Wednesday February 21st, 2024
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Don Tanani’s ‘Moruna’: A Tasteful Take on Ancient Egyptian Design

Inspired by the old, Don Tanani’s furniture collection is built for the future.

Karim Abdullatif

Don Tanani, a contemporary design studio based in Cairo, realised its vision of modern lifestyle by looking at ancient Egyptian design to create a furniture collection that’s as flexible as contemporary life demands.

Made with finesse and named after the Arabic word for ‘flexibility’, Don Tanani’s first open edition collection ‘Moruna’ features solid wood cylinders bent and fashioned into tantalising curves to host an array of seating options, both inside and outside our homes.

“We started it before the pandemic then suddenly everyone started asking for outdoor furniture,” Alia El Tanani, Founder of Don Tanani, tells #SceneHome. “Things are always formal inside and outside, we just get the garden set out. This changed. People want their terraces and gardens to look super fabulous.”

‘Moruna’ gets its sculptural form from Ouroboros, a bench inspired by ancient Egyptian ideals for regeneration which was debuted in Switzerland and later displayed in New York. Lina Alorabi, the mind behind Don Tanani’s designs, chose to reconstruct it into an elongated bench, two-sided sofas, a conversation chair and a sun lounger.

The collection was inspired by one of the first pieces out of Don Tanani’s debut collection ‘Duality’, which was launched in 2021 at St. Moritz, Switzerland with Nomad, one of the world’s most renowned functional art galleries.

“We showcased it to people from all over the world, who deal with collectibles and appreciate high quality workmanship, to be sure that we were making something that had a strong identity,” Alia El Tanani recalls. “That’s where Lina nailed it.” At the start of it all, Alorabi was asked to imagine if ancient Egyptian culture didn’t disappear, what would we be designing thousands of years later and in the future? Her answer was to combine mythology with technical prowess.

“People were shocked they were made in Egypt because of the quality, and also because it’s massive wood and handmade,” Lina Alorabi says. ‘Moruna’ features an extended Ouroboros, which was displayed in New York with an elongated and sculptural form that allows it to host seating positions angled after ancient Egyptian stools.

Similar to its preceding collection, ‘Moruna’ also offers duality. The duality of indoors and outdoors. “The bench symbolises the reconstruction and deconstruction of the material world in ancient Egypt,” Alorabi explains. “That’s what we did, we regenerated the bench into a complete collection. A seamless extension of the concept.”

“The Ouroboros has always been my favourite because of the form of the bench,” she admits. “People are always trying to caress it. I feel that a design is successful when people are drawn to it and want to interact with it,” she continues. We’re trying to introduce the beauty of the Egyptian lifestyle. We’re known for relaxing, enjoying the moment and enjoying life. I feel this collection, because of its curves, gives you ease. It’s luxurious but relaxed. It’s Egyptian luxury, in form and function.”

Don Tanani’s regeneration of Egyptian lifestyle was a difficult task when it came to engineering. Their factory is split between bespoke and production, with a speciality in solid wood, carving and inlaying. The pieces are labour intensive, with lots of handwork. “We have great craftspeople in Egypt, they just need nurturing and support,” Alia El Tanani says. Before Don Tanani, Alia El Tanani co-founded Living In, an award-winning studio that supplied high-end furniture from brands like Baker, Armani Casa and Ralph Lauren in Egypt and across the MENA region since 1992.

For Tamara El Tanani, Co-Founder of Don Tanani, there was a dire need for local furniture that had an authentic design behind it. “I grew up seeing furniture in front of me my entire life. For me, it’s more about lifestyle than it is about interior design. Some people want white walls and don’t need an interior designer but everybody needs furniture,” Tamara El Tanani says.

“I was obsessed with the idea of making local furniture,” Tamara El Tanani continues. “We know what comfortable furniture looks like, we’ve been putting it in homes for decades. We wanted to create furniture that’s authentic to our culture and our way of living, to emulate Egypt and its lifestyle.” When it comes to ‘Moruna’, Tamara El Tanani asks why furniture needs to be either indoor or outdoor. “Why not have flexible furniture?”

While on display, some of the reactions she got to the furniture included, ‘Oh, this reminds me of Alexandria’, maybe due to the blue and red stripes of Dedar fabrics which cover the seaters. But everyone has a different perception of the furniture and its coverings.

Designs are the outcome of the dynamic that goes on behind the scenes. These designs started when Tamara El Tanani was scrolling through Instagram before coming across Alorabi’s work. “She had original concepts and she was developing them and I appreciated that,” she recalls.

‘Moruna’ remains, however, the product of an unlikely adventure. Knowing the amount of experimentation and prototyping ahead, Tamara El Tanani wondered, “Who’s crazy enough to work for years in the dark and not be sure where any of it is going?” The answer was Lina Alorabi, whose talent earned her the space she needed to express her affinity for true design.

“You can’t be the designer, the manufacturer and the seller. You can’t be everything. There is space for everyone and in my position, I’m here to help her realise what she wants,” Tamara El Tanani says of Lina Alorabi. “She has the time to think and design, not worry about production. That’s why it’s important to have a good circle of people around you.”

‘Moruna’ is the first of a number of open collections resulting from Don Tanani’s debut Duality. Out of the 13 pieces, five including the Ourobors inspired collections. The target is to influence our lifestyles, questioning the relationship between indoors and outdoors.

Regardless of the form or where it is, ancient Egypt is unmistakably recognisable. This was Don Tanani’s main focus; to create furniture that’s unmistakably Egyptian for today and for the future.

The collection will be displayed at the Living In showroom in Abu Rawash till June 16th, 2023.

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