An architect and design guru is helping to harness changing tastes in Omani homemaking. Alvin Thomas met her.
When author and motivational speaker Jamie Notter said that “innovation is the change that unlocks value”, many questioned him and termed his ideology as blasphemous.
But, then he refuted this with one question: “if we do not innovate ourselves, then why do we call ourselves intelligent beings?”
While Notter’s statements can (rightly) be taken into a broader view; today, we’re going to apply that very thought into a more localised perspective: our changing desires in the field of home décor.
But how much has Oman adopted modern designs and décor in place of traditional ornamentation?
To get to grips with the question, I sit down with Donna Legissi, the franchise supporter (and an architecture graduate) of Kare Design – an international furniture company that specialises in “unconventional” and Avant-Garde designs.
She says: “Oman is definitely one of our growing markets. And it is surprising because it is still one of the most serene and unadulterated regions in the whole of the Middle East.
“But you see, we live in a time where we’re slowly adapting to a more ‘Avant-Garde’ lifestyle. The designs we currently see around us – in our homes, work, cars and even on the streets – are all bespoke, and aim to invoke a sense of allure.
“We have many unique pieces that customers like. And by unique, I mean to say that the furniture stands out when you put it in your homes and your rooms,” she explains, pointing at one of the bespoke mirrors that she offers to customers.
The mirror, which is finished in chrome and has an oddly-shaped design, is a crowd favourite. It resembles the mirror as seen in the 19th century German fairy tale, Snow White.
Donna then imitates the Queen’s words (from Snow White): “Mirror, Mirror on the wall. Who is the fairest of them all?”
She then laughs: “You see, it goes parallel with your personality.
“Your décor is what defines you as a person. You can get to tell the personality of the host by simply looking at their furniture. It’s an important aspect to one’s social life.”
Kare Design offers “unique” pieces like armchairs, mirrors, and various other home accessories like lamps, carpets, etc.
“These are the most important parts of an interior, as it brings your home to life.”
But she reveals that local buyers are not yet making the full transition into modern designs.
“From my experience with customers in this region, I see a tendency of them to go into newer interiors for their personal space (rooms, halls, etc.) but I have been working in many Majlis-related projects, and I can vouch that people here still want to keep their typical Islamic designs and features intact.
“It’s amazing, and that’s what the signature for this region is. As a matter of fact, this has resulted in a whole new lineup for Kare Design: the Gobi Collection.”
The Gobi collection reflects Islamic designs and traditional lines and curves, and stands true to the “Arab Bedouin culture”, according to Donna.
“We offer the concept because no matter what, our regional customers will always want to have their traditional designs in at least a few rooms in their homes.
“This is what inspires our collection, too.”
And in a twist in the tale, Donna tells me that the ‘Gobi Collection’ is well-received in European countries.
“This Bedouin-style décor features typical Arab and Oriental designs. It reflects in the designs that the Bedouins used to have in their tents back in the early days. Even the carpets that we offer are similar in design.
“Omanis love both styles of designs but most of all, they love colour. It is probably because they miss it from their mountainous surroundings.
Finally, she explains: “Designs are all about finding the right shape and structure. And as time moves on, peoples’ understanding of the world changes and so does their interests.”
This is also why Donna believes Avant-Garde designs are here to stay.
Kare Design comes to Oman exclusively by IDDesign, in the Markaz al Bajha Mall. The brand currently operates 108 shops all over the world.