Seven questions with... Sayar&Garibeh studio
Photographs Jon Cardwell
Second in our series of Beirut-based creatives over Beirut Design Week are Stephanie Sayar and Charbel Gharibeh, who form Sayar and Garibeh studio. Their work focuses mainly on interiors and furniture design, creating simple pieces with a traditional Lebanese design influences…
Tell us a bit about yourselves and what you do…
We are Stephanie Sayar and Charbel Garibeh. We are Lebanese-based interior architects and designers that work together as a team to complete collaborative projects. We each have our individual opinions and personal touches which we combine together to create nostalgic and dreamy pieces. We like to have fun while we are working and enjoy what we do. It’s been three years since we have established our studio, Sayar and Garibeh.
How did your studio get started?
After having met over 12 years ago in college, we went on to complete our Master’s degrees in Interior Architecture at the Lebanese University. It was only three years after graduation that we have realized the necessity of designing together and creating our own bubble – allowing ourselves to experiment in a space that we have created. Recently, we have moved to a new studio in Beirut, being in the centre of the busy city in what we love the most.
Your design practice is focused around materiality as well as less tangible concepts like familiarity and nostalgia. Could you tell a little more about that?
For us design is a story of perception, we tend to focus on the narrative aspect of the design, concentrating on strong and colourful visuals. If we were to describe our designs, they are playful and geometrically structured. Our approach to design encompasses our combined vision of experimental design with a dash of humour, using new materials and forms.
Where does your inspiration come from?
Lebanon, and the Lebanese life, has always inspired us in our creation. We never try to represent Lebanon in an aesthetic or a concrete way, what we aim to show is what is unseen in this country. Our vision represents the richness, the diversity and the contrast found here. We focus more on the actions and the experience of living. What triggers us most is the Lebanese culinary experience. Recently we have showcased our Juggler table which has been inspired by our food culture – the Lebanese table, that emphasizes sharing time and food with family and friends.
What part of your work do you most enjoy?
We enjoy working on mockups and first prototypes. We have a small workshop outside the city, where we are free to create the mess that we need, experiment with materials and techniques, without worrying about cleaning up after a long day. It is our ‘secret place’.
You produce work as a design duo rather than individually, fusing together two visions. How would you describe that process?
Working together is always fun, and while communication is one of the main elements in our method, we can’t hide the fact that it sometimes gets messy, but it’s all part of the ride. We tried to work separately few times in the beginning, but we always ended up realizing that there was something missing. Since we are two people working together, each one of us has their own input and touch. The process of creation is a mix of our two different personalities, though we both agree that the results are a balanced combination of these two. While Charbel is more comfortable creating loose forms and shapes Stephanie prefers to see well defined and clean visuals. We usually start working separately but then share and combine our ideas to get to a certain balance that represents both of us. At the end, we start eliminating everything that seems unnecessary to reach the purity and the simplicity of design that convinces us both.
What would you say are the biggest challenges you face designers today and how would you combat those challenges?
In Lebanon, we benefit from having local crafts and artisans that are flexible to work with and less expensive than other countries. On the other hand, we have a very limited diversity and choice of materials and artisans that know how to deal with new materials and techniques. This led us to manufacture and seek for new suppliers abroad or master the material by ourselves, which is quite challenging.