The first edition of the Beirut Design Fair attracted over 16,000 visitors and seems well on its way to cementing Beirut’s status as a regional design destination

The first edition of the Beirut Design Fair wrapped up on Sunday after a successful inaugural year. After a well-attended opening, the fair attracted a total of 16,700 visitors, an impressive number for a first-time event. The fair featured a total of 45 stands and work by over 80 designers, both local and international. The diversity and quality of the work on show reflected Beirut’s blossoming role as a regional design hub.

Joy Mardini, owner of Joy Mardini Design Gallery, admitted that she had some doubts about participating but was ultimately happy with her choice to attend, describing the fair as “indispensable.” “I have no regrets! I wasn’t expecting to sell, but sell I did,” she said. “I was already very well established in Beirut but I still made new contacts and even made a sale to a Qatari! The people came to us. For a first edition I was extremely pleased, and the selection committee invited by the fair was really top-notch.”

The new fair was conceived by Guillaume Taslé d’Héliand and Hala Moubarak and the selection committee consists of professionals in design, interior design, architecture, luxury museums and education, namely Aline Asmar d’Amman, India Mahdavi, Marc Baroud, Marianne Brabant and Mathias Orhel.

“Our objective is to promote recognition of Lebanon’s proper place: at the forefront of
creativity in the region,” said BDF’s founder-director Taslé d’Héliand. “We have here assembled evidence confirming that Beirut has both the legitimacy and the means to become a capital of design.”

The fair included a diverse range of design pieces, from Rami Matar’s minimalist concrete components for construction, BRUT, and Lindsey Adelman’s Beirut Heavy Light, incorporating a concrete breeze block at Carwan Gallery, to Ahmad Khouja’s stunning geometric wooden table at DAMJ DESIGN + CRAFT and Fares Haber’s elegant wooden articulated candlesticks.

Wissam Moubarak’s low tables inspired by dilapidated houses were among the more striking works, along with a daring new take on the traditional Lebanese stove, Stouff, at MAD Architecture and Design. Marie Munier showcased complex decorative lighting sculptures based on her passion for jewellery making and Ralf Nassif exhibited his colourful, on-trend resin tables inspired by the beauty of nature. Sahar Bizri Designs wooed visitors with a line of elegant round tables that perfectly balance dichotomies – black and white, straight and curved lines.

In ceramics, Nada Rizk displayed her unique sculptures, delicate profusions of hand-built flowers and organic elements that evoke the bounty of nature. Souraya Haddad Crédoz showcased vases and bowls fired in earthy colours and made in Beirut, while Namika Atelier’s diverse display included ceramic tables by Katya Traboulsi, zoomorphic urns and pots by Vivian Van Blerk, pots by Hala Matta and striking naked raku vases by Theodoris Galigalidis.

Particularly innovative works were highlighted by the Beirut Design Fair awards. Selections’ managing editor Anastasia Nysten won the Talent Award for most promising young designer for her armchair Troll, which was praised for achieving a perfect balance between comfort and formality. The Object Award for a singular innovative creation was awarded to Stouff, and the Initiative Award to honour an entrepreneurial approach representative of Beirut’s creative spirit was won by Render Design Residency.

Alongside the exhibitions, the fair set out to foster participation and exchange through a programme of conferences and round table discussions. At the heart of the fair was The Banquet, a dedicated space for discussion and debate situated around a large dining table sculpted from 50,000-year-old cedar wood, where visitors were invited to partake of innovative Lebanese cuisine by chef Maroun Chedid.

“Beirut Design Fair aims to become an annual meeting place for discovery, exchange and
business opportunity, both for amateurs and professionals of design throughout Europe, the United States, the Middle East, in the Gulf and in Asia,” said Taslé d’Héliand. Based on the success of its first edition, the fair is well on its way to achieving those objectives.

By Irene McConnell

Featured image: Troll armchair closeup, by Anastasia Nysten.