Through Adnan Al Bahr, product and furniture designer Marwan Fayed hopes to re-introduce artisanal tiles into Egypt’s design scene with contemporary designs inspired by North African aesthetics.
Glazed ceramic tiles can lend such an understated touch to your home, whether they are on countertops, showers or arrayed on a wall just beside a French window in a kitchen. After founding Balkoon, an outdoor furniture brand, architect and product designer Marwan Fayed felt that decorative tiles and mosaics were amiss in the market. We’re not talking about your regular cement tiles; we mean real and raw clay transformed by a thousand degrees of heat into petite tranches that cover your surfaces with colour. So in February 2022, Fayed launched Adnan Al Bahr, a tile studio with a name that reflects its poetic soul.
“The name describes the persona behind these pieces, an imaginary and artistic person that lies behind the pieces and captures the soul of the brand,” Fayed tells #SceneHome. Branded after the essence of craftsmanship, these handmade tiles are customizable in colour and serve a larger than life purpose: linking traditional craftsmanship to contemporary aesthetics.
“It was about the interest in artisanal designs and the value that can be found in their craftsmanship,” Fayed says. “Representing an outlet that relates these traditions with the modern day design scene.” Fayed went to Fustat, an area known for its Egyptian ceramic crafts and pottery, where he began prototyping and learning the fundamentals of clay before setting up shop in Abu Rawash.
“The project aims to present contemporary aesthetics without losing the artisanal sense, the human touch,” Fayed adds. AB’s debut collection features pieces that showcase the rustic nature behind how they are made. “They have the roughness of the kiln and imperfect glazes by hand.” Intentionally, the colour gradient shifts from piece to piece, providing authentic human visuals.
“Our model is simple: we design, manufacture and install,” Fayed explains. “What’s different is that we are launching services with interior designers, giving them the chance to customize the designs they need.” One of the benefits of having a relatively small scale operations is that it allows for a variety and flexibility.
Each of AB’s tiles are named after a city that lies just beyond Egypt’s borders, capitals and metropolises from neighbouring counties in North Africa and the south of Europe, like ‘Gibraltar’, ‘Tangier' and ‘Karnataka’. “They are a folk interpretation of Egypt in a North African narrative,” Fayed explains. “Each tile is a model for a full collection. Some have 10 more pieces that take after their details and the distinct expression it has.”
Meanwhile, tiles like ‘Door’ are more conventional in their design, allowing people to differentiate the quality of the products through familiarity. “Not only compare, but honestly showcase the handmade quality,” Fayed adds. Four years in its conception, AB tile studio has come out with relatable and authentic aesthetics that lend our tiles an oddly refreshing turn, making us wonder where they’ve been all this time.