IKEA meets Nada Debs for a Middle Eastern Collection
IKEA has for the first time in its history collaborated with a Middle East designer, Nada Debs to bring her perspective to serve the growing IKEA market in the region. The result is LJUV, a contemporary Middle Eastern collection with vintage geometry patterns for that time of the year when friends and family get together.
Lebanese designer Nada Debs is in conversation with Karin Gustavsson, creative leader at IKEA, and a group from the textile supplier somewhere in the southern parts of India. The carpet is covered with sketches, colour swatches, scraps of fabric and thread rolls and around them are looms, sewing machines and bolt after bolt of fabric. Nada and Karin have already sent the suppliers their ideas for patterns, pillows and floor cushions. They are trying different techniques and combinations together with the supplier to find the right balance. The new collection LJUV is being created as you read this and will hit select Middle East stores by February 2020.
IKEA chose to work together with Nada for the collection LJUV — named after the Swedish word for delightful — where traditional Middle Eastern patterns and symbols meet Scandinavian design. They describe it as a mix of big and small decorative and functional items like floor cushions, rugs, trays, ceramics and glassware that make it easy to host many guests.
Nada Debs lives and works in Beirut. She grew up in Japan and studied design in the US. Her work spans from furniture design to craft, art, fashion, and interiors. What ties her work together is her ability to distil culture and craftsmanship to create pieces of emotional resonance. She has a hands-on approach and understands those good relationships and a collaborative attitude are key to achieving good results. Her collaborative attitude is one of the reasons why Karin asked Nada if she was interested in working with IKEA for the collection. Karin says she does not believe in designing from the desktop and wanted LJUV to be an on-the-floor design process with Nada and the suppliers.
Those already familiar with Nada’s work know that she likes to mix material and patterns, such as wood and metals, in beautiful ways and works closely with handicraft techniques and treats each object as unique. To reach the many young IKEA customers, the team focuses on making the collection more affordable, light and flat packed. They weave together Nada’s ideas, skills, and techniques with the five dimensions of IKEA Democratic Design: form, function, quality and sustainability at a low price.
The collection is about family gatherings, holiday traditions and festival cheer and Nada explains how the Middle East traditions play a major role in her designs for IKEA while trying out different combinations of the signature geometric patterns.
“In the Middle East, the family is more than just mom, dad and siblings. It’s all about the extended family — grandmothers, aunts, nieces, cousins and beloved friends! People are always inviting each other to evening feasts during Ramadan. For me, this time of the year is about compassion, empathy, and generosity,” says Nada.
SCALE talks to Nada on her thoughts about the collaboration.
- How do you feel about IKEA finally collaborating with Middle East designers for its products?
To me it’s so important that IKEA, a democratic design company, has collaborated with a Middle Eastern and female designer as it sets an example to the international world that the Middle East has something to offer in terms of identity and image and functionality.
- What do you specifically bring into the collaboration?
I bring the Middle Eastern identity into contemporary functional items. This means the typical geometric patterns as well as objects that work with the generous Middle Eastern lifestyle of get-togethers with family and friends.
- How will you design for the masses and at a lower cost level when your products are mostly meant to be unique and catering to a niche customer?
I am used to working with the luxury craft so bringing this down to mass-production was not easy. What we did was pare things down to its essence so we kept the patterns but applied it using simpler industrial methods.
- Which is your favourite product from the collection?
I personally really like the low table, which allows light to pass through. It creates a really nice shadow and pattern. I also like the unexpected combination of materials, for example, ceramics with brass. This is not so common usually, and our take on it makes it playful and quite contemporary.