travels with his family as a young man also impacted him by developing his propensity to explore. “I would travel a lot to different countries with my family during the summer, so I was always exposed to the latest trends in design,” he says. After graduating in 1995, although he yearned to open his own firm, he felt he hadn’t acquired quite enough practical skills yet to take that step. “My plan,” Badr explains, “was to gain a few years of experience so that, when I opened my own studio, I would have the ability to sit with a client and be completely sure of myself.” Thus, he went on to work at a variety of jobs in the design sphere, ranging from site engineer, to project manager, to product designer. In the process, he acquired such a diverse portfolio that by 2000, he was ready to open the doors of his own MB Designs.
Not wanting to be pigeonholed in a certain type of space, Badr began working across all sectors of interior design. He took on residential, commercial, and even hospitality projects, and mastered them all. “These diverse experiences made me stronger as a designer,” he explains. From mansions in Katameya and 6th of October, to prominent hotels like the Hyatt Regency in Sharm El Sheikh and Brayka Resorts in Marsa Alam, Badr’s work has become synonymous with modern opulence. Badr was also drawn to commercial spaces, and is now the premier interior designer behind Egypt’s most popular restaurants. Many of Cairo’s favourite dining venues, including Casper and Gambini’s, Mori Sushi, Tamara Elna, Mince and One Oak have experienced the magical touch of Badr and his firm, MB Designs.
Badr’s fascination with commercial spaces, particularly restaurants, is founded upon his passion to find solutions for difficult challenges. “While they can be very risky, I love commercial projects because they present a lot of challenges, from the relatively short time-frame afforded to the designer, up to the various details that are integral to the space,” he explains.
Badr’s thrill for fast paced projects is what keeps him at the top of his game. Since he is used to generating concepts from scratch, you don’t have to be a seasoned restaurateur to collaborate with him. “Some people want to enter the food and beverage industry, but don’t have an idea in mind. So, they come to me, we discuss the project, I create a brief and we go from there,” he explains. Badr can work on the whole concept from A to Z, whether it’s branding or interior design that the client is seeking.
Alongside his numerous commercial projects, Badr also delves into the residential arena, but he prefers to focus on a maximum of one to two residential projects a year. “Residential spaces take a long time to finish and I like living life in the fast lane!” he exclaims. “Also, a residence is for all the family, so you must please all its members no matter what their ages. Dealing with all their tastes and personalities, makes it a very emotional process most of the time,” he adds. That is why, he says, he decides which residential projects to pursue based on the client’s personality and how open-minded they are. “The personalities of the owners of the house are definitely the deciding factor for me. I ask myself if we are likely to understand each other’s vision or not, and if there would be some leeway for creativity in my design. Of course, I understand full well that clients are putting all their hard-earned money into their home, and I will always go above and beyond to please them. All I ask for is a little flexibility. That’s why I urge my clients to come to the process with a clean slate,” he adds.
One of Badr’s passion projects that he cherishes, is the beautiful villa which was the backdrop for this issue’s cover shoot for our very own eniGma magazine. As soon as they set foot in the house, the eniGma team was fascinated by its stunning interior, its elegance and simplicity. From the relaxing earthy colours of the walls and furnishings to the breathtaking landscape of the pool area, the house impressed everyone. It is a modern haven perfectly suited to the young family that live there, with their penchant for hosting gatherings with family and friends. Every inch of the house boasts such pristine finishing that it was hard to believe that it was more than three years old. Badr attributes his success to his eye for detail. “I am very picky. When I design a project, I go into every detail. I am involved in every step, from the rendering to the on-site construction,” he explains. With more than two decades of experience under his belt, Badr definitely knows how to deliver a stellar product.
His design prowess notwithstanding, Badr insists he still faces challenges. One of the challenges is how to keep every project unique. “I try as much as possible to make every project different. This means I have to think differently and try to use different materials so as not to repeat myself,” he says. And time and time again, he has proven he truly is a maverick, constantly innovating and exploring new possibilities. From industrial spaces to sleek and modern interiors, there isn’t a style he has not conquered. And the hard work that goes into every project is all worth it for him once he sees his client’s satisfaction. “Honestly, hearing good feedback, has to be one of the best feelings ever,” says Badr, bursting with emotion.
Not surprisingly, this most in-demand designer has a host of exciting projects that he is currently working on, and they include several coastal properties. “I have two boutique hotels underway, one in Greece and the other in El Gouna. It was my dream to do the interior design of a boutique hotel ever since I can remember, so I’m glad to be able to work on that now,” says Badr. To manage his firm’s growing number of projects, Badr is also rapidly expanding his team. He insists that one of the most important qualities a candidate must possess to work at MB Designs, is “a clean pure-hearted soul”.
Despite the numerous successful projects under his belt, Badr still has a lot of dreams he hopes to achieve. One such dream is to design an artistic outdoor mall that would be vibrant and full of energy. “I want it to be all about art and design, where visitors can enjoy spending the whole day there,” he exclaims. He is also planning on starting his own line of furniture in the next couple of years. However, what is most important to him as he looks toward the future, is continuing to provide guidance to the upcoming crop of interior designers working with him and, he says, “to maintain and exceed the quality of our work.” Given that, for the past two decades, he’s been on a nonstop upward trajectory to success, you can bet that Badr is well on his way to making these dreams come true.