3 Cosy, Egyptian, Women-led Furniture Stores You Can’t Miss
If you were furnishing an apartment in Egypt about a decade ago, you were likely to run into a bit of a problem. Most showrooms were filled primarily with imported items – from Chinese, to Turkish, to Italian, and at varying prices and levels of quality.
While there was the occasional good deal you could make, a major inconvenience that came with this phenomenon was the difficulty of customization. Every home has its own space, its own style, and its own size, and the ability to tailor what fills it makes a huge difference in creating a comfortable space.
But over recent years, and especially after the currency float made importing goods too high a cost to bear, Egyptian designers began to show up in the sector, creating small or medium-sized businesses that allowed shoppers to fully customize the furniture they buy, while also working with an experienced designer, rather than implementing a design with a carpenter or upholsterer whose experience was purely with the practical, rather than the comfortable or aesthetic.
But what is more is that many of those small businesses were founded and are run by teams of women, who were driven by their passion for the art of home design. Egyptian Streets spoke to the owners of three local, female-led furniture businesses to hear the stories of how they made it into the market.
Nada Nour was working in a bank when she began furnishing her home to get married in 2016. But when she and her mother did not find the new-classic French style she was after in much of the showrooms they visited, they realised there was a gap in the market to fill.
This resulted in Belledar Designs, a quintessential family business. With Nada’s father Tarek as the first and main investor, and her mother Nesrine Noureldin as a co-founder and business partner, the family created a design house whose name encapsulates its design philosophy: beautiful in French and home in Arabic.
With little previous experience with materials at first, Nesrine and Nada began going to workshops and reaching out to artisans to try implementing their designs. It turned out a success, and though they started with small decorative items at first, their showroom in Nasr City now boasts pieces as elaborate as dining room sets and bedrooms.
“Egyptian artisans can come up with really brilliant work,” Nada told Egyptian Streets. “We’re trying to provide the kind of management to bring that out.”
Belledar’s approach to furniture and home design has developed over the years, keeping the personal touch at its core.
Lush Design House
Pale rosy oak, soft cushions, and neutral-toned fabrics create an instant feeling of coziness upon entering Lush Design House’s showroom in New Cairo. Founded in 2015, the philosophy of this business is combining “high-quality materials with unique, out-of-the-box ideas,” founder Dina Hanafi tells Egyptian Streets. She believes that in a market like Egypt’s, the most important thing is finding your niche, and implementing this philosophy is how Lush succeeded in finding theirs.
While one may think that it would be a struggle to manage a factory as a woman in Egypt, Dina says that it’s a core element of their business. They pride themselves in being an all-female team – which she believes gives them an edge in terms of organisation and punctuality – managing an all-male factory. The key to this, she says, is mutual respect.
“It is by all means not easy to deal with the male-dominated field in Egypt, but we believe that mutual respect is key. If you earn their respect and also give them yours, a beautiful working relationship can be established,” she explains to Egyptian Streets.
Boho and minimalist styles are gaining increasing popularity nowadays — particularly among younger generations — and they are perfected at Lush in both colour and styling.
Out of the three, Razzmatazz has been around the longest. Founded in 1998 by Nadia Sabry, the style of their furniture has evolved over the years, going from an eclectic style that took inspiration from aesthetics as nearby as Nubian and as far away as Balinese, to a more modern style where inspirations are more subtle.
From the beginning, Nadia prioritised comfort without compromising aesthetics, consistently working locally and never importing. She believes that this has kept her customers coming back over the years.
She, too, believes that women running businesses have a unique edge that helps them in succeeding.
“We have more empathy and are more able to appreciate the perspective of others and engage with them, whether your team and coworkers or the workers in the workshops, suppliers, or even clients,” she tells Egyptian Streets.
“I personally do care about the people I work with and they know it and are more accepting of my pushing them towards excellence in their work.”
In spite of the slight move towards modern lines, an eclectic air lingers around Razzmatazz’s wood-filled and warmly lit Maadi showroom, creating an air of unique coziness.
All three designers encouraged Egyptian women who are sitting on business ideas to spring into action to make those ideas into a reality. All three considered the risk worth the reward as long as the initiative is taken out of genuine passion and dedication to the project.
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