In a non-descript workshop in Dubai’s Ras Al Khor district, disused engines are reborn as luxury pieces of furniture, thanks to the talents of an ambitious designer
Among the tired, dusty roads of Dubai’s Ras Al Khor district, there’s a workshop that, on the surface appears just like any other garage. The district, a hotbed of make-do engineering and motoring passion, is chock-full of little enterprises that thrive on fixing up and improving anything that runs on an engine. But none of them produce the kinds of products that this workshop does—the man who builds here has the market entirely to himself.
Petrolheads the world over are extremely familiar with the idea of using bits of car to make furniture. Indeed, any car fan who’s watched Top Gear will have noticed the coffee table made of a glass pane, sitting atop a gleaming, reclaimed engine, or else
the restored seats, fitted into a two-piece sofa suite lay-out. And no doubt many fans will have looked at their TV screens with envy, asking themselves how they could get their hands on something so unabashedly motor-minded.
In the past, your only option would have been to fly to the UK or the US, locate a specialist and a commission a piece at great expense. However, in Ras Al Khor, designer Sean Morenas is changing that. He specialises in taking disused car parts, and upcycling them into pieces of furniture. Working at a friend’s workshop, his party piece is the engine-turned-coffee table – a cleaned-up Mercedes V12 with a pane of glass sitting on top. However, there are plenty more strings to his bow.
“Coffee tables are the main product. I’ve also done bottle holders, I’ve done side tables, I’ve done chairs, I’ve done the whole sofa seats. A gaming customer once wanted the whole concept of a car in his seat, with proper car seats. You can go beyond engines and mechanical things, car seats are quite popular,” he says.
“I also do the custom orders. Someone might want an Audi V8, or they’ll want different colours, and different styles.”
Morenas explains that the idea for this enterprise came to him after he realised that no-one in the Middle East produces products like this. Then, last year, a motorcycle accident adjusted his view on what he should be doing with his life, and he decided that then was as good a time as any to put his plan into action.
“Basically, it’s my hobby and my business. In Dubai we don’t have these things. You might have seen it on the internet, in the UK or the US or something, but nobody does it here. So I thought I should do it. A lot of local people love cars, and stuff related to cars, so it’s a good little thing to be doing. I used to work as a logistics manager before my bike accident. I was on bed-rest for six months, and after that I started doing this,” he says.
“After the accident, I just thought that I needed to do something else. I didn’t want to have to report to somebody else. I wanted to do my own thing, which I like to do. It was sort of about finding my freedom of business.”
Having worked on the project for around a year, Morenas has made inroads into the region’s motoring communities, showcasing his products as motoring-focused events. Petrolheads have taken note, and he now enjoys a steady stream of orders, some asking for similar things that he has already created, and some asking for completely custom options. Either way, Morenas is in the position now where he needs to be constantly looking for old engines and car parts, so that he knows he has the raw materials to upcycle when an order comes in.
“It’s been going for almost one year, so I’m just starting. Now I’m in the market—people are seeing it and noticing my products,” he explains.
“What I do is basically I look for engines and different things all of the time. I keep them ready because I have a lot of orders coming in. Once I get the order, I start making it. But I don’t finish them straight away because clients request different colours, or different styles – that kind of thing. So I wait for them to tell me what they want.”
It takes Morenas thee to four days to finish a piece of work once it’s been ordered. But if it the order is for something custommade, if somebody wants something special, it might take him a week. Either way, it’s a reasonably quick turnaround. What’s more, Morenas’ prices aren’t anywhere near what you’d have to pay for similar products in the UK or the Us—the pieces start at AED 1,500.
“It’s reasonable, I think. In the UK, these things are much more expensive,” he says.
It appears the market agrees, and More-
nas’ venture is quickly gaining traction, meaning he’s had to think about how to take it to the next level.
“Now I’m seeing a lot of growth. With the motor shows and things like that, there have been more orders coming in. A lot of people are looking at the products, and then there’s word of mouth. Now, a lot of people are asking me to ship to Saudi, or Qatar. I’ve got a lot of enquiries, so I think the next step would be shipping abroad, and then getting the right partner who can display my products,” he says.