photography by ahmed ehab

When my friends at the Doum Cultural Foundation wanted advice regarding the interior of their new head quarters, I was very eager to begin for three main reasons:

1. Great way for a designer to contribute to post Jan 25 Egypt

2. I love their mission & goal

3. Their hq is Ramses Wissa Wassef’s ( abbreviation RWW) house

The house is obviously visually beautiful in layout, decorative accents, the awesome attention to details and precision, and most importantly, use of inexpensive materials to create all of this.  We therefore had the task of transforming the home into a cultural center/office, while maintaining all of this integrity.

Due to budget restraints, we decided to only work on areas where employees or visitors would initially go. This meant the original ground and first floor would be worked on (the 2nd and 3rd floor are actually additions to the home designed by Mr. Wassef’s daughter after his death). 

First and foremost the center needed color as the existing paint was “standard government-issued beige”.  Using RWW’s stained glass as our color inspiration, we made our color palette his blue, green and orange.

Keeping in line with the philosophy of Doum, Khaled Alkhamissi (Doum’s director and famed author) wanted an office that was approachable and broke down the manager/employee barriers.  Therefore, rather than a desk with two visitor chairs, Khaled asked for two large lounge chairs for him to meet face to face with employees and guests. We also added a large elliptical meeting table (made from metal so as to differentiate new furniture from RWW’s existing wooden pieces) with six equal value chairs.  A wall facing metal desk was created for Khaled as he personally enjoys wall-facing work surfaces. Both the desk and  meeting table were made in green, like the walls for neutrality’s sake.  The upholstered new chairs (40’s reproductions) and the upholstered cushion and the RWW designed mastaba are all made using inexpensive khayameya fabrics that add color and a laid back attitude to the space. 

The walls in the house reflect both traditional egyptian aesthetics (dual color walls) and functionality. Using Martha Stewart’s step-by-step guide to making chalkboard walls, we were able to add color and function to the space.  The green chalkboard makes the walls dynamic and, their 2m height makes looking at/writing on the walls comfortable to those sitting and standing.  

All other rooms either had metal freestanding desks or wall facing desks. All glass is frosted so that users can also write on them, and the metal colors are in line with our color scheme, blue or green. The minimal designs of all the metal furniture is intended to, again, visually differentiate the new from old furniture, as well adding clean modern lines to the space.

Walls in lecture halls are also chalkboards, but this time, we decided to go for the blue color, avoiding too much conformity while keeping with our theme and need for functionality. 

Finally, the chairs for the lecture hall, originally in black, were given a little folkloric Egyptian flare by changing the leg colors and fabric colors to vibrant alternating orange and blue.  Both comfortable and colorful, the chairs are stacked on levels to make the maximum number of visitors comfortable.