The Kuwaiti creative discusses dreams of stonewalled courtyards and divinity in simplicity
Words by Laura Cherrie Beaney in Design & Architecture · Sep 1st, 2023
Kuwaiti designer Meshary AlNassar yearns for a time before his birth. Intrigued by the stone courtyards of pre-1950s Kuwait as much as the dynamism of 1940s Cairo, it's unsurprising that the visual essence of the MENA region is palpable in his architectural, interior, and product designs.
Over the past five years, Meshary has made a name for himself, being part of a new generation of Gulf creatives who are pioneering their own aesthetics and reshaping the cultural landscape as they do so.
As his firm prepares to launch its Dubai office, we step into Meshary AlNassar's studio to uncover the diverse influences that contribute to his distinct aesthetic.
Meshary: I was born and raised in Kuwait. I'm an admirer of design and storytelling. I grew up in a household that valued beauty in all its forms. I pursued a BFA in Interior Design at the American University in Dubai and relished the opportunity to learn from the finest in the industry there.
During my upbringing, I took pleasure in storytelling and listening to others' tales about their origins and backgrounds. I noticed how design can also narrate stories in a way that's exquisite, through the impression left on a space or the craftsmanship of an object.
I embarked on a career in design with the aspiration of sharing beauty and reshaping spaces in a manner that respects my clients' personalities and distinctiveness.
My inspiration always springs from the distinct characteristics of our region. I find that there's a wealth of beauty that often goes unnoticed, stemming from the contributions of the Levant to North Africa and the Arabian Gulf. I'm constantly inspired. There's so much to delve into and observe, with centuries of craftsmanship, design, architecture, and beauty waiting to be examined.
Numerous shifts in design are occurring at present. I believe this is a phenomenon following the pandemic, as people are reevaluating how they use space and how they can optimise comfort and efficiency.
I initiated my own design studio right after completing my studies. I assembled a team that aided me in shaping our modest studio, which has been operational for five years now. Throughout this time, we've executed projects across the GCC. Our design philosophy places emphasis on simplicity and timelessness. We strive to cultivate spaces that mature along with the client. I attempt to steer clear of trends, although they can be difficult to overlook at times!
I've been influenced by numerous individuals who moulded my design style, ranging from my own father and his diverse preferences to Scandinavian luminaries like Borge Mogensen and Finn Juhl, as well as the sculptor, Brancusi, and the structures prevalent in ancient Islamic and Middle Eastern art.
I believe a significant part of me is nostalgic, yearning for an era I never experienced, such as Kuwait before the 1950s. Back then, charming mud brick houses with courtyards characterised a simple and unhurried way of life. I also have dreams of Cairo in the 1940s, when Tarab music resonated as the nation's melody, architecture was extravagant, and visual culture wielded considerable influence, interwoven into the social fabric.
One aspect I refrain from is categorising our aesthetic. I do not classify myself as a minimalist or a maximalist. I perceive myself as the amalgamation of diverse styles converging to create something tailor-made and reflective of a specific space and era. Each space possesses its own context.
My audience encompasses design enthusiasts, admirers of patience, seekers of beauty, and ambitious trendsetters. I've been fortunate to have some of the most exceptional clients! There's nothing quite like collaborating with someone who values good design and entrusts their designer to manifest their vision.
In terms of residential design, I'm delighted to convey that our clients frequently share the same vision as us – a home designed to enrich daily life, facilitate routines, promote health and well-being, and above all, a design that can mature with you, adapt, and accommodate your family's growth. For commercial projects, we assist our clients in advancing their business. We collaborate with consultants to ensure that our designs contribute value to the workspace, enhancing efficiency and a harmonious flow.
All of our materials derive from or draw inspiration from nature. I visited the oldest stone quarries in Italy to grasp marble and the finest wood workshops in India to acquaint myself with wood. Everything has a source, and the more we comprehend the origin, the better we can apply and appreciate these materials.
Following five years of successful projects originating from our Kuwait office, we are delighted to unveil the doors to our second office in Dubai, scheduled for September 2023. We're also returning to our origins and resuming the design of products and collectable pieces once again.
I'd like to conclude by saying - if you don't find joy in what consumes most of your time, it's likely not the path you're meant to tread!
All images courtesy Meshary AlNassar