Urban Sanctuary

BY Maddison Glendinning / Apr 23 2017 / 14:00 PM

A myriad of marble and mirror, jewellery designer Joanna Laura Constantine's Beirut home is a modern paradise in the middle of a bustling city

Urban Sanctuary
Ethan Mann
Urban Sanctuary
Ethan Mann

Joanna wears: Top, Skirt and Shoes, her own; Earrings, Dhs 625; Necklaces, Dhs 625; Dhs 477, Joanna Laura Constantine.

Urban Sanctuary
Ethan Mann

Joanna wears: Shirt and Skirt, her own. Shoes, Dhs 2,000, Saint Laurent. Earrings, Dhs 1,010; Cuff, Dhs 1,240; Rings, Dhs 825, all Joanna Laura Constantine.

Urban Sanctuary
Ethan Mann

Joanna wears: Shirt and shoes, her own. Trousers, Dhs 3,000, Stella McCartney; Earrings, Dhs 995, Joanna Laura Constantine.

When Rihanna wears a piece of your jewellery you know you’re onto something good and that’s exactly what happened to Joanna Laura Constantine, the 35-year-old Lebanese/American designer behind the jewellery line of the same name. “One of the highlights of my career so far was when Rihanna wore my pearl choker necklace to a party ahead of her performance at the 2015 Grammy Awards,” she proudly tells Bazaar. And it’s not just RiRi that’s a fan of the label. Other celebrities who have worn her pieces include Kim Kardashian West, Jessica Alba and Giuliana Rancic. As for who she’d like to see wearing one of her designs next? “I would love to have Emma Stone wear one of my pieces one day.” 

Joanna launched her eponymous line in 2008 after graduating from Parsons School of Design in New York and interning for Donna Karan. “My experience at Donna Karan and at school inspired me to create my own accessories brand,” Joanna says, adding that her woman is “someone strong and confident who likes to stand out. She wants to be unique in the way that she accessorises.” Taking her inspiration from “haute couture dresses and vintage jewellery books” and combining those with current trends, Joanna releases four collections a year. Her latest S/S17 collection ‘Organised Chaos’ has an “industrial chic” vibe with “feminine and elegant jewellery made from nails and nuts, taking its inspiration from urban life.” The brand has seen steady growth since its launch and is currently stocked in Harvey Nichols and Bloomingdale’s in Dubai, as well as on e-commerce giant Moda Operandi, which Joanna says is her biggest career highlight to date. In the coming months, her pieces will also be available to purchase on Ounass.com. Up next? “Creating my own line of fine jewellery,” she says.  

Left: Cuff, Dhs 1,195; Choker, Dhs 1,470, Joanna Laura Constantine. Centre: Cuff, Dhs 1,745; Earrings, Dhs 690, Joanna Laura Constantine. Right: Shoes, her own.

It’s no surprise then that jewellery is an important part of Joanna’s style each day. “Some pieces are worn as an accessory to an outfit, but you’ll always have your favourite pieces that can be worn with everything and that express your sense of style and character,” she says, adding that her vintage Cartier watch is her most-loved accessory. And whilst jewels hold a special place in her sartorial heart, so too do shoes. “I have too many!” she says with a laugh. “I can’t keep track – I’m a shoe addict. I think you can never have too many shoes as each pair is different in one way or another. I also think shoes are a great way to accessorise. My favourite pair are Roger Vivier white satin sandals that I wore at my wedding.” 

When it comes to clothing, though she prefers to mix international and local designers, Joanna says there are two that constantly catch her eye. “I admire Stéphane Rolland as an artist and I love Giambattista Valli’s designs, creativity and his use of colour.” She describes her personal style as “classic with an edge,” a theme that continues throughout her life and onto the walls and the dreamy interior décor of her expertly designed home in Beirut’s stylish Ashrafieh district. 

The designer has lived in her house for almost two years and shares it with her husband Karim, who is also Lebanese. Both of their businesses are based in Lebanon (Karim owns Zadig & Voltaire stores in the country), so setting up home in the country they know so well made perfect sense. The two-bedroom, four-bathroom space (“It had three bedrooms but we transformed one of the rooms into a dressing room,” Joanna explains) is expertly decorated. Describing the décor as “modern and minimal,” she adds, “We used noble materials like white and grey Statuario marble combined with Macassar wood and polished chrome details, as well as striated metal wall cladding. The seven-metre high glass ceiling in the living area gives the space a serene atmosphere during the day, highlighting the contemporary furniture and art pieces we’ve collected.”

Joanna wears: Top, Dhs 1,685; Skirt, Dhs 5,700; Missoni Shoes, Dhs 2,500, Aquazurra. Necklace, Dhs 2,200; Bracelet, Dhs 1,333, Joanna Laura Constantine.

The furniture was curated from various designers “in order to create the harmony and feel we wanted for the interiors” including “Minotti, Knoll, Poltrona Frau, Moroso, Gallotti&Radice, Rimadesio, Eileen Gray, Michael Anastassiades and Pier Castiglioni. In addition, various pieces were custom made by Italian artisans.” Joanna also says she loves to shop at the LE66 Champs Elysées concept store in Downtown Beirut. “From time to time I also go to Basta, a flee market, to select unique, antique furniture pieces for my atelier and showroom in Gemmayzeh.” Her favourite items in the house are “a black and white Moroso chair which we bought in Milan, and a Rashid Johnson painting purchased from the Hauser & Wirth gallery in New York City.” 

She says there are no plans for any further renovations in the year ahead, but she that is looking to buy “a decorative item from Zaha Hadid for our shelves in the living area.” Many of the surfaces in the house are marbled or mirrored, which she chose to  “reflect the light and give off a positive vibe.” And although each living space is as cool and inviting as the next, there’s one area that she particularly favours. “I love the rooftop. It’s ideal to have a rooftop with a pool in the middle of the city.” We certainly can’t argue with that.

This article originally appeared in the April 2017 issue of Harper's Bazaar Arabia


Styling: Malak Rabbat