designed: 2011 by ramzi makram-ebeid
Having lived with my awesome grandparents in this apartment for 8 years (they lived here since the 50’s), their house became my beloved home. However, as it was filled with memories everywhere, my apartment –after their passing- felt like a weathered photo album that needed a new cover. I therefore had the difficult task of transforming it so that I can move on and make this flat my own. To do so, I decided to change the house in two phases. The first phase, which I’m living in now, is more on the decorative level, I maintained the integrity of their design but gave the space a more modern feel with new finishes, fabrics, furniture layout, artwork, accessories and some new furniture.
While revamping the space, I wanted to create something that was elegant, modern, minimal and laid-back. Moreover, I wanted something that would not affect my design sense while working, I needed a visually quiet space. I therefore went for a simple grey and white color scheme, and everything, except the wooden furniture and artwork, had to fall under that scheme. One of the most visible changes is the grey dyed parquet floor; by doing so the space had a very different feel and became quite modern.
There is so much beautiful artistry in Egypt that it’s hard not to collect pieces. Having purchased a variety of different work, I wanted to unify the artwork somehow. By framing everything in modern white wood and adding white thick borders around each piece, the artwork stands out while working well with the other pieces around it.
This used to be my grandma and grandpa’s dining room and TV area. We always sat for every meal on the dining room table, invited the entire family for weekly (sometimes daily) meals and therefore, the table was the center of the room. The massive couch, which they purchased in the 40’s could seat a good portion of us on it, and while the grandparents were alone, was grandma’a favorite place to lie down and watch television at the end of the room.
Having a different lifestyle than theirs, I had very different needs for this space. Using the table as a large workspace, I wanted it near the windows to appreciate the beautiful Nile view and take advantage of the natural light. The couch, a favorite of mine and my friends had to be at the center to allow for the best TV watching experience, while also making the room feel much larger. Personally, I do not enjoy couches pushed against walls, so I centered mine so that everybody could easily move around the room. By adding a simple slipcover over the couch, it was quickly updated into a modern seating area while still reminding me of my grandma every time I see it.
The dining room table is an Egyptian designed and made deco table from the 40’s. All the wood, however, was a bit too much for me and I wanted to mix materials in the space. I therefore removed the wooden top, and then edited the base by adding the upper portion to support a new thick glass top, allowing for more energy flow in the room. Also the glass top exposed the beauty of the piece. To add a little modern flavor to the room, I got four Vitra chairs, which are very similar in shape to the couch and are comfortable for both home and work.
The large buffet was removed from the room, and smaller one was turned into an office storage unit, filled with all the trinkets one needs in the office. As I like clean empty surfaces, everything we need is either in that buffet or in a storage/library room in my home. I removed the black marble and replaced it with a honed turkish carara marble.
I chose the rug, which I ordered from Zimmer in Zamalek, as it brought back some of the old school charm of the space, and because I could choose the colors and shape I wanted. Using the same grays found throughout the room and taking colors from the artwork, like purple, the rug brings all the colors of the room together. The round shiny false ceiling above the rug mimics its shape, adds much needed light to the room, and is a great way to use an art deco shape in a modern way. Backlighting against simple white voile curtains also gives the room a modern feel, while adding more lighting.
The two small coffee tables are actually a combination of one new piece and an old one. My grandparents had legs under the original table and a marble top. I preferred removing the legs in the bottom to make the table versatile as a stool, and exposed the woods joints on the top.
The party came to the house thanks to Karim Mansour’s (www.karimmansour.com) awesome photograph of a danish-indian dj spinning in Cairo. The colors and the energy of this photograph made me fall in love with it in a second. Somehow I wanted to party and meditate at the same time. The massive frame makes the piece feel like a dj box while also bringing focus to it.
This was my grandparents’ main bedroom, filled with a beautiful collection of 1940’s Egyptian art deco pieces. Using the same concept of the living room, the floors here were also dyed and all fabrics changed to white.
The pottery I designed is next to the bedside, these are typical Egyptian water storage bottles, and the more decorative pieces are above the armoire. The massive round tray, made from recycled potatoes chips covers, allows guests to eat comfortably on the floor or the bed of the room.
The artwork here is the two fist modern pieces I purchased and depict common Egyptian days. Full of color, the art adds vibrancy to the room and is balanced with the pottery above the armoire.
A simple grey rug keeps the feet warm and adds a clean modern element to the room. The round stainless steel false ceiling above adds light and a lot of fun to the room, while still maintaining the Deco feel.