We sit down with lighting designer and expert of all things illuminated, Noha Mohsen, to find out more about her art and her unique business, Enlighten.
Starting out as an event organiser, Noha Mohsen, the founder of Enlighten and one of Egypt’s few lighting design experts, it wasn’t long before she found her passion for lighting up people’s lives and witnessing the effect the right sort of light can have. Now working between Cairo and New York, the creative spark keeps burning bright, as Mohsen is called upon by many, from homeowners to hoteliers, to help set the mood and accentuate design and space with light.
A graduate from the UK’s prestigious Inchbald School of Design with a focus on interiors, Noha Mohsen, opened up her first Enlighten showroom in Cairo in 2008, and a franchise of Italian lighting experts Viabizzuno in 2010, pretty much monopolising the small industry in Egypt. As well as selling the latest, state-of-the-art fixtures, Enlighten works as a lighting consultancy and design agency. “Lighting is so important to the point that you sometimes stop noticing it - it’s such an integral part of our lives,” says Mohsen about her passion for illumination. “Light can really enhance your experience in whichever function – at a restaurant or in your bedroom, at an office... Wherever you are, light is a large part. We've had a great experience with all the interior designers and architects that we work with because they've come to see how their work is enhanced when lit well. We compliment what they do.”
Now this all sounds great enough, but in Egypt’s immature design and interiors market, we can’t help but wonder if there is indeed enough work to sustain Enlighten as a business, and whether the average home or business owner really understands the advantages of good lighting. “A lot of designers used to say that their clients won’t pay for this, it’s too much - but once the clients come into the showroom and they see what we've done with the lighting concepts, they're pretty much sold,” Mohsen assures us. In fact, she adds that lighting has become such a huge industry, globally, that it’s difficult for the average designer to keep up with the technological advancements. As a result, lighting design is more and more considered a separate function.
Luckily, Mohsen has an MBA from NYC’s Columbia Business School under her belt, aiding her in sustaining and growing a business in the previously untouched territory of Egypt. So it’s no wonder why Enlighten’s team of experts are called upon to illuminate the homes of Egypt’s most discerning residents, as well as mammoth commercial and artistic projects across the country. One of Mohsen’s most memorable projects is the legendary Old Cataract Hotel in Aswan. “It was our first government project and it was really tough with a lot of competition. Usually what happens with these big hotels is they get the items from a big designer and it’s usually over budget so they end up manufacturing knock-off fixtures here in Egypt,” she tells us about the contract. “Instead we revalued and engineered the entire project so that we could maintain getting everything from Europe and stay in budget. It’s a beautiful project and it was an honour to work on such a historical property.
While Enlighten has been successful in changing perceptions towards the importance of good lighting and how it can transform a space, fixture or entire building, there’s still some work to be done in transforming people's approach to lighting and fixtures. “To me, what ruins the room is too much of anything - so too many small pieces or where the scale of massive chandelier isn't right for a room,” explains Mohsen. “A large part of createing the perfect design comes from really understanding our clients - where do you apply your makeup? Is it in the bathroom or the dressing room? I want to know if you and your husband both read at night or if one person falls asleep before the other and one reads individually? It really is customised to the person’s lifestyle, rather than this traditional view of what a house should look like.”
However, Noha Mohsen is not just concerned with function. Artistry plays a big part in the company’s ethos, and Mohsen herself is a big fan of conceptual and aesthetically pleasing art installation. We asked her which public building in Egypt she’d love to design a lighting concept for and she hardly hesitated, saying: “The Cairo Tower needs good lighting! Because it's such a tourist site, it needs subtle lighting to make it more elegant and understated,” before adding that Paris, in her eyes, is the best lit city in the world.
Stay up-to-date with Noha Mohsen’s projects and Enlighten’s work on their Facebook fan page here.