A Conversation With Lebanese Interior Designer Bachir Nader On His Luxury-Driven Designs

BY Ayesha Sohail Shehmir Shaikh / Oct 20 2019 / 13:19 PM

Globetrotter Bachir Nader’s accidental passion morphed into a lifelong career that saw the establishment of his own hybrid interior-architecture design firm in Beirut, Lebanon

A Conversation With Lebanese Interior Designer Bachir Nader On His Luxury-Driven Designs
Courtesy of Bachir Nader
From left: Bachir Nader; the dining area of the Valencia loft

Nestled in Kuwait’s upscale suburb of Shamiya is a regal, three-floor private villa resembling a historic Andalusian home. Inspired by the rich traditions of Kuwait, the inside is adorned with veneer wood walls, contemporary furnishings and gleaming crystal chandeliers reminiscent of Italian piazzas. Now owned by a Kuwaiti family, the villa is also home to an oriental-inspired Diwaniya room, which, traditionally, is a space for business meetings in Kuwaiti culture. 

The Diwaniya room inside the Shamiya Villa in Kuwait

Courtesy of Bachir Nader

Completed in 2018 over a period of two years and spanning 2,500 square metres, Lebanon-based interior architect Bachir Nader is the mind behind the designs.  “As is known of Kuwait, traditions flourish within an evergrowing contemporary outline, inspiring this magnanimous space,” says Nader. “All the rooms of the residence have a view of the garden, bringing in a sense of harmonious continuity throughout the vast spaces.” A mix of traditional and modern, the living area features classic designs while the bedrooms, with green onyx incorporated within the walls and exquisite detailing, add a contemporary touch. 

The space is also home to a dedicated events section which is adorned with chic glass pillars throughout, emanating an Art Deco inspired aesthetic. “There is no shortage in luxury and sensible taste.”

Growing up in Lebanon, Nader was always fascinated by his surrounding environment, continually picturing each space he stepped into as his very own blank canvas. “Since I was young, I would always project myself when I step into a space and think, what would I do with it if it were mine?” he shares. “A blank paper, a white canvas, an empty space - what they all have in common is the dream of creating something that transforms and restructures your reality and surroundings.”

Although the perpetual curiosity for creating something out of an empty space reinforced his untapped desire for design, Nader believed it to be nothing more than just that - desire.

When he was about to embark on his university years from as early as fifteen years of age, Nader was sure he wanted to study pharmacy but logistic limitations led his parents to enrol him in an interior design course at a Lebanon-based private university close to home instead, known as USEK: The Holy Spirit University of Kaslik. “And from this happy accident, came forth the beginning of an amazing journey,” he smiles.

After graduating with a master’s degree in the field of interior design in 1999 and a master’s degree in scenography from France-based École Supérieure des Arts Decoratifs (ESAD), Strasbourg, in 2002, Nader worked for many years around the world as a freelance interior designer across the Middle East and Europe including Lebanon, Jordan, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Egypt, Turkey, Italy, France, UK and USA.

Shortly after in 2008, the designer launched the eponymous Bachir Nader Studio. Based in Beirut, Lebanon, the interior design firm has seen him work on award-winning commercial and residential projects globally including the Gulf region, Paris, London and New York. Today, he has over 100 projects under his name.

“I do have a soft spot for residential projects because working on a house is reflecting an individual’s identity while working with luxury,” says Nader. “The essence of luxury is creating a sense of comfort but one that is exclusive to its owner.” So how does the designer define the ultimate luxury? “The wonderful result of all combined elements figuring into a project’s interior - elements that secure longevity and identity, which is an added value for the project in the future and a real sense of decadent luxury.”

A view of the N Penthouse

Courtesy of Bachir Nader

Nader was just 22 years old when he ventured on his very first design project, a historic Lebanese house set in one of Beirut’s oldest districts, Monot, transforming it into a lounge bar called Fusion and becoming one of the youngest in the region to get noticed in the field. “The project outcome was unique as I created a modern atmosphere while respecting the Lebanese architecture and the stories hidden in the walls of this house,” he says. “I wanted, at all costs, to preserve the history of the building while ensuring it would fit in with the world of today and its new function.”

Drawing inspiration from a book he read on Chinese beliefs surrounding the harmony between the sky and the earth, Nader sought to apply the principle of harmony to his work to build a space that is seamlessly in sync with its surroundings. He carries this philosophy with him to this day. “I believe a good designer has two pillars to drive his project to success and avoid complete failure,” he shares. “The first pillar is the place itself and its surrounding location, connection with the neighbourhood, heritage and architecture with all the energy that it carries. The second pillar is the person who lives and uses this place - his needs, his lifestyle and his dreams or simply, a project purpose.” The result? “A positive connection of an inanimate place that animates a human being,” he says. “It’s a motto that I always follow, a smooth transition between the outside and the inside of a place.”

