Recognised as one of the world’s best furniture designers in the Andrew Martin International Interior Design Review, Nihal Zaki founded Nihal Zaki Interiors in Cairo, Egypt, in 2002
Nihal Zaki is positioning Egyptian interior design on the international scene as a force to be reckoned with. As a graduate of Inchbald School of Design, London in 1999, her work has been published twice (2007 and 2010) in Andrew Martin’s International Interior Design Review, a yearly catalogue that picks and features the best 50 international designers.
She is famed for her cool and contemporary interiors with critically acclaimed residential and commercial projects including Helene Boutique in Cairo’s first mall, Kyoto Restaurant, Sharm el Sheikh and Wabi Sabi restaurant, Cairo, amongst others.
She recently forayed into the world of event design with her stylings to add more glitz to ByGanz’s infamous Monhara 3al Nasia, el Shagara Lounge in Ramadan and the ‘Nostalgia’ and ‘Swag’ series of events at Cairo’s most exclusive hotspot Tamarai.
Taking this one step further, she styled ‘Nostalgia’ series and ‘Almaz’ Ramadan lounge for Turquaz Beach/ Marassi, on the north coast of Egypt in the summer of 2011.
Nihal Zaki Interiors recently launched its own furniture line, a tailored, custom-made mixture of classic-reproduction and modern pieces, which debuted at Cairo’s boutique Villa Baboushka.
“I love all my projects but my favourite is el Shagara Ramadan Lounge. I was commissioned to do this project by ByGanz events on behalf of Emaar Egypt,” said Zaki.
“This lounge was an outdoor space on the banks of the Nile and my clients wanted to transform it into a posh yet modern Ramadani Lounge in two weeks. Our design was pretty simple yet quite successful, we came up with the most basic oriental Mashrabeya concept and instilled it with a dramatic yet modern white effect.
“Having done that, we mixed it with huge Louis XVI crystal chandeliers to enhance that posh touch our clients are famous for. Not just that, a big screen was installed with moving visuals of the same chandeliers to enhance the general mood.
And the final dramatic touch was adding a mini tent at the entrance whereby a fortune teller was placed greeting our guests every night and offering free readings. El Shagara wasn’t just about a beautifully designed garden by the Nile, it was more about a lifestyle Egyptians are famous for.”
The designer is currently working on a 2000m2 private family residence which is an eclectic mix of different themes; for example, the main reception is a modern neoclassical mix with Gesso work in the ceiling, the dining room is an empire-based theme with bronze inlaid neoclassical statues in the walls.
The entrance vestibule is similar to an Italian taverna with intersecting vaults painted in off-white earthy colours and the first floor is built in an Art Nouveau themed living area with Mucha paintings framed on the walls.
“The best part is the music room, a Gaudi inspired room with intricate Gesso curved ceiling, vivid colours and lots of mosaics,” added Zaki.
“The most interesting area is the indoor swimming pool with a skylight ceiling and state-of-the-art lighting system where at night the ceiling turns into little blue led light stars.”
As an interior design firm, Zaki said clients expect perfection on all levels. For instance, when she is working on a design for a residence the team has to be 100% sure that once the design is approved it can easily be implemented.
“When designing a marble inlaid flooring for a reception area it is a must that the marble required is available and at large quantities. When choosing fabrics it is necessary that it doesn’t conflict with the paint effects on the walls,” she said.
“When working on styling an event for clubs or party organisers the pressure is tremendous as we are usually required to deliver our design and production within very short notice (two tofour weeks) everything must be perfect on the launch date; a small delay from a supplier could result in catastrophy.
“Furthermore, following the Egyptian revolution on January 25, 2011, raw material prices increased, imported products decreased and supply in general became scarce. The variety in choice of raw materials, furniture, lighting, fabrics etc became less and less.
“We have managed to beat that as a team at Nihal Zaki Interiors by working harder, hiring better craftsmen, encouraging young designers and relying on Egyptian raw materials. The result was miraculous and our services and delivery standards are currently at their highest level since 2002.”
Talking about where she gets her inspiration from the designer never uses design magazines or blogs. “I hate being influenced by a certain style and I prefer different means of inspiration such as nature, fabrics, paints, materials, music, art directors (Nicola Formichetti Vogue Homme Japan fashion editor),” she said.
“I love fashion and interesting photographers such as Kimiko Yoshida. My advice is search for your passion and use it as an infinite source of inspiration for your interiors.”.