Design studio Bokja presents its work at Salone del Mobile
Bokja is a Turkish word that describes an intricately worked fabric created to cover a bride’s dowry. Lebanese designers Hoda Baroudi and Maria Hibri bring a similar passion for detail and history to the furniture which they create under the same name.
Baroudi and Hibri source furniture designs from the 50s, 60s and 70s, unearthed in Beirut’s flea-markets and antique dealerships, and then cover them with exuberant tapestries and textiles from the Levant and the legendary Silk Road countries of Central Asia.
Combining ancient culture with repurposed modern design, Bokja is creating one-of-a-kind pieces that offer an explosion of colour, pattern and a richly textured sense of history. The growing success of Bokja, which has a cult following among connoisseurs, collectors, interior designers and celebrities from all over the world, recently led to the launch of the brand’s first store in Beirut.
At Milan’s Salone del Mobile 2010, Bokja exhibited ‘Conversations’, a project celebrating the narratives and experiences that make up a sofa. The idea is that the object – in this case the sofa – is the moment from which conversations between time and place emerge, and that these narratives and stories don’t cease to exist with the object, but go on to live beyond it.
‘Conversations’ presented two sofas – not as independent and final objects – but as a collection of stories pieced together from a vibrant collage of different contemporary and vintage fabrics from around the world. Dissected layers of fabric from the sofas were strategically hung around them at the same height and distance apart – like an exacting art installation. These gave an autopsy-like deconstruction of the sofa – accompanied with descriptions revealing each fabric’s place of origin, context and story.
The upholstered sofas were positioned in an “S” shape – to encourage conversation between people visiting the installation. Visitors were able to compare the fabrics independent of the sofa and to feel how a whole new dynamic is created when they are mixed together.
Conversations: The S-shaped sofa
and other creations from Bokja
Bokja co-founder, Hoda Baroudi explains: “The installation concept is meant to express the feeling of how each piece of hand-made fabric that Bokja comes across carries with it the attached stories and memories of the country and society from which it originates.”
In Bokja’s technicolour world, what goes into each creation is unique. The studio’s design duo, Hoda Baroudi and Maria Hibri – painstakingly search for fabrics all over the world, that with their history and origin, later find their place on a piece, amongst other fabrics. For Bokja, each fabric tells a story. Re-using it – whether on a furniture piece or a soft furnishing – serves to regenerate and extend its life.
‘Conversations’ is a celebration of 10 years of Bokja.
Taking an iconic “people’s car”, clothing it with a fantastically colourful assemblage of handmade fabrics, tapestries and humorous car stickers – and you get the “Bokja Bug”. This gem of an idea was originally hatched by the Bokja design team to highlight the opening of their store and design centre in Beirut.
Not merely a decorative item – the car is an embodiment of Bokja’s philosophy and mission. Just as Bokja transforms with its furniture creations, the design studio repurposed this classic and basic frame, applying its craftsmen’s skills and the colours and designs of its myriad fabric collection – to create a fun object that surprises, to say the least.
The Bokja Bug was displayed outside Bokja’s ‘Conversations’ installation. The car will now be put on auction to benefit the Children of Haiti through Fondazione Francesca Rava, NPH
ABOUT THE DESIGNERS
Mother of two, Hoda Baroudi was born in Lebanon’s Sidon. Her BA and MBA from the American University of Beirut prepared her for a career in finance and banking. A trip to Central Asia in 1999 transformed Hoda’s love for Levantine arts and crafts into a fascination with the rich embroidery and textile heritage of the Ottoman Empire.
Maria Hibri was born in Beirut and is a mother of three. She studied Arabic literature at the American University of Beirut and journalism at the Lebanese American University. She cultivated her love for furniture from the 50s and 60s during her time as an antique dealer.