Situated in the old Achrafieh district of Beirut, when Braai Restaurant and Lounge received recognition for best interiors (Golden Award) and best design firm regionally (Platinum Award) at the International Arabia Property Awards in 2013, it inaugurated the very first project by the designer to win an award, marking a turning point in his career. “Braai restaurant has a special spot in my heart as it was the first project I received an award for,” says Nader, adding, “Yet, every project is a testimonial for me as my aim is that every project would age perfectly, harmoniously and gloriously.” It wasn’t long until the design firm was recognised throughout the region and beyond, winning the Best Company for Leadership award at the IAIR Corporate Awards the following year in 2014.

Having travelled the world extensively, the diverse inspirations behind Nader’s design philosophy are derived from elements of nature and traditions. “I’m a globetrotter, exposed to all kinds of cultures,” he says.

The Valencia Loft

Courtesy of Bachir Nader

“Every country I visit, I research the local lifestyle through design and architecture down to the smallest of details.  The richness that the world brings to your thoughts and visions as a designer is infinite as long as you keep yourself open and sensitive to it. Every new place is an inspiration and knowledge, a door to a new perception in my career.” Nader takes on his work - be it a loft downtown, a secluded villa in the mountains, a fusion restaurant or corporate compound - in his own words, “as a full sensory experience, putting all my faculties in service of my work, as they inspire every single detail and change I conceive. The process and outcome will be signature Bachir Nader.”

Embracing picturesque, sweeping sea views of the Mediterranean in Raouché, Beirut, the Carlton project, which the designer is working on today, has already become a personal favourite of Nader’s. Comprising four beautiful apartments, the designs are inspired by ancient French castles. “It was a challenge to combine modernity and technology with classical French style and all that entails in terms of history and art,” he expresses. “But it has become my favourite because it forced me into a well of research and it magically took a lot of my time between the research and travelling the world for the best art pieces and design elements.”  The expansive ceilings and grand dining areas feature handmade engraved wood and brass handles emulating a regal atmosphere, while the unexpected hidden cinema intertwines a sense of modernity within the traditional space. 

With an educational background in Paris, the designer was no foreigner to French designs. “I have an affinity for French culture when it comes to simplicity, combined with my strategy to always create an impact with every project, and that mainly comes from my Arab background,” he says, adding, “But a designer, like all artists, must continuously expose himself and draw inspiration from new experiences and discoveries, to allow innovation to become part of his constant output.”

Set within a building from the 1920s on Lebanon’s historic Rue Clemenceau Street with panoramic views of the Mediterranean Sea, the TJ apartment is another notable project by Nader, completed in 2017.

The living area of the TJ Apartment at Rue Clemenceau Street, Lebanon

Courtesy of Bachir Nader

With a soothing grey colour palette, marble flooring and custom-made lighting fixtures, Nader describes the residential space as “a haven in a historical street of Beirut and a serene reflection of its owner.” Taking one year to design, the apartment is situated on the 12th floor amidst vintage buildings and lavish gardens. “A walk inside invites a sense of calm, away from the sometimes overwhelming rush of Beirut,” he says.

Using a combination of only four materials, namely marble, steel, brass and wood, Nader envisioned the space with an authentic thematic scheme throughout. “The purity in design is attained through a multitude of design elements,” he says. “Elaborate shelving in the main area of the house is reminiscent of magnificent bookcases in libraries, while also doubling as a separator with the adjacent room.” Neighbouring the living room is the dining room, separated by an elegant steel door and tinted glass while down the hallway, the beautiful master bedroom houses a bespoke walk-in closet designed using steel and brass, as well as large windows that deliver mesmerising views overlooking the mountains of Beirut.

Although proud to be part of the design scene in Lebanon, Nader believes in embracing skills that are unique to an individual. “The design scene in Lebanon features a lot of talent and I’m proud to be part of the local talent that contributes so much locally and internationally,” he says. “I do, however, feel that I am in my own corner, bringing a unique take on design to my cherished clients that others might not offer. I do not compare and contrast, I simply envision and create as I always have.”

What once seemed to be an accident has deemed the establishment of a fierce, talented interior designer fuelled by innovation, passion and originality. “I continue to be fascinated every time I take on a new project because of all the intricacies and nuances that go into it as each challenge is unique, just as each client is unique,” says Nader. “Each project is a sacred responsibility, as it will remain long after I am gone.” 

From the fall 2019 issue of Harper's Bazaar Interiors