10 Questions With… Richard Yasmine
Passionate about exploring new ideas, Lebanese interior architect and product designer Richard Yasmine mixes imagination and reality to create emotional objects with visual influences from the Middle East. His work combines craftsmanship and new technologies, creating pieces that are bold and minimal at the same time.
Among his new projects are AFTER AGO, a collection of curved objects with black and white stripes to bring together the notion of the unknown and the idea of serenity, and Ô-CULT, a line of jars visually inspired by the Memphis movement and conceptually linked to the preciousness of water.
Beirut, where Yasmine comes from and currently lives and works, constantly nurtures the designer’s unlimited creativity.
Interior Design: Could you tell us the story behind AFTER AGO?
Richard Yasmine: The concept was brought to life after the big blast that occurred in my beloved city of Beirut on August 4, 2020. Hundreds of people died, thousands were injured, and over 300,000 are still homeless.
Objects induce an emotional alteration of the self: sad/happy, mad/sane, anxious/calm, hate/love, etc., just like the fascinating history of Beirut with its multiple layers, which after each disaster always rises from the ashes, longing for eternal life.
“AFTER AGO” is a tribute to a city—an elegy for lost souls—altogether transformed into emotional objects, which are functional yet sculptural and timeless. The metaphorical Postmodernism/Memphis movement, the graceful Art Deco lines, and the monolithic sobriety of Brutalism are the sources of inspiration for this collection, which is handcrafted and painted with multiple materials such as foam, lightweight concrete plaster, acrylic, and clay. I am always trying to reflect how using simple lines can create an infinite range of thoughtful and minimal objects.
ID: HAWA Beirut and Wake Up Call are two other recent projects. Can you describe them?
RY: HAWA Beirut comprises light and airy pieces of furniture (two chairs, a coffee table, and a decorative folding screen) inspired by the arches that characterize the Lebanese architecture and are part of our cultural heritage. HAWA in Arabic language means a light summer breeze or a deep love, a passion towards someone or something.
For Wake Up Call, the starting point was the fact that our natural environment is priceless. All animals, forests, plants, minerals, and soils have a role to play and are fundamentally important in every ecosystem so it is our responsibility to save them. This collection is a limited edition of table lamps. Each one of them is made of a brass structure, a hand-blown organic-shaped sandblasted bulb, an abandoned bird nest, and semi precious rocks. The message is: Nature is being destroyed; let’s wake up and act fast.
ID: Do you think your Lebanese background has an impact of your design approach and style?
RY: Definitely, it has an impact. I am a Lebanese living in Beirut, a chaotic city full of energy and good vibes with many contradictions, which still has the charm of its past. There are typical houses from the 50s, 70s and 90s. In Lebanon, we always seek to preserve what we still have from our heritage. The culture in Beirut is very rich. Our life here is filled with emotions. Even when it’s stressful, we always pursue happiness and success. This urban fabric coming from this chaotic lifestyle is my inspiration.
ID: What is your first memory of design?
RY: My father’s family was in the fashion industry and as far as I remember, I’ve always been attracted to shapes, colors, fabrics and materials. Our family house was filled with multiple objects and furniture from different periods and styles. My hobby consisted of drawing houses and dresses on any piece of paper.
ID: Can you name some people in the industry who inspire you??
RY: Many architects, artists, and fashion designers inspire me. Le Corbusier for his use of light; Tadao Ando for the beauty of simplicity; Anish Kapoor for his mythical wonders; Yayoi Kusama for her conceptual approach; Rei Kawakubo for her dual character that both honors the tradition and breaks the rules; and Yohji Yamamoto for his avant-garde designs.
All these characteristics and contradictions are part of my inner chaos. I love the marriage between history, religion, and civilization on one side and new approaches that result in new philosophies on the other side.
ID: What type of materials do you like to work with and why?
RY: I like to work with natural wood, leather, and fabrics. I also love the transparency of glass. Another favorite material is brass for its oriental feel thanks to the extravagant aspect of the golden finish.
ID: How has the Middle East design scene evolved for the past 10 years?
RY: The design and art scene in the region has evolved extremely fast for the past 10 years and it has a significant potential to continue growing the region. Lately a lot more design events took place in addition to the design weeks in Beirut, Dubai, Amman, and Saudi Arabia. People from the Middle East are keen to reflect their diverse social and cultural history. As a Lebanese, I want to give a dynamic representation of my city and my country. Therefore I constantly include something related to my culture in my projects through specific lines, shapes, and materials, and also by collaborating with skilled craftsmen. My ultimate concern is to keep integrating this Middle Eastern/Lebanese soul in every product, which I would define as sober, geometric, rhythmic, poetic, and nostalgic.
ID: In what kind of home do you live? ?
RY: I live in a simple and bright apartment in Achrafieh, one of Beirut’s oldest and most charming districts. I tend to be a minimalist when it comes to interior architecture. My home was created as one open space, connecting the reception area, living room, and dining room. Grey marble slabs cover the floor of the main spaces and the walls are white. There are concrete pillars, a white flat ceiling with different types of lighting and very light pieces of furniture in terms of colors. I adore cooking and spend a lot of time in my white, black, and walnut made-to-measure kitchen. The bedrooms have a solid white-washed French oak wooden floor with lacquered white closets all around. It’s a charming contemporary home in the heart of Achrafieh.
ID: What are your upcoming projects?
RY: We never stop sketching and prototyping multiple collections so hopefully one of them will be produced in the coming months. I am very excited to reveal soon a design collaboration with an American artist. I am [also] working on several interior and renovation projects, and starting some discussions about an architectural project abroad.
ID: When you feel that you need to find inspiration, what do you do?
RY: Lately I’ve been seeking peace of mind, so I do a lot of hiking in the woods to enjoy the splendor of nature. It stimulates my imagination. Otherwise I love to walk in the old tiny streets of Beirut while sipping a lot of coffee.