When interior designer Nihal Zaki, was approached by entrepreneurs Naguib Sawiris and Amr Assem to design a unique nightlife venue, the result was a medley of maximalism rife with vintage aesthetics.
Overlooking the Nile, The Museum is a restaurant and nightlife venue that was designed by the eccentric interior designer Nihal Zaki and her award winning studio Nihal Zaki Interiors, who graced the space with shades of regal Victorian Red, tons of tropical greenery and all-out maximalist gold. The Museum recently had a banger opening night, featuring the musical debut of DJ Sawiris, aka famous Egyptian billionaire and business tycoon Naguib Sawiris who owns the venue in partnership with Amr Assem, the hospitality mind behind Crimson and Riverside, which used to previously occupy the venue.
Inspired by the sort of exclusive feel and aesthetic associated with iconic spaces like The Arts Club in London, the owners of The Museum approached Zaki seeking something that was quite maximalist, and if you’re familiar with the interior designer you’ll know that is what she’s all about.
“From day one they wanted to call it ‘The Museum’,” Zaki tells #SceneHome. “They had a vision of a space that was full of lovely vintage statues from their private collections.”
Faced with quite the amount to work with, each statue had to get its designated spots, and have their own space to display their pedigree. That includes everything from lions and angels to warriors in private dining rooms riddled with orientalism. “Entering the venue you immediately feel like you’re walking in a museum,” Zaki adds. “The restaurant and dining area is upstairs, and as the night grows older you would go downstairs to find the stage and the dancing experience it promises.”
“When I approach any project I like to stress on key elements and make them the stars of the space,” she says, referring to her ‘points de resistance’. The entrance tells the tale of the entire space, giving away a number of Zaki’s pressure points. First, there are the dynamic trees greeting you upon entry, and when we say dynamic we mean it. Zaki wanted to create the impression of entering a tropical forest, placing trees behind the glass with fans installed to get them moving and establish a natural acoustic.
As the sound of leaves ruffling together echoes in the entrance, the main atrium comes with a hat trick. “It’s seven and a half metres worth of tropical jungle used to freshen up the space, give it a modern air and make it feel young,” Zaki says, referring to the double height green wall which enveloped ‘DJ Sawiris’ during his performance. The space is lit by two metre Murano chandeliers custom designed and built by the studio, just like the golden framed portraits covering the walls.
“There’s an optical illusion that makes the portraits appear to protrude. It’s essential to have the space interact with people for them to really feel and experience it,” Zaki says. The studio painted the portraits themselves and had them framed in gold. The inspiration came from the palaces of St. Petersburg as the studio delved into styles ranging from baroque to rococo. These portraits are examples of 3D wallpapers that the studio designs exclusively for their projects.
The final star of this venue is its all-round Onyx bar which required some reworking by extending the upper floor to fit its illuminating brilliance. Usually bars are one sided, however this had four sides worth of bright magic. “They asked for the project to be done in four months, somehow, we did it in three despite that bar being as challenging as it was,” Zaki says. “The owners wanted to respect the old space by not demolishing much.”
“It was important to ensure the project had proper circulation, and right lighting and ventilation,” Zaki adds. With the illustrious experience Zaki has with hospitality interiors, it’s safe to assume that the owners of The Museum didn’t take long to realise that this interior designer was the right one.
“Everything was customised from the two metre Murano chandeliers to the Cabaret-like red lanterns which imbue a regal feel to the space with their Victorian Red. I was trying to deliver an experience and with all the maximalist Gold, Victorian Red, and Tropical greenery, it may have ended up being a trippy one.”
Nihal Zaki Interiors are all about implementation, whatever they suggest will be identical to what’s delivered at the end of the project. Regardless of how trippy the initial vision was.