Monday July 22nd, 2024
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Inside an Eclectic Cairo Home Filled With Antiques & Designer Toys

Balancing the old and the new, designer Lina El Shennawy dresses every corner of the house with her playful personality.

Karim Abdullatif

Like many raised in Cairo, the owner of this eclectic home in the capital’s new suburbs was blessed with a warm family house to grow up in, surrounded by the classical and artisanal decorations that define the archetypal Egyptian interior. When interior designer Lina El Shennawy was asked to find the right balance between modern yet nostalgic spaces, naturally, she pretended this was her home.

“They bought in my eclecticism and gave me complete freedom to design as if it was my own,” El Shennawy tells SceneHome as she instilled her character throughout the house without imposing too much. Egyptian art, like Mustafa Rahma’s depiction of a folk wedding, guides you throughout its spaces. Stepping inside, it becomes instantly clear that the house is a celebration of Egyptian art and design.

Entering the reception area, a black and gold art deco console stands before yellow coffee tables curated from Third Space. “I love layering visuals, whether they draw from memories, keep us in the present or add a forward-thinking shape to the space,” El Shennawy says. “I also love designer toys.”

Every corner of the house reflects its owner’s personality, covered in a careful curation of custom-made pieces like bars and sofas, rare finds at auctions, daring pendants, iconic memorabilia and handmade carpets that help tone down aesthetics. 

“There’s daylight everywhere in this home. On one of my visits I stood in this corner and it felt so private and bright so I decided to play with the wall, turning it into a sliding partition. It’s my favourite part of the house. I would sit on the ground, take in the light and just breathe,” El Shennawy, pointing at a perforated wooden partition that has a painting by Omar Abdel Zaher resting in its heart. “The back of the artwork is a tinted mirror that’s viewed when you’re walking in the garden.”

Back inside, Taweret hippos by Analogue stand with their flamboyant curves in front of the only column in the open space, which the designer turned into an attraction. The column, now in a dark shade of grey, acts as a fireplace while being flanked by two chinoiserie vases that add volume. A small sketch of Umm Kulthum echoes out artistry into the next zone, the cigar corner.

Making the most out of what she’s given, El Shennawy continues her playful approach by matching a modern chair from Nineteen Furniture with Leopelle leather that instals a vintage look and feel as a ballerina tiptoes in oil over a cabin. The wall features a geometric pattern that creates interest. “I tried to mix and match to make the setting more rich and appetising.”

Sheltered by a partition coated in bamboo Design Emporium wallpaper, the dining table has Analogue cutlery set atop its space grey marble, flanked by a cane chair on one side and a custom-made sofa on the other. “I believe dining areas are private and I wanted the owners to experience everything here, whether they’re eating or catching up,” El Shennawy explains. The room is centred by a handmade sofa from Kahhal Looms.

As you move deeper into the house, more and more layers unfold. The living room is where the design and styling come together to encapsulate the designer’s and the owner’s approach to life. “This is where the eclectic feel is really present. I wanted to add colour and excitement to the sides,” El Shennawy says as massive Bla Blom china plates flank the TV unit. Decorations include everything from a murano clown, steel donkey, mushrooms, books, a yellow dog and the antique casts of the shoes of King Farouk’s royal family members.

An art deco bar was custom-made by El Shennawy with an Enlighten pendant hanging above. Two interlocked blocks of white and green marble slabs constitute the dreamy coffee table that was also custom-designed. Side tables from Blend Furniture, an armchair from Art of Form and a side lamp from Third Space complete the space.

The outdoors are dominated by a glass-room, and while it’s filled with lively furniture, its story starts with the topping. “Straw added identity to the glass-room. Like, ‘Hey, look at me. I’m a transparent glass-room but I’m not invisible,” she says. “I enjoy putting things together that take a couple of visits before they unveil themselves. Every time the owner receives a guest, there’s a different conversation starter.”

Interesting spaces are the ones that keep us discovering, and in the glass-room Kairo Lumumba’s contemporary art adds an abstract air to the space. Statement pieces from One True Find fill the space with lively shapes and colours before a terrazzo dining table from Art of Form complements the stone-cladded walls. “The owner loves sunshine and the outdoors and this cottage glassroom makes for a sweet space in winter.”

On a visit to Salone de Mobile, El Shennawy came across Cooper Hewitt’s ‘Fun Chair’, a red elliptical chair that, regardless of what your eyes might tell you, will never topple. Through Blend Furniture, she placed it alongside elegant outdoor furniture by Madar. “It’s very functional and fun. You can spin around as much as you like, you’ll never fall. It’s crazy stable.”

“Every corner takes you somewhere new but there’s harmony throughout,” El Shennawy adds. “This is a labour of love, it’s not about simply delivering houses but having fun in the process. I’m greedy when it comes to my designs. I always feel like I can add more. Here, I knew I was done when I watched the sun set and felt like lighting a candle and putting on some music. When I felt like I wanted to start using the house.”

Aside from an acquired taste in antiquity boldly blended with modernity, both El Shennawy and the owner share an appetite for music. Therefore, naturally, speakers were the last items to enter the house in El Shennawy’s turnkey project which included everything from the wall coverings to the food in the fridge.

Photography Credit: Nour El Refai


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