Funded by the EU, this online store is channeling Egyptian craftsmanship to upcycle palm leaves into sustainable products and collaborating with local artisans and designers to push the boundaries of
A tall lamp that sways and curves. A modest coffee table. A multipurpose chair that can double as a storage box. Each made out of the same sustainable material: palm reeds. Funded by the European Union, Peacock Designs is an online store that collaborates with local artisans and designers in Egypt, focusing almost exclusively on making the absolute most out of palm trees.
While studying business in France, founder of Peacock Designs Dahlia Salem was inspired by the rise of sustainable products and green fashion, and became determined to recreate that success in Egypt. After stopping in New York to study curating, she moved to Tunis village in Fayoum, where she ignited her relationship with palm leaves. Using traditional craftsmanship, she was able to upcycle discarded palm reeds and transform them into contemporary furniture, creating beds, closets, and a library for her house.
“I was fascinated by the nature and beauty of palm leaves craftsmanship, the villages were filled with thousands of artisans using it to create everything from fruit baskets to furniture,” Salem tells #SceneHome. “I got to learn the techniques by working with local artisans, and it became clear to me that the material had great potential for exploration.”
Every harvesting season in Fayoum, the palm trees’ life cycle would come to a natural end, but the unused leaves and reeds would get burned in landfills - an act that can be highly harmful to the environment, as well as the health of anyone who breathes the fumes in for long periods of time. Salem advocated for upcycling the material into furniture and decorations, stretching the surplus out to their fullest potential.
“The process starts by developing the design with artisans, who provide technical expertise, and then we take it back to our studio to assemble and assign textiles or lighting,” Salem explains. Through her work, she managed to produce innovative designs that range from rocking cradles for babies and compact furniture made of reed palms, suitable for co-working spaces.
“At the time, there were some difficulties, the leaves were too rough which caused them to decay,” Salem recalls of her earliest work. After a successful showcase with the British Council, Salem officially launched Peacock Designs in 2020, built a team and rented a workshop to begin crafting more designs. Around this time, she was also able to receive funding from theEU to improve the finish quality and ensure the material has a long life-cycle. Eventually, after a year of trial and error, Salem launched ‘DnA’, their first collection. Featuring floor lamps with contemporary curvatures, lighting fixtures decorated with geometrical patterns and designs that mimic the organic look of reed palms, Peacock Designs managed to supply DnA to 10 concept stores.
Recently, Peacock Designs displayed their work in an exhibition held by IKEA. “They were interested in discovering alternative materials that can be used to make furniture, like bamboo in Asia,” Salem explains. Peacock Designs showcased how versatile palm leaves and reeds are by using them to create partitions and flexible furniture like a rotating table and irregularly shaped baskets. “Our goal is to collaborate with designers to develop more solutions to how the material can be used.” Rather than just focusing on aesthetics, which is essential, they want to push the boundaries of what can be achieved with palm leaves, paving the road for a circular, prosperous future.