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Nada on finding delight in the tradition

Together with Lebanese designer Nada Debs, IKEA has created a contemporary Middle Eastern design for warm and inviting homes. We talked to Nada about LJUVARE, working with ancient metal techniques and the healing power of tradition.

The LJUV collection got its name from the Swedish word for delightful, which is a perfect description of the popular golden plates and tea light holders. For next year’s collection LJUVARE — more delightful — gold and traditional metalwork techniques will play a significant role. There will be new products in response to customer feedback, and also the return of some favourites, like the hexagonal shaped candle holders where candlelight cast through the intricate geometric patterns adds warmth and a sense of ephemerality to a room.

Nada is known for creating contemporary design based on traditional Middle Eastern patterns, and for the IKEA collaboration, she has worked closely with the supplier to create beautiful designs. The technique used is called chasing, a hammered metal technique that has been used all over the world since ancient times. Today there is still a strong chasing tradition in the Middle East. The metal is worked from the front by hammering with various tools to create beautiful patterns and shapes, and for the LJUVARE collection, you can see the result in the serving tray, the cake stand, and the coasters.

”We have used this technique in a simpler form rather than the more elaborate forms of the past. The subtle reflections created from the hammering effect made by hand adds soul to the pieces,” says Nada.

A hexagonal two-layer metal tray.

A tray table with coffee cups and candle holders in metal with a decorative see-through pattern.

Chasing is done by hand, and Nada worked closely together with the skilled artisans to find the right proportion and shape of the pieces.

“We first asked them to do several samples of the chasing technique as the effect is different according to the way it is hammered. Some are hammered very closely, some too distant; we had to find the right balance.”

The LJUVARE serving stand, for example, is made of three hammered hexagonal plates of descending size.

”The forms are based on the hexagonal shape which is a geometric shape often used in Middle Eastern design, and the serving stand is a contemporary take on the traditional cake trays of Europe,” says Nada.

Nada works and lives in Beirut, a city still suffering after the devastating explosion in August. Not only did many people lose their lives and many more lose their homes, the explosion also devastated the beautiful old areas of Beirut.

How have people in Beirut risen to face the challenges? 

”Our first response was to clean up and reconstruct, but knowing the amount of work this requires has been totally overwhelming. It will take many years. The explosion has shown how strong and determined the Lebanese are in trying to get back our city and our culture and what made Lebanon what it is today in terms of design, art, culture, food, and music. We have so much to offer.”

How has the situation affected your own life and work? 

”I am more and more determined that it is imperative to preserve our culture and our heritage and to keep it alive by working with the local craftsmen and by keeping the craft going. But my role is to keep creating new craft techniques based on the traditional ones to keep it contemporary and relevant. This has become my mission to keep it stronger than ever. Now that a lot of our beautiful heritage buildings have been destroyed, I am quite inspired by them for my future work.”

The LJUVARE collection will be launched in selected markets, February 2021. 

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