From serial award winners to up-and-coming talents, we look at the women who are redefining and elevating Egypt's design scene.
On International Women’s Day, we take a look at some of the mesmerising minds that have been leaving their print on Egypt’s design scene, from established names to those who are quickly making a name for themselves. Women that have founded, launched and created studios to unleash onto the visual world a plethora of dazzling, thought-provoking and architecturally captivating designs -which applies for interiors as well.
From the maximalism and ornate, to the subtle and minimalist, these designers have the design spectrum covered with some taking after antiquities and others taking on digital designs and wooden signatures.
Yasmina Makram – Yasmina Makram Design Studio
Under the creative direction of Yasmina Makram Ebeid, the collective knowledge of this Zamalek-based studio and its talented associates generates unique designs that showcase their intelligent planning and delectable aesthetic flair. Through designs that are as detailed as they are subtle and authentically harmonise their inspirations with their context, the designer has found herself amongst Architectural Digest’s top 50 designers in the Middle East for 2021.
Nihal Zaki – Nihal Zaki Interiors
An eccentric decorator, Zaki’s enigmatic portfolio has it all. From Chinoiserie to Islamic motifs, her interior design firm – which she founded upon returning to Cairo after completing her design studies in London – is sophisticated yet quirky. Some standout designs include the baroque-inspired interiors of an exclusive restaurant, or her ‘Karma’ mansion of antiquity, which earned her accolades at the International Property Awards and Africa and Arabia Property Awards. As her interiors glitter, she doesn’t mind peeking out the field, like the time she styled for the fabulous socialite puppet Abla Fahita.
Hala Saleh – TDF+
Saleh, who founded the firm in 2010 came from a rather peculiar background. In 2000 she graduated from AUC with a mechanical engineering degree before pursuing a business development career. But passion called, and she answered by pursuing a degree in interior design from the art institute of Houston. The rest? Well, a plethora of award winning residential designs that display their curating taste and ability to mix and match contrasting styles together.
Alia El Tanani – Living In Interiors
El Tanani heads the design division at Living In Interiors, a firm that she co-founded in 1992. Currently in its second generation, the Tanani family business presents designs that reflect the homeowner's tastes and passions. Aside from her maximalist homes and residential projects, El Tanani brought her firm's slick eye for proportions and quality to the interiors of St. Regis Hotel in Cairo, among many more pristine projects.
Mona Hussein – Mona Hussein Design House
Hussein first launched her design magic out to the world in 1992 within the interiors of the World Trade Centre in Cairo with a lighting showroom. A year later she founded her studio, which over 29 years has attained multiple awards and delivers services in architecture, landscape, interior, art and sculptures, and branding.
Shosha Kamal – Shosha Kamal Design House
After a career in marketing, Kamal shifted her life path by studying design at Florence Design Academy in Italy. From there, she founded her design house with the aim of keeping humanity in mind, whether through her art or through initiatives like Annure, her lighting brand that sends solar lanterns to Sub Saharan African homes. Her designs take heritage, namely ancient Egypt, to heart. Not in the sense of merely replicating things, but contemporizing its inspirations, as is famously the case with Kamal’s Scarab Chair, which was gifted to the First Lady of the United States at the White House.
Ebtissam Farid – Encode
There she stands, receiving, for her studio’s work.
Launched to explore the potential of digital designs, Encode’s work covers architectural, interior and product design solutions, which allowed founder Ebtissam Farid to build an impressive portfolio of clients that include L’Oreal, SAP and Honeywell. Farid's work won her the Egypt Entrepreneur Award in 2021 in the Architecture & Interior Design category. Oh, and she’s done all that while serving as an associate professor at Coventry University, where she operates out of its Cairo branch at The Knowledge Hub.
Dina El Khachab – Eklego Design Studio
El Khachab co-founded Eklego in 2000, building its reputable portfolio as its principal designer and managing director. After growing up in Canada and studying architecture at McGill University, she decided to immerse herself in her home culture in the Middle East, which has been evident in Eklego’s relatability, craftsmanship and oriental furnishings.
Hedayat Taymour – Jam by Hedayat
Another co-founder of Eklego, Hedayat Taymour delivered numerous residential and commercial projects over the course of twenty years with Eklego, where she still provides consultations. In 2019, she founded JAM by Hedayat with a focus on interior design in the UK and Europe, as well as Egypt. While she works on townhouse interiors in Chelsea and Fulham, she revisits Egypt to deliver on certain jobs, like her heartfelt renovation of her family estate into Villas D’Egypte.
