Random Accessories Enhance Design
The title says it all. ModernLook is unique because our founders are artists themselves, and have an inherent eye for style. It was a no brainer for us to catch up with the fairest one of them all, Raed Alawadhi, and simply find out “what makes him tick?” Adoring fans and inquiring minds want to know how that mind of his can make something mundane into a show-stopping design piece. Teach us how to “twerk”… not the dance move, but how to make one thing mean everything.
ModernLook: Who and/or what is your design inspiration?
Raed Alawadhi: Travel and people. I love people-watching as much as I enjoy travel. The older and more remote the city I go to, the more inspirational it is. I find those cities undisturbed by the likes of Starbucks and Gap... when you eliminate these types of conveniences, the local people have an opportunity to be creative, unique, and make a living. This is generally why we see unique stores and bespoke shops in older cities. Not to mention, the locals have inherited their crafts from many generations past. I was once in Egypt and I entered a store selling everything for left-handed people! This was genius. More recently, I got back from Tofino, on Vancouver Island; I was so far away it took 2 full days to get there! The town is full of fog, forests, beaches, and wild blackberries growing everywhere. This trip has inspired my current project in Bermuda where I have a feeling mist, fog, and dark colors are going to be very prominent especially for the bedrooms.
ML: We notice that there is a lot of animal art in your place. Why is this? Should we inform PETA? [jk, jk!]
RA: I did a small project in London a few years ago and one day I had some free time so I decided to swing by the V&A museum to checkout a light installation by industrial designer Omer Arbel. It was magnificent, so was the collection on sale in the museum’s own store. I loved all of the cardboard animal head, so I bought one of each and gave some to friends as presents and I kept a few.
ML: About your library: Are the books purely for aesthetic purposes? How many have you actually read?
RA: Yes, they are real books that we have read over the years. My partner is an avid reader; he goes through a book or two a week. Just about every book he reads, he orders both the electronic version (for travel) as well as the real books for reading at home on his favorite chair with a cup of coffee. He has few unread books in this reading queue, which are stacked on his nightstand. I once worked on a project and it had massive amounts of bookshelf space. The client wanted the house to be fully furnished before they moved in, including the bookshelves. I ordered books by the linear foot; you can do that nowadays easily.
ML: Your place is minimalist. With a twist. How do you achieve that and where do you get your accessories?
RA: I think my place started minimal but now I am trying to make it more personal by displaying objects I love and the things I collected in the past. We all keep things in storage. When was the last time you went up into your attic to explore forgotten boxes? You will be amazed by the forgotten treasures we possess. I found a pedestal-style silver candy dish meticulously detailed with ornamental carvings. It was part of my grandmother’s wedding present when she got married. A few years ago, I was walking around New York City and my curiosity pulled me inside an Anthropologie store. I’ve always love their displays and for me, it’s hard to not enter their store if I happen to walk by one. Inside, I found an exact replica of my grandmother's dish made of white-painted metal; it was much heavier than the real antique silver dish I have. I had to buy it. Now they both are on display in my house and are used simultaneously when needed. People always asked me why two; it’s a great story to tell. Also, I tend to buy accessories when I travel. I’m originally from Kuwait, where I go visit few times a year. My trip involves a half-day stopover in London. I go shopping during my 10-hour layover and I bring my purchases back with me to the airport. I once grabbed a padded silk blanket because it was a life size print of renaissance portrait of an old lady... a majestic painting including its gilded ornate frame, think Downton Abbey matriarch. On another trip, I met someone who took me to the flea market in London and I grabbed a few vases then continued my trip home. Every destination has a story and purchase. My accessories document my travels. I travel a lot. All of the pillows on my sofa come from multiple cities.
ML: What tips can you give readers on maximizing their space while still keeping it stylish and reflective of who they are, sans clutter?
RA: Do not go out and buy all the furniture you think you need immediately. Start with a mattress on the floor, see how you wake up and what you do. Does the floor feel cold when you first step on it? Then add a rug or a piece of carpet. What happens after you make your coffee? Which corner of the house do you stand in and look out? This means you just found your happy corner. Add a chair appropriate to the size of this area. Does it have to be a chair or will a swing be more inviting? Do you sit on a sofa and read the paper? Then you need a coffee table. A brand-new shipping pallet on a contrasting floor makes a fantastic coffee table. Look for stark contrasts when combining furniture... I like contrasting things more than matching; it’s a personal choice, more conversational this way. Slowly build your home. If you can’t, won’t, or simply don’t have the time, call me. It’s what I do for a living.
ML: So now that we know how you "tick", what are some of your must-haves from ModernLooks's site right now?
RA: Ha, funny you ask. This week I bought the essential oil burner and cowboy coffee kettle. Both of these pieces are functional, but fit in my home perfectly. I also was so tired of my phone wires being an eye sore so I purchased the Quell & Company's spool dock. Lastly, I need some speakers to take from home to the beach so I purchased the 1Q bluetooth speaker. It matches the spool dock perfectly and is minimal with powerful sound.
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