In­side Bokja

Bokja pro­duces pieces that blur the lines be­tween func­tion­al­ity and ar t, rooted in the re­gion’s her­itage. The two tal­ents be­hind the de­sign stu­dio, Hoda Baroudi and Maria Hibri, sat down with LT to share their re­flec­tions on their work and the de­sign in

Lebanon Traveler - - DESIGN IN LEBANON -

Hoda Baroudi and Maria Hibri’s ex­u­ber­ant de­signs have toured the world. Since they cre­ated Bokja De­sign Stu­dio in 2000, the Beirut-based de­sign­ers have been trans­form­ing ob­jects into func­tional pieces of art. Brought to­gether by their pas­sion for an­tique and an­cient ta­pes­tries, the two women made a name for them­selves by sourc­ing retro fur­ni­ture found in Beirut’s an­tique mar­kets and cov­er­ing them with patch­works of col­or­ful tex­tiles and em­broi­deries from the Mid­dle East and the mythic Silk Road coun­tries of Cen­tral Asia. The duo’s un­con­ven­tional fur­ni­ture even caught the eyes of some of the big­gest names in the en­ter­tain­ment and fash­ion in­dustr y such as Ju­lia Roberts and French footwear designer Chris­tian Louboutin, who pur­chased a Bokja sofa for each of his stores. More than just a brand, Bokja, a Turk­ish word used to de­scribe the heav­ily em­broi­dered fabr ic that cov­ers a bride’s dowry, is the stor y of an­ces­tral tra­di­tions meet­ing with con­tem­po­rary art and life­style.

HOW DOES YOUR LE­BANESE HER­ITAGE IN­SPIRE YOU?

The in­flu­ence of our en­vi­ron­ment is re­flected al­most di­rectly in ever ything Bokja. The layer ing of fabr ics from dif fer­ent par ts of the countr y and the world re­minds us of the mul­ti­lay­ered na­ture of our city, which is chaotic and har­mo­nious at the same time. There is also a sen­si­bil­ity to both the East and the West that is so dis­tinc­tive to be­ing here. Bas­ing our­selves in Beirut for the last 15 years was a con­scious de­ci­sion and has al­lowed us to not only be in­spired by our her itage but to pos­i­tively contr ibute to it and give back in the long term.

HOW DO YOU COM­PLE­MENT EACH OTHER AS A DE­SIGN TEAM?

We al­ways found that work­ing to­gether brought more ideas, pas­sion and knowl­edge to the ta­ble. The two of us com­ing to­gether br ings un­ex­pected re­sults that we feel could not hap­pen if we worked alone. It makes our work stronger.

HOW AND WHY DID YOU GET INTO DE­SIGN AND WHAT NEW PROJECTS ARE YOU WORK­ING ON?

We have al­ways been pas­sion­ate about ar t and de­sign, with a strong back­ground in an­tiques and tex­tiles. It was a serendip­i­tous meet­ing that brought us to­gether and led us to take the jump into work­ing in that realm. At the mo­ment we just launched our lat­est col­lec­tion “Goods,” as well as a limited edi­tion col­lec­tion of coats with Le­banese designer Milia M.

WHAT IS YOUR DE­SIGN PROCESS?

Our de­sign and work process is an al­len­com­pass­ing one, with our fo­cus di­vided on dif fer­ent par ts of the prac­tice. We spend half of our time work­ing closely with our ar ti­sans in our ate­lier houses, while the other half is spent brain­storm­ing and strate­giz­ing with our cre­ative team at the Bokja stu­dio.

HOW DO YOU THINK THE DE­SIGN SCENE IN LE­BANON IS EVOLV­ING?

De­sign has never been more vis­i­ble in Le­banon, and it is ex­cit­ing to know that Beirut is now es­tab­lish­ing it­self as a de­sign cap­i­tal in its own r ight, with its own set of world class de­sign­ers. Dur­ing the Civil War, the ephemeral na­ture of time has turned Beirut into a won­der­ful in­cu­ba­tor that led to tremen­dous ex­per­i­men­ta­tion. The boom that fol­lowed the con­flict has been even more in­cred­i­ble; with ex­cit­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties ap­pear ing as in­ter­na­tional in­ter­est for Beirut was grow­ing.

WHAT IS THE BEST PIECE OF AD­VICE YOU CAN GIVE TO NEW DE­SIGN­ERS?

To be hum­ble, to be re­bel­lious, and to be per­sis­tent. And, not to look too far for in­spi­ra­tion. Their own cul­ture and ex­per iences can be the best and most un­ex­pected star ting point.

WHAT IS YOUR FA­VORITE PIECE AND WHY?

Ever y col­lec­tion br ings with it a new fa­vor ite piece, but my cur­rent fa­vor ite is our Mashara­biya wall hang­ing. It is a beau­ti­ful ta­pes­try made of in­ter­con­nect­ing pil­lows that rep­re­sents a re-imag­i­na­tion of a clas­sic Is­lamic ar­chi­tec­tural fea­ture. Like all our projects, this res­onates deeply with us on a per­sonal level as it not only re­flects on a r ich his­tor y and ar tis­tic cul­ture that we ap­pre­ci­ate, but also speaks of shif ts in our con­tem­po­rar y at­ti­tudes of glob­al­iza­tion and mod­ern tech­nol­ogy. The cush­ion that can only ex­ist when hand in hand with an­other cush­ion sends a sim­ple mes­sage: to be hu­man is to be present, and to­gether we are stronger.

WHY DID YOU DE­CIDE TO COL­LAB­O­RATE WITH MILIA M?

We have been ac­tively work­ing to take Bokja into new do­mains so when the op­por­tu­nity to work with Milia M came up we grabbed it im­me­di­ately. It re­quired us to step out of our com­fort zone, but it was a won­der­ful ex­per ience to work with a brand that has a sim­i­lar ethos, and the re­sults were bet­ter than we could have ever imag­ined. It opened up new pos­si­bil­i­ties and col­lab­o­ra­tions that we will con­tinue to ex­plore in the fu­ture.

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