The debate over whether design can truly be considered art has been an ongoing conversation for quite some time. Perhaps the answer lies not in how they are different but rather how they intertwine.

It’s always a question that I ask myself,” Anastasia Nysten tells Selections, “where does it stop being design and where does it start being art. Throughout my education in design, it’s always been form follows function.”

Breaking beyond the confines of traditional design, Anastasia Nysten’s latest series of armchairs which will be displayed at Maison Rabih Kayrouz from June 21 through to June 30, explore new ways of interpreting the functionality and form of contemporary furniture.

It all started at the first edition of Beirut Design Fair back in 2017, when Nysten’s structurally unconventional armchair, made quite a splash, and caught the attention of fairgoers and judges alike. Titled Troll, the design offered colourful cushions which seemed to overflow from the structured wooden base of the chair.

“I wanted to continue the conversation,” She explains , in regards to the debut of the Troll Chair, “Rabih saw it there and asked if I wanted to exhibit it at his boutique in Beirut. The beautiful thing about his space is that it constantly changes, Rabih is always inviting different designers, architects and artists to show their works alongside his clothes. So, the way I approached the idea of being exhibited in his boutique, was to reference the very intense colours and textures of his clothes, and decided to also work on a summer version of the troll chair.”

Considering their painstaking process of production, it seems fitting that the one-off pieces are situated alongside some of Kayrouz’s lavish haute-couture clothing. “Haute Couture is an art, it’s the stitch, it’s the detail, it’s the combination of fabrics, everything that has time, passion and effort put into, and has a story and creates an emotion, is what inspires me most,” Nysten adds.

Covered with intricate geometric patterns, the interchangeable cushions sit atop wooden bases crafted from African Walnut and Afromosia wood. Four armchairs and a unique foot stool have been placed throughout the space alongside Kayrouz’s summer collection. Building on the summer theme, Nysten designed a window installation of brass eucalyptus tree leaves.

Striking a functional and visual balance is crucial to Nysten’s approach as she explains, “I wanted to have a bit of playfulness in the summer fabrics because it’s very difficult to find a summer fabric with texture that looks cozy. It was challenging to find a pattern that made it still look quite architectural without it being too romantic or poetic. It just happened that the combination of colours and geometric shapes that are on these fabrics works in a very contemporary way.”

Colouring outside the lines is a part of Nysten’s creative modus operandi, but going the unconventional route comes with its own set of challenges as she recalls, “They are functional objects with a twist that don’t follow the norms of a chair or stool. When I was producing the chairs, the idea of having the pillows sitting so nonchalantly on the wooden structure, required the artisans to get out of their comfort zone of making items that were very structured.”

For the designer, arriving at the finish line, is never a linear path, in fact, she embraces an element of spontaneity in her process. “There’s a space for the unexpected, which plays a huge role in everything that I do. You have be able to adjust and make changes, a mistake most of the time might trigger something else and that is the cherry on top that makes the object perfect, and then it all comes together. It’s the most magical moment to see your drawing coming to life and become an actual object that you are experiencing.”

On the horizon, Nysten’s got quite a busy calendar in September, as she will be exhibiting in Paris at Maison & Objet. She was among a total of 6 designers who were selected from Lebanon for the “Rising Talent Award.” She will also debut a new series of pieces at the latest edition of the Beirut Design Fair.

Anastasia Nysten’s exhibition at Maison Rabih Kayrouz is on view through June 30.