When we stumbled upon the work of Shahir Mikhail, doctor by day, furniture designer by night, we were impressed by his unique designs. When we found out he makes all his pieces from driftwood, we were gobsmacked. We talk to him to find out more...
In these modern times of identikit furniture, it can be tough to find a unique design to give your pad an edge. Massive IKEA warehouses packed to the brim with identical flat pack furniture have all but replaced traditional craft but, thankfully, many Egyptians are still hoping to add a unique touch to their home. Alexandrian Shahir Mikhail has (literally) found a solution which he believes could provide the answer. Mikhail founded his company, Gazwareen, two years ago, designing and building furniture from salvaged driftwood. We speak to him to find out more about his unique vision.
“I grew up beside the sea and my father was also involved in carpentry, I was always fascinated with the wonderful shapes that washed up – whether from old ship wrecks or wherever – each piece has a story and a unique quality which you can't find anywhere else.” Mikhail first started the venture as a hobby two years ago but the 37-year-old claims that demand for the quirky furnishings has gone through the roof and he may soon be able to quit his current profession as an orthopaedic surgeon to focus on his passion full-time. As for the name of the brand, he explains: "Gazwareen is local name for a common local tree named Causarina in Latin. It's known for beautiful, durable hard wood but only used here for charcoal. I use it often in my work."
Mikhail explains that the history built into ever piece is what makes his furniture stand out from the crowd. However, far from just appealing to hipsters and art-crazy homeowners, he has also noticed that that his products have secured a broad appeal among Egyptians within many demographics. “My customers include artists and collectors to ordinary people hoping to find something different for their home. Each piece has its own unique history and each piece looks different.”
As for his favourite piece? “An old ship palette I turned into kitchen cabinet. Having some history in furniture is something I find really interesting.” Mikhail’s success looks set to continue for Shahrir and the Gazwareen brand as a selection of his work is set to go on show at Dina Maghawry Jewellery store in Zamalek, as well as heading south to Fayoum at the Tunis Village Art Festival this weekend (29th November).For more information, check out Gazwareen’s Facebook page here.