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“We don’t sell furniture, we sell a lifestyle” – Omar Nakkash on The Unit by Nakkash pop-up

In conversation with Omar Nakkash
An exciting new pop-up has just landed on our shores and it's gaining the interests of design and architecture enthusiasts. Go inside The Unit by Nakkash pop-up with Omar Nakkash...

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The UAE is leading the way when it comes to cool cultural initiatives and boasts more art and design projects than ever before. One of these projects is Dubai Design District (d3), a multi-purpose space built to be home to the design community.

Earlier this month, the creative design hub opened the doors to a new pop-up shop that immediately caught our attention. The Unit by Nakkash (Nakkash is a family-run business) brings us one step closer to getting our hands on some unique designs and exquisite interior pieces made by established and emerging designers. 

Run by Wajih, Aya and Omar Nakkash, the trio behind Nakkash Gallery truly offer the country’s design enthusiasts beautifully-created lifestyle concepts and Buro 24/7 Middle East recently sat down with Omar to discuss the pop-up, how colours affect your mood and the importance of balance between business and family…

Congratulations on the pop-up! It’s absolutely stunning. Can you tell us more about it and how it came about? 

The idea of The Unit by Nakkash is a much more democratic approach towards design. We believe good design should be available to all; meaning genuine, authentic, well-produced, well-designed, affordable, accessible pieces. What we want people to do is buy good designs that are not imitated, so this is the whole idea of The Unit. And it’s targeted to people like us: millennials. They don’t want everything in the house to be super expensive. What we like to do in The Unit also is to add a lot of touches of colour too, and you’ll see that we mix four to five different designers. 

Are these designers emerging or established?

Some of the designers are emerging. For us, it’s like we offer a platform for up and coming designers to exhibit their works and their pieces and designs side by side with established brands. 

How do you choose the designers?

So we travel a lot and read a lot. It’s a family business, my father started it and he’s been in the business for 44 years.Being in the region [for that time], his contacts have opened a lot of doors for us and we’ve been travelling with him and that’s how we look for things. 

Are the pieces limited?

In our design studio, run by myself and my father, we design limited edition pieces that we exhibited at the last Design Days Dubai. There was a bookcase and a table collection. So, we’ve been doing that more recently. This year, we’re working on an extension of that collection, as well as new pieces. The piece I’m working on now is inspired by Lebanon and its history and culture and it’s also manufactured in Lebanon and designed by a Lebanese designer. It’s kind of a moral obligation to kind of take this design language from the Middle East and show it to the world. 

What trends are you seeing more of now? 

I hate this word but unfortunately, there are “trends” in the market. For example now, leather is no longer a trend, people find it too corporate or too cold. In terms of heavy-duty longterm, leather is actually the best. Also, in terms of maintenance, if you spill something on it, it’s easy. Velvet too is a bit tricky because it can be easily damaged. 

They say that colours can affect your mood. Do you think this applies to the way your home is decorated too? 

I’ve studied this and the only time I’ve applied it to my career is when we designed an office. For example, deep blue entices productivity and encourages you to work and so, if you go to our studio, the most elongated wall is blue. So, that’s the only time I’ve ever felt that there was a direct correlation between colour and attitude. However, in a home as well, it really depends on a person and their character. 

Nakkash has a 40-year legacy. Why was it important for you to continue in your father’s footsteps? 

Honestly, for me, I’ve known I wanted to do something creative in the arts or in the design world for some time. Our mother also worked in fashion and we would just be in a household that was very conducive to art and design. My father always used to read magazines and leave them on the coffee tables and so it was kind of a natural process. 

Instead of just offering furniture, you guys truly offer a complete lifestyle. How do you go about creating this?

Nakkash is an interior architecture firm with medium to high-end furniture. Because of our interior architecture and interior design background, our showroom is unlike any other showroom in the Middle East where you have it sectioned off by brands, we mix and match a lot.

what we like to say in nakkash is that we don’t sell furniture, we sell a lifestyle. 

How do you balance business and family?

I always say Mr. Nakkash is my boss during the day and he’s my father at night. In the beginning, it was difficult to balance that but then you need to clearly define your boundaries and separate work and personal. So when Mr. Nakkash comes to me and says “No changes to this design”, I’m not going to say “No”. I’m going to consider it as if it’s someone who’s been in the business for 44 years telling me to do it like this for the sake of the project. That took about a year to get accustomed too. What’s amazing about it being a family business is you wear so many different hats and you don’t do just one thing. I help Aya with the marketing, Aya gives me constructive criticism on the design, we both do HR or we travel together for the buying. That keeps us going! 

Having Lebanese roots and being born and raised in Dubai, do you think that your Middle Eastern background has influenced the way you design your products?

Yes, 100 percent. I think good designs should cater to everyone and it should be functional and aesthetically pleasing to everyone. I think the contextualisation of my history and my culture should be projected into this work but it shouldn’t cater to a specific market. The school of thought of American design is completely different than Italian designs. So American designs have a very pragmatic approach and are very hands-on whereas the Italian is very theoretical. Both schools have helped me create this lifestyle brand.

What’s in store for Nakkash in the next couple of years?

In the long run, we hope to have this pop-up once or twice a year throughout Dubai and at different events. In the long-term, we want to convert all of this into an e-commerce website because again, our target audience…

Is millennials.

Exactly. They are always on their phones so it’s good to have a platform where this is on all year and not just for four weeks. We’re also planning to have something in Abu Dhabi, or even in Lebanon but it’s definitely in the long-term plan. We’re very strategically placed. 

The Unit by Nakkash pop-up is now open until April 25, 2018, and is located on the ground floor in Building 5 at Dubai Design District (d3) Dubai. 

Then, get a sneak peek at the new Dorchester Hotel in Dubai ahead of its opening

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