Ahead of the grand opening of The Smith Cafe, we chat with renowned Egyptian interior designer Mahmoud Abbas, the creative mind behind the likes of Hayda and Eat and Barrel's interiors, about his style in designing and how the art of decoration affects space and people.
When it comes to picking a restaurant to go to with our friends, sometimes the actual reason for (finally) settling on one will have nothing to do with the food. How many times did you pick a certain one just because el 2a3dah 7elwah or the view is pretty and refreshing? And face it, it just sounds good when he says: “Today I’m taking you to a nice place.” Mahmoud Abbas is one of the men behind the design of many of these aforementioned 'nice places' scattered across Egypt. One of Egypt's most renowned interior designers, his work spans everything from the White Beach in the North Coast, Aloush Cafe in Sheikh Zayed, Nileside spot Eat and Barrel, Liv lounge and bar, and Lebanese wonderland Hayda.
Abbas tells us, “I have been working in this field since I was 21 years old, mainly on residential projects. I later decided however, that I wanted to work on commercial projects as I wanted my designs to reach a wide variety of people.” This is what drove Abbas to break into the world of designing restaurants, cafe, and lounges across Cairo.
Abbas will soon be opening a new restaurant, The Smith, and when we found out that the interior design of the restaurant is a combination of vintage and retro designs and influences, we decided to pick the designer's creative mind about the new spot, his career thus far, and the art that is interior design.
What are your greatest influences when designing?
It depends on the theme of the place itself and the clients’ requests; so, whenever the place designed to be either modern, classic, vintage, or whatever else - an inspiration took place. It might even come from an old car design or modern fashion shows, or maybe movies as well.
Do you think that, as an interior designer, you will have great artistic access to other forms of art - such as visual art - or do you think it would be closer to fields such as architecture?
Actually architecture and visual arts should be aligned together in order to come up with great design. Architecture is a form of art, which is why, for example, I am working to incorporate imagination and creative skills to create a space or surrounding that brings a positive and pleasing impact on the place itself
How do you manage to merge the vintage with the retro, and what inspired it?
As the past era's designs are back in style again in the world of interior design, more places are now designed to include a merging of both retro and vintage. This is because it’s simply a very warm look that combines nostalgia with very high-tech elements and furniture. The inspiration for it is unlimited and could extend to of music, dance, and others.
What effect do you think the interior of the place has on the people sharing the space in it?
Smart designers always manage to reach people with different tastes and draw a connection between them and the interior, which definitely affects people’s mood. For instance, colours affect people differently and in many ways; however, a certain a group of colours tends to get the same reaction from most people when using special shades. Of course, the end result is that people should feel very comfortable in the place they visit in terms of colours, lights, and space.
What is your favorite model of interior design?
It depends, but honestly I'm a big fan of old European interiors, especially in the 60s and 70s. It’s my biggest inspiration when it comes to old design to the extent that one of my biggest illusionist dreams is to go back in this era and discover that whole life that's full of energy and chic, classic looks.
How edgy do you think you can go with your interior designs in Cairo? Do you think that people will be receptive to it?
It’s really unlimited, and I can go for whatever extreme and crazy ideas I may be having at that moment. I think that having super bold ideas and pursuing them is not really common in interior designing in Egypt. Yet, I always have in mind our Egyptian culture and so I am always trying to come up with bold ideas that fit the culture as well.