The past decade has seen a boom in architecture and interior design firms in Egypt. One such firm causing a stir in the design scene is Studio Five, set up by five inspirational young designers just three years ago. eniGma’s Hana Zuhair and Salma Hussein sat down two of the designers, Ahmed Tarek and Ahmed Khalifa, who passionately told them how it all started.
Ahmed Tarek, Ahmed Khalifa, Mohamed Jalal, Mohsen Rizk, and Hatem Essawi are the five names behind Studio Five that are redefining the approach to interior design in Egypt. Fellow graduates of Cairo University with degrees in architectural engineering and building technologies, their journey began when they worked together on a project in Italy during their university years. The five students were on the same design team assigned by their professor to travel to Italy for a workshop. They realized then and there that they were destined to build a career together. While each of them worked for other design and architectural firms after graduation, soon enough they decided to fulfill their destiny by joining forces in Studio Five.
Studio Five’s little office in Zamalek is where these five hip, young designers, who are all in their twenties, make all their magic happen. Immediately as you enter the studio you are struck by its youthful vibe with a funky Mona Lisa artwork on the wall, purposely shabby wall paint, colourful bean bags, and other eclectic details all around. But what’s most fun about this work place is the music. These guys have one heck of an impressive sound system playing cool music at all times – epitomizing a laidback work environment despite their insane working hours.
In just three years since they started, Studio Five have worked on over 65 residential, commercial, and hospitality projects all over Egypt. They’ve left their signature at homes in almost every compound in Cairo, including Katameya Heights, Katameya Dunes, Lake View, Swan Lake, West Golf, Hyde Park, and Allegria. They’ve worked on commercial and residential projects in the North Coast, a hotel in Hurghada (Sun and Sea Resort), three restaurants in Sharm El Sheikh, and two restaurants in Ismailia. They have also completed commercial projects in Cairo Festival City, City Stars, and Mirage Mall. Offices for IPACO and Mindshare are also amongst Studio Five’s most influential works. Studio Five are also expanding internationally. They’ve done work in Iraq and have designed showrooms for Huawei there and in Beirut, and have also received requests from potential clients in Dubai.
What’s the design style that distinguishes you?
We do not have one design language. Our work is tailored to the client and each one of us has his own style, which is why the end product is never dull or monotone. The diversity of our designs is what gives us our edge. When we meet clients, it takes us two to three meetings to understand their character. That way we can develop and incorporate the client’s identity in our project. Every house should have its own identity and concept, which is what we strive to achieve. And when we work on a commercial project, we want it to have a major impact in the field.
What inspires you in your designs?
The client’s background is our main inspiration. When we find out what the client wants, from the biggest to the smallest details, that is when we start to work. Some clients do not know what they want, and we do our best to understand their needs. For instance, we once designed a house for a client based on a picture of a dress that she sent to us and that was what motivated us. The client’s identity is what we aim to work with for the best possible results. We are inspired by images, by colour schemes and by materials and we work with mood boards. We are always looking for more inspiration. We travel abroad to attend exhibitions so we can be up to date in the design field.
How does the entire Studio Five team work together?
We are a total of 12 in the office. Our employees have studied industrial and furniture design, which always adds to what we already have. They attend our brainstorming sessions and their ideas are heard. We work together and each of us excels in his or her own way. Everyone has their idea and concept, and we always work together to try to come up with the best one for our client.
Where do you see yourselves in five or ten years from now?
We honestly can’t predict that. We are planning to expand in the MENA region soon. But we’ve come a very long way in only three years, which is why we can’t tell where this journey will take us. But we hope that we will continue to be inspired, work more, and grow more in the coming years.