A Colour­ful World

The vi­brant Beirut home of ar­chi­tect and de­signer Annabel Karim Kas­sar is a per­fect re­minder of her up­bring­ing and trav­els around the world

Philippine Tatler Homes - - VOLUME 12 - by Annabel Nourse pho­tog­ra­phy ray main

A peek into the ar­chi­tect and de­signer Annabel Karim Kas­sar’s vi­brant home in Beirut

Nes­tled in Beirut’s bo­hemian quar­ter, down a nar­row street of early 20th-cen­tury vil­las, is the Gem­mayzeh home of French-born ar­chi­tect and de­signer Annabel Karim Kas­sar. One of the few parts of the city where old Beirut re­mains in­tact, this neigh­bour­hood has been un­der­go­ing gen­tri­fi­ca­tion since the end of the civil war in 1990, and is well known to­day for its trendy pubs, cafes and res­tau­rants.

“When I found this place, it had been un­oc­cu­pied for over 10 years. There had been a restau­rant on the ground level, but it didn’t sur­vive,” says Kas­sar. “So I con­verted this part into a spare bed­room and an of­fice workspace.”

The house is about 4,300 square feet, spread over two lev­els and with a gar­den in front. In Beirut, re­con­struc­tion is a com­pli­cated process and it took a year to com­plete the project. “What I did was a highly idio­syn­cratic ren­o­va­tion, a dis­tinc­tive melange of East and West,” she ex­plains. “I went pretty wild with colour. I was in­spired by the palm tree, which stands in front of the house, and its orange dates and very green leaves.”

The house is sur­rounded by Euro­pean-style build­ings, bars and res­tau­rants, all buzzing with young peo­ple at night—so the heart of the house was de­lib­er­ately dec­o­rated to be vi­brant and dra­matic in a riot of pink, orange and green. “I wanted the walls to be a state­ment that shouts colour and, as a re­sult, they’re trans­formed into de­signer pieces them­selves,” ex­plains Kas­sar.

She wasn’t shy with the rest of her home’s decor, either. “All the fur­ni­ture I care­fully de­signed my­self, or picked out what I felt was go­ing to be strong enough,” she says. “I de­lib­er­ately chose over­sized lamp­shades and bold geo­met­ric-pat­terned

floor­ing; they all had to hold their own against all that colour. Any­thing qui­eter would have been drowned out.”

Kas­sar has a uniquely mul­ti­cul­tural ap­proach to her work. “I have lived in the Mid­dle East, in Morocco and in Dubai for a few years, and in Le­banon for most of my life,” she says. “This cul­tural her­itage can be found in each of my projects. It sums up my way of be­ing and think­ing, hav­ing lived in sev­eral ci­ties around the world.”

A strong ar­chi­tec­tural struc­ture lay­ered with gor­geous or­na­men­ta­tion de­fines Kas­sar’s dis­tinc­tive work, cou­pled with the use of un­usual ma­te­ri­als, dec­o­ra­tive mo­tifs and lots of light. “I find in­spi­ra­tion in tra­di­tional crafts­man­ship and ar­chi­tec­tural styles, and then give it a mod­ern twist,” she says. “My open­ness to cul­ture, tra­di­tion and in­no­va­tion, rather than a sig­na­ture ‘look’ or style, pushes me into work­ing on var­ied projects. Like any­thing new or in­no­va­tive, I’m partly in­spired by what came be­fore. I’m in­trigued by trans­form­ing tra­di­tion and mem­ory into con­tem­po­rary de­signs, and I’m not afraid of do­ing things dif­fer­ently.”

“Light is a phys­i­cal ma­te­rial that’s as vis­i­ble as a con­crete wall, and must be in­cor­po­rated and de­signed from the out­set of a project”

Hav­ing lived in nu­mer­ous Ara­bic coun­tries, Kas­sar is at ease us­ing tra­di­tional or­na­men­ta­tion sim­i­lar to that used in an­cient Moor­ish ar­chi­tec­ture, but she also mixes other ref­er­ences. For ex­am­ple, the gold paint used on the con­nect­ing doors in her home was in­spired by sim­i­lar tones found in many of the Chris­tian churches in the area.

Kas­sar con­sid­ers light an im­por­tant com­po­nent of the ar­chi­tec­ture of a space and this is ev­i­dent in the Gem­mayzeh house, where light fix­tures cre­ate pat­terns on the colour­ful walls, while blind-free win­dows al­low light to pour into each room.

“For me, light is more than just a trans­par­ent pres­ence,” says Kas­sar. “It’s a phys­i­cal ma­te­rial that’s as vis­i­ble as a con­crete wall, and must be in­cor­po­rated and de­signed from the out­set of a project. It re­ally brings a space to life and is al­ways the start­ing point for me.”

Kas­sar has com­bined a se­lec­tion of mod­ern fur­ni­ture with lo­cal ar­ti­sans’ pieces and vin­tage items, many of which were sourced in small French flea mar­kets. Dot­ted through­out the rooms is a col­lec­tion of her own fur­ni­ture de­signs, such as the hexag­o­nal din­ing ta­ble. Her in­spi­ra­tions in­clude Mies van der Rohe, Le Cor­bus­ier and the Bauhaus school.

When she’s not trav­el­ling for projects around the world, Kas­sar en­joys noth­ing more than work­ing on dif­fer­ent ta­bles in the house, both in­doors and out, and mak­ing the most of the sun­shine. In this home, to be sure, it seems peace—and quite a bit of colour—has been re­stored to the land.

FROM LEFT The bright colour scheme was in­spired by a palm tree that stood in front of the house; all the fur­ni­ture was de­signed or hand­picked by Annabel Karim Kas­sar op­po­site page Kas­sar matched the bold colours of the in­te­rior with over­sized...

FROM LEFT An or­na­men­tal stand­alone bath­tub in the bath­room; the vi­brant colour scheme and bold pat­terns ex­tend to the bed­rooms as well op­po­site page The dif­fer­ent shades of green on the walls and the bed­ding are a good con­trast to the strong...

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