The Design House: Agata Kurzela

We step into the architect & designer's personality-filled home & studio in DIFC.

15 Aug 2021, words by Aneesha Rai in Design & Architecture

Agata Kurzela

In this edition of the Design House, we speak to Agata Kurzela at her home in the Index Tower, DIFC about her approach to design. Agata is the founder, designer & architect of her eponymous studio where she focuses on craftsmanship, emerging technologies and computational design.

Q: Tell us about your process and your approach to designing your home.

Agata: My approach to design is architectural, and the aim is to create a space free of distraction that delivers its purpose. As a designer, I prefer to work with the space and the integration of practical elements, giving them appropriate proportions, and layering materials that highlight the space’s advantages. To me, this approach to shaping the space works much better than simply applying decorations.

While in theory I embrace minimalism — mostly limited to the design of the space itself — in practice I often succumb to the temptation of getting visually striking pieces of art and design. We travel frequently and there is always the thrill of an unexpected find, be it in Oaxaca or Antananarivo.

This creates the challenge of managing the juxtaposition without losing control of the space. Often, I end up moving pieces around, in a continuing dance that creates a dialog between various objects: Iranian carpets layered over Kyrgyz felt rugs, a recent papier-mâché palm sculpture by Emirati artist Mohammed Ahmed Ibrahim next to an ancient Dogon carved door from Mali, or a bronze statue of a Kalashnikov-toting horseback warrior from Chad finding its place next to Amra Abbas’s Kaaba as misprint.

The layering of aesthetics and meanings creates its own rhythm, and brings out new dimensions for the pieces.

Living space
Kurzela's home is an amalgamation and curation of her travels and experiences as well as some designer pieces. The chair and sofa is from Moroso, flanked over an Armenian wedding rug, Persian Kashaki rug and Kyrgiz felt rug. The coffee table is by Draide, Pipe side table by Moroso. Light is the 'Captain Flynt' by Flos.
Palm Sculpture
Horseman
L: Papier-mâché palm sculpture by Emirati artist Mohammed Ahmed Ibrahim next to an ancient Dogon carved door from Mali (R) Bronze statue of a Kalashnikov-toting horseback warrior from Chad finding its place next to Amra Abbas's Kaaba as misprint

Q: How would you describe your 'house style'?

Agata: My studio doesn’t have a house style per se. Rather, the focus is on exploring spatial relationships, materials and, when possible, embracing craftsmanship and structuring each project in a way that allows continuing to learn – from ourselves, from our collaborators, artists and other designers. When working with interiors, well-chosen finishes and well curated design pieces are a way to bring the creativity of others into the artistic dynamic. That said, I often find designing bespoke pieces easier than finding ready-made products.

While it is possible to design spaces to the minutest of details through sketches and visualizations, nothing can replace the experience of the space when it is finished. When possible, I like to leave certain decisions until the very end, when most elements settle and it is time for the finishing strokes.

Studio
Design
Tiles
Table
Dining
L: Art piece by Amir F. Fallah - 'Circling the world to return', fertility scuplitres from Africa & Noguchi table from Vitra R: Fungo chandelier by Campana Brothers from Lasvit, container table by Moooi, and Mummy chairs by Vitra
Bedroom
Sculpture in centre by Mohammed Ahmed Ibrahim, photos by Song Shimin, Smock armchairs by Moroso and war rug from Afghanistan.

Q: What are some of the trends you have noticed while designing homes?

Agata: Current trends in residential design are characterized by bulky sculptural forms against light and earthy tones of rough plaster, imperfect hand-thrown ceramics with an occasional add-on of minimalist accents. As all fashions, this will pass, too. 

In the meantime, it is important to understand the intrinsic quality of what we select rather than getting caught in a trend monetization which inevitably delivers us to the point of saturation and boredom. Once the archetypical elements of the style that they became the template for are copied and reproduced ad infinitum in an increasingly dumbed-down fashion, they deliver a fatal blow to the beauty of the original.