Laila Badawi – Grids Architects
Awarded with the Hassan Fathy Award for Sustainability and Innovation in interior design, Laila Badawi has been producing progressive designs since founding Grids in 2017. Their design approach was recently epitomised in their administrative design at New Alamein City, which was nominated for the Golden Trezzini Awards for its minimal yet textured brick-covered design.
Dalia Sadany – Dalia Sadany Designs
You might have come across her television series on El Mehwar TV channel where she gave interior design tips and tricks, or her many interviews with the likes of Mona Shazly talking about the field. Dalia Sadany is a household name, with more than 11 international awards in various niches of design, as well as the presidency of the International Association of Designers in Como, Italy.
Nehal Lehata – Design Point
As the co-founder of Design Point, Nehal Lehata has designed numerous restaurant interiors. Her strong interest in cuisine and culinary arts manifested itself when she authored a book titled ‘Authentic Egyptian Cooking’. That said, a quick flick through the firm’s immaculate work does most of the arguing in the co-founder’s favour. Interiors and cuisine aside, Lehata is a thought provoking painter and an astonishing artist.
Eman Hussein – Alchemy & Else Lab
After earning her master’s in architecture from the University of Greenwich, Hussein began as a designer at the famous Alchemy Studio, before becoming promoted as its art director. She just recently launched Else Lab, an Alchemy brand that is keen on blurring the boundaries between art, architecture and design by creating forms that contribute to the stories within them.
Sahar El Ghoul – The Design Code
El Ghoul founded The Design Code in 2003 after a corporate journey that spanned many fields, ranging from advertising to landscape and contracting. While her love for art and geometry makes art deco her personal preference, ultimately her projects end up matching the clients’ needs. Despite her flexibility, you’ll always find parametric wooden designs on walls or as furniture pieces.
Nadia Salem – Beit Nadia
Golden finesse and flawless coatings cover the work of Nadia Salem’s Beit Nadia. After studying interior design in Florence and then London, she founded the practice in 2017 and frankly, trying to keep up with their trajectory needs plenty of stamina, with designs that provide beautiful visual experiences that can be calming and sedating in one project and edgy and progressive in another. At times, both extremes meet.
Reha Habib – Reha LLC
Very few designers go the same lengths that Reha Habib does when striving for meaningful conceptual approaches, whether it is looking at the poetics of fire to come up with a warm dining atmosphere or translating a request for simplicity into all-white interiors. This approach made her a trend setter, being one of the leading designers to instigate the boho wave experienced a couple of summers ago. The architectural practice delivered projects in Egypt and the MENA region, as well as the United States, where the founder was born and received her architectural design degrees.
Naira Omar – Volu Studios
Audacious features seem to always centre the spaces that Naira Omar designs. For that to work the rest of the space has to be composed in terms of colours and textures, Volu Studios has consistently been managing that balance since its inception in 2020, with a deluxe blend of design solutions that come with stellar finishing quality. As the head of interior design and co-founder, Omar has created a diversified portfolio for the studio, from otherworldly playgrounds in Katameya heights residences to Red Sea hotel designs.
Malak Rashad- FR Partnership
The ‘R’ in ‘FR’, Rashad co-founded FR Partnership - one of Architectural Digest's top 50 brightest talents in the region - and is known for her affinity for minimalism and purity, which unfolds itself in most of the design director’s work, like the open interiors of Creek El Gouna Restaurant that were in touch with nature.
Nariman Mahgoub – Nano Mahgoub
With projects spanning Morocco, Spain and Italy, Nano Mahgoub is a design firm that has expanded its reach quite rapidly, which is down to its founder Nariman Mahgoub. After studying architectural engineering at the American University in Cairo, Mahgoub founded the firm in Milan where she pursued the most fashionable designs, working with the likes of Salvatore Ferragamo. In 2019, she branched out – and back – to Cairo in Katameya Heights and has been delivering her Italian-inspired approach to Egypt and the region.
Reham Maher – Reham Maher Interiors
The Alexandria based interior designer has aspired towards the field from a young age, inspired by antiquities and designs she would view abroad while on family trips. Influences such as French interior designer Alberto Pinto and British interior designer Kelly Hoppen sneaked into Maher’s work, which occupies many interiors within the suburbs of the Mediterranean city, blending many styles as she expands into Cairo and the North coast.