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Zeena Al Ahmad talks about Middle Eastern design

Jordanian Zeena Al Ahmad chats to InsideOut about her role as a designer, what art means to her and the future of Middle Eastern design

Image Credit: Farras Oran/ANM
The piece of furniture I most remember from my childhood is… a colouring table full of crayons and paper.

Zeena Al Ahmad’s beautiful Chamber Gyld furniture line combines the allure of old Arabia, the functionality of modern design and the quirky individualism that only handmade items can exude. Rich pomegranate red meets cool jade and bursts of fuchsia on lamps, armchairs and coffee tables, all transformed using paint, velvet and a love for design.

I have always been a visual person… and appreciate art and design. I have a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, specialising in painting, and my Masters was in interior design. My studies motivated me to pursue a design career. 

I believe that art… begins in the mind and senses. Art takes place long before it becomes an expression that is translated into a physical creation. Art and design begin when we think about them, look at them, hear them and feel them – when we are stimulated by them in our surroundings. An artist is an artist before he or she is even aware of it.

The first piece I ever designed was… produced for a first-year degree project. I cut 100 T-shirts into strips, then crushed and sewed them together to create an interesting, textured surface in the form of an abstract, exaggerated female figure. This was then glued on to a piece of wood and turned into a table with a glass top for protection.

The piece of furniture I most remember from my childhood is… a colouring table full of crayons and paper.

If I wasn’t a designer, I would still be… an artist. I don’t see myself in any field other than a creative one. I have a natural flair for design and painting. I enjoy expressing my thoughts and feelings through tangible works of art.

My role as a designer is… to interweave visual culture with social, political and traditional aspects of life, redefining aesthetics and experiences in a thoughtful and practical way. Good design should make people think.

If I could design for anyone… it would be Christian Louboutin. I’d love to decorate his home or one of his stores.

In my designs I love using… velvet – it’s such a rich, royal material. When it comes to choosing colours, I love emerald green, amethyst and
ruby red.

If I had to choose my favourite piece from the furniture I’ve designed… it would be the Boho Chic multicoloured chest of drawers with its crystal glass top and transparent drawers lined with trimmed velvet (pictured bottom left). The combination of wood, crystal glass, rich fabric and vibrant colours makes this piece especially exotic. Having said that, I love all of my pieces
as each one represents a part of me.

It sounds like a cliché, but my mother is… one of my biggest fans. She recently had me refurbish most of her furniture. I can’t wait to start working on my own pieces. I am getting married this year so I will be moving into a new home with my soon-to-be husband.

Middle Eastern design is… evolving. The region has given birth to some really well-rounded and talented artists and designers like Zaha Hadid and Nada Debs. They have harmoniously integrated Western and Eastern art, giving Arab design a sophisticated edge.