Design & Architecture

In the studio: Paola Sakr

Paola Sakr studio x Luxhabitat Dubai

We speak to the rising multidisciplinary designer on what gives her work form, context and structure.

Words by Aneesha Rai in Design & Architecture · Feb 23rd, 2024

In 2016, Paola founded Studio Paola Sakr in Beirut, later relocating to Dubai in October 2020 to further pursue her artistic endeavors. Driven by a profound enthusiasm for exploration and experimentation, Paola champions a philosophy of continuous innovation and simplicity, evident in her distinctive approach to materials. Describing her design philosophy as "emotional design," Paola ensures that her functional creations are imbued with stories and feelings, creating a distinctive and engaging narrative for each piece. We speak to Paola, learning more about her inspirations and what guides her work.

Paola: I am a multi-disciplinary designer who found her calling amidst the vibrant cultural scene of Beirut. My journey began at the Lebanese Academy of Fine Arts (ALBA) where I graduated with honors in 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in Product Design. My studio has grown in a very organic way since I graduated, following an exhibition I was picked to participate in as a final-year student. I showcased a sustainable material that I named ‘Morning Ritual’ which I had created out of coffee grounds and newspaper waste, which in turn prompted the Dubai Design Week organizers to invite me to exhibit that same year a collection made from this material - which proved to be a pivotal moment in my career as it got a lot of attention from the international design scene. 

Following this success, I kept exploring different materials and creating collections inspired by my environment and personal experiences mainly as a way of self-expression. Despite working for a year at a prestigious lighting company in Beirut, PSLab, I ultimately decided to dedicate my focus solely to my studio work, where I continually try to push boundaries and explore new realms of design.

Paola Sakr studio

Beyond product design, I am a ceramist, artist, and photographer, finding solace and inspiration in the intricate beauty of nature and everyday life. While I am drawn to the artistic realm and often get inspired to create for the sake of it, I find my true passion lies in creating functional pieces that enrich daily experiences. Nature serves as my primary muse, and I immerse myself in its wonders, spending much of my time amidst Lebanon's breathtaking mountains. 

In 2020, I made the decision to relocate to Dubai, a move prompted by the harrowing experience of surviving the Beirut blast, which destroyed my atelier and entire city. Despite this tragedy, I remain resilient, splitting my time between Dubai and Beirut, where the heart of my production still resides.

Encouraging craftsmanship and keeping a sustainable approach are at the core of every project I embark on.

I am always curious about exploring new materials and techniques which makes my portfolio quite varied but I believe there’s a common trait in my approach that links all my products together. I like to keep things simple while adding a twist that conditions its functionality and makes it stand out. There’s always a story or a feeling that I want to convey through my products. Encouraging craftsmanship and keeping a sustainable approach are at the core of every project I embark on. There’s always the intention of making a positive contribution to the world, whether it is environmental, social, or simply something for the soul. It is hard for me to choose one favorite project as I, myself, am everchanging but each one has a special place in my heart.

Paola Sakr studio
Paola Sakr studio

My latest mural, ‘Tidal Transitions’, for a private client in Lebanon is the most recent residential project I was part of. My ‘Bye Bye Evil Eye’ mirrors have been part of several residential projects in both Lebanon and Dubai this past year. I have designed several furniture pieces for a private home in LA in 2023 as well.

My favorite UAE-based designers? I really appreciate the work of the architecture studio ‘Bone Dot Studio’ as well as furniture designers Carla Baz and Thomas Trad.

All images are courtesy Studio Paola Sakr.