Sunday June 16th, 2024
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Yasmine Allam Transforms a Family Home Overlooking the Nile

Inspired by Egyptian heritage, these interiors celebrate local art and design while framing Cairo’s bustling corniche.

Karim Abdullatif

Life in Cairo typically inspires two types of homes: those that embrace it and others that escape it. To each their own, of course. This apartment in Dokki, however, takes the entire city in with a one-of-a-kind panoramic view of the Nile from all of its rooms, and a master suite that even manages to capture a glimpse of the Great Pyramids of Giza.

“The homeowners are a young couple who share a love and appreciation for the art, patterns and elements of Egyptian heritage,” Egyptian designer Yasmine Allam - who transformed this family home into a modern abode - tells SceneHome. Overlooking Cairo’s bustling corniche, the apartment embodies the Egyptian capital both within and without. “Despite both of them leading a busy work life, they love hosting people. So, they wanted their home to be welcoming, sophisticated, calm and a place for people to connect.”

The house was originally owned by one of the current owners’ parents. “The overall style was classical with lots of dark wood furniture, ornamental brass lighting, heavy cornices and dark window frames with heavy drapery,” Allam recalls. It also featured beautiful marble and wooden floors, which the designer featured in the new look.

“When I sat down with the owners during our initial meeting, we were all inspired by the beautiful view of Cairo, wanting to mirror the outdoors in, our main focus was to create rich dialogue that evokes a sense of artistic harmony, serenity and warmth,” Allam says. “Reflecting the richness of Egyptian heritage and legacy of handicrafts and artistry, we used locally produced and designed furniture pieces and accessories that feature intricate handmade details.” These pieces include hand-carved wood, brass, hand-blown glass, hand-poured patterned cement tiles, hand-blocked fabrics and selected pieces from local artists. “It’s a pleasure to highlight local talent,” she adds.

Allam started the renovation by working on the apartment’s zoning. The layout is divided into a public area with an open plan, and a private area with the kitchen in the centre.

“As you walk into the home, you’re welcomed with a statement console wall, extending the space and encouraging the eye to float around admiring the myriad of layers and patterns,” Allam says, referring to a full height cut-out wood partition and a sleek solid walnut wood console, which is highlighted by a handmade brass mirror and handmade carpet that frames with the space. “Britt Boutrous Ghali’s dreamy paintings add motion to the space with just the right touches of colour.”

Then, you’re led into the spacious open floor with a neutral palette of warm beige walls and light grey marble floors. “Welcoming guests into the lounging areas, I wanted to create a restful feel of visual harmony and interest,” Allam explains. The space consists of two separate seating areas with the flexibility to be connected into one large hosting space. “Using varying upholstery offers the sofa the flexibility needed to serve multiple spaces or to cohesively blend as one space.” A further sense of unity is achieved using an accent wall covered in a rich taupe colour.

“The main seating area started with the coffee table and vintage wooden box,” Allam says. “The owners were roaming the streets of Zamalek and fell in love with the pieces and their hand-carved details. I was able to pair them with matching side tables, neutral sofas, and a patterned carpet to accentuate their details.”

Tayseer Hamed’s colourful painting and its vivid portrayal of Egyptian folklore serves as another balanced focal point in the space. “Magdy Abdou’s bronze sculptures, with their rich patina and ancient Egyptian-inspired detailing add another level of sophistication to the interior,” Allam expresses.

Wanting to bring the city’s palette into the TV corner, Allam used sleek wooden tables to match the entrance console and dining table, with the addition of alabaster, brass detailing and Gamal Meleka’s painting in the background. The Nile, of course, serves as an ever-present backdrop.

“Getting to know the owners, they expressed their need for a small indoors breakfast corner overlooking the view,” Allam says. The set-up features a beautiful handmade carpet with floral details paired with two comfy chairs. Hand-blown glass pendants with various shades of teal match the patina of Magdy Abdou’s bronze sculpture on the table while Mostafa Abo Aly’s watercolour paintings give life to the background.

The dining room is designed with a medley of patterns, including the patterns on the carpet, mix and match chairs with plain, striped and patterned fabrics, and the hand-carved wooden details of the buffet and mirror. “Refki El Razaz’s bold painting brings warmth to it all with a bold pop of colour and rich brush strokes,” Allam says.

Moving to the semi-open office space, Allam points at the furniture that lends a sense of personal heritage to the space. “The owner had this beautiful antique desk that has sentimental value having belonged to his late father. Things were toned down with simple lines to make it stand out, with the addition of Naguib Moein’s beautifully detailed bronze sculptures and painting by Ahmed Osman,” Allam says.Out on the terrace, the view looks over the urban expanse of the Egyptian capital. “The terrace is divided to accommodate lounging and dining spaces where the owners can start their day by sitting in peace, having breakfast and a cup of coffee,” Allam says. “It’s also designed to host intimate gatherings, listening to music with palms swaying in the evening breeze.”

Wanting to create a feeling of a home garden, the palette is inspired by Cairo’s vibrant blue sky and persistent greenery. When it came to furniture, Allam selected a coffee table that matches the handmade tiles of the kitchen and guest toilet to add a sense of familiarity and unity to the whole house.

Being the heart of the home, the kitchen is the main hosting area. The owners asked Allam to give their old cabinetry a modern facelift. “I went for white subway tiles in herringbone pattern to brighten up the space,” she says, having paired them with patterned cement tiles. The vintage stove and black granite top were maintained. The dining space within the kitchen features beech wood chairs with fabrics that add visual depth and colour, complementing the various tones of the reclaimed wood logs used in the table.

The beauty of reclaimed wood is further highlighted in the serene master suite. “Here, I went for a neutral palette and a touch of light blue in the accent bed wall to allow the headboard’s natural textures to pop,” Allam explains. A handmade silk and cotton carpet anchors the room, which originally had a small en-suite storage space that was then flipped into a walk-in dressing by Allam. “It made the room more breathable, with space for a cute lounge area to enjoy the golden hour.”

As for the guest bedroom, Allam wanted it to have a distinctive palette from the rest of the house. “The original room had blue walls and dark brown furniture which felt heavy. I wanted the room to feel soft and serve as a place to relax. I went for light beige walls with white-washed wood, and a vibrant red hand-blocked pomegranate fabric from Alef Gallery for a bold pop of colour,” she says.

The room features a sleeping area as well as a small lounge and desk for work. A customised extended headboard gives the users the flexibility to have the bed bases separate as two large single beds or pulled together as a king bed.

“I built a strong connection with them, I got to understand their taste, daily habits, dynamic and preferences, which empowered me to create a highly personalised and layered home experience for them,” Allam says, having worked on this project over various phases. “It was exciting to work on a makeover of a house with a strong family sentiment and be able to give it a new concept and style, maximising its potential for the beginning of a young family.”

Photography Credit: Nour El Refai


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