Nada Lahlou: Combining Tradition Into New Design


Interior design is often seen as a prestigious profession. The talent and expertise to marry knowledge with good taste and create that perfect equilibrium in ambiance is what we are seeking from an interior designer. I met Nada Lahlou many years ago and I am constantly amazed with her ability on not just sharing her personal good taste, but also giving all her clients their own strong character and originality to create a memorable interior design.

Nada Lahlou

This opinion has even escalated after a few projects that we did together where she was acting as the interior designer. Born and raised in Casablanca, Morocco; Nada Lahlou received a degree of interior design at the royal Academie of fine arts in Brussels, Belgium in 1997. She then continues obtaining her master degree at Kent institute of art and design in England in 1999. She became a partner and head of design in 2000 at Avant Garde – an opulent interior firm in Jakarta. In 2010, Nada finally established her own interior studio called Design Desk Studio in Jakarta.

As Indonesia Design feature some of Nada Lahlou latest projects in this issue, we decided to dive more into her well-designed mind to find out more on design and her future plans.

What brings you to design world? What was the story behind your interest in design?

I was creative from a young age. I liked re-illustrating my comic books, drawing the caricatures of my school teacher’s portrait, and imagining homes, creating little wonderlands for my toys from items around me. From what I found in my mother’s wardrobe and storage, I scissor her precious scarves for texture ambiance, than folding the remains back, thinking that no one will notice...Obviously, I had realized by the age of fourteen that I would want to pursue the world of art and the career of an interior designer.

What is design to you?

Design for me is a link of creativity and innovation. It takes abstract thoughts and inspiration to shape the ideas and translate them into forms. Those great ideas, if well exposed soon they can meet real needs.

What design aspect that fascinate you the most?

Every designer has a slightly different approach and different design specialisms. What fascinate me more is our visual management; we all seek inspiration, we all notice things around, we all develop our opinion about what we see, therefore we decide that is the interesting fresh inspiring new idea, than we all focus on how to define, develop and deliver, this latter fascinating me most because these general activities are all common to all designers.

What and how do you get inspiration?

Wow, I love this question, as inspiration is the major skill of all designers.

There are numbers of potential sources of how I get inspired, can range from images, objects, media, abstract concepts, paintings, music, movies, toys, jewelry, books and many more. I actively search for inspiration, when the imagery ideas triggers for concepts I manipulate them into creating shapes and forms immediately and guide them to physical results.

What I personally do, I find brilliant artist, art and random things I really like while browsing, and I keep bookmarks and folders, when it comes time to design something, I picture what it might look like than all pop into my mind from all different inspirational images, than I start building and constructing my own 3 dimensional world.

Can you share with us your personal style in design? Does your Moroccan background influence your style in design?

I personally like arty modern, eclectic and vintage style; I love juxtaposition, elegance, combining beautiful textures and bold patterns that vibrate with sophistication, warmth and innovation. As experienced in both traditional and contemporary interiors, I have been able to translate any style to satisfy the desires of my different high profile clients, whereas my Moroccan background untitled me with a unique level of individuality which I pass through my ethnic projects. This leads to a liaison between a skillful finesse and a sexy sophisticated approach, the perfect mix!.

You are known as one of Jakarta’s most renowned interior designers. Can you tell us the essential things on creating a home decoration? What do we need to do to create a great balance in designing home decor?

The art of home is a visual pursuit; any home should have feels and functions. Create a balance by juxtaposing objects, using a palette of colour and contrasting textures, mix the old, new antique, vintage against contemporary pieces. Without it a scheme will never feel quite right.

We saw your work for Turkuaz. Can you share with us the design concept of Turkuaz? Did you use special materials or techniques?

This project, holds a very special place in my heart, it is the first real design job I ever did, I learned so much from it and forged a friendship with its owners. I listened to their brief, on a wooden bench at the beautiful Bosporus in Istanbul, on a piece of paper; we all drawn the lay out plan and brainstorm of what Turkuaz should evolved and to be.

The key was the creative brief, I quickly realized that designing this amazing restaurant was going to be no ordinary. It is like designing a fantasy: a Turkish fantasy to be exact. Feeling like a Turkish princess, the very first thing I designed was the custom made, blown glass Turkish man made chandelier. This beautiful artwork inspired my palette of textures and materials, stained blues, tea browns, matt gold and pearly bronze, rich carved tall panels holding long majestic dimensional tulips, creating the instant magic the owners desired.

What kind of approach do you undertake to create a contemporary luxury feel based on a traditional foundation like with Turkuaz?

I wanted something spicy and romantic for the Jakartans, yet contemporary and have luxury feel. I have tried to keep up the traditions of Turkish energy in the artwork frames, creating a modern energy by making an open plan for easy connection between the restaurant, the pastry and the gallery. I let my choices of colour and texture run free and had items made in Jakarta and Istanbul. Vintage treasures artwork was collected to punch up the decor for a complete modern Turkish experience.

What about your latest collaboration with my classical concert recently? What were the challenges to create this contemporary yet well design living room concept? What do you think about this concept from a designer eye point of view?

That is a good example for an aesthetic challenge. Following the function, I tried contrasting the classical concert with a modernist eclectic form of ambiance. The philosophy behind is to combine a selection of unusual and complex style of furniture and accessories to produce a distinctive exceptional living concept circles for the unforgettable November classical soirée. From a designer point of view, this concept articulates both music and interiors in term of rhythm, texture and harmony, and in relation of layers of sound in music produced by the instrument whereas in interiors produced by proportion and balance through the built ambiance. The philosopher Goethe says: “the architecture is frozen music”.

In some of your projects, we notice your custom made furniture. Will we see your own furniture line in the future?

I have designed each and every piece on my several projects, paying attention to details, comfort, scale and sophistication in mind. Yes, I do have something specific in mind for near future; I will launch my own furniture and accessories home line, creating the brand of Nada by Nada Lahlou.

Do you see your life, as a designer is a life call? What will you be, if you are not in design world?

My inner urge for design and my vocation as a career designer in my professional life gives me everyday a strong desire to spend my life contributing to the world of design in all it forms. What will I be? Erza always with his curious questions....The circus was one of my young age dream, simply because it features such wonders. If I get hired, I will definitely choose the magic world.

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Erza S.T.
Erza has pursued his great passion for opera and classical music for over a decade. His brainchild, the Indonesia Opera Society, has produced many classical music concerts and operas, and recently marked its 10th anniversary with a gala production. He is also a journalism lover focusing on luxury, lifestyle and travel stories, which he files from datelines around the globe.