Design Duos / david/nicolas
The Lebanese partnership, with its head in the clouds and its feet on the ground.
DAVID RAFFOUL AND Nicolas Moussallem set up their eponymous design studio in Beirut in 2011. Graduates of the Lebanese Academy of Fine Arts, where they both studied for a Bachelor’s degree in Interior Design, they went on to take Masters degrees at the Scuola Politecnica di Design in Milan. Their meticulous, elegant “retro-futuristic” aesthetic reflects influences as diverse as oriental geometry and space travel, and has won them an international following. In 2014, the New York Times selected them as one of that year’s Milan Design Week breakout stars and later that year, JM Design Gallery in Beirut hosted their first solo show, Loulou/Hoda. Here they exhibited pieces inspired by their grandmothers, combining Oriental and Western as well as antique and contemporary influences. They work across a broad range of projects – from collaborations with international brands (most recently Pierre Frey), to interior design for private clients, to the design of their own pieces. Since 2016 they have been represented by Carpenters Workshop Gallery, which exhibits their limited edition works.
The Design Edit (TDE): How did you meet?
David/Nicolas (D/N): We met at ALBA (The Lebanese Academy of Fine Art). We were having a lunch break at McDonald’s.
TDE: What drew you to work together?
D/N: The dynamics between us is unique – transparent and honest at the same time. We felt it the first time we met. This is something hard to find and we are both very grateful! We also have no ego whatsoever when we work together, so at least we know things are clear.
TDE: How has your combined creative output evolved?
D/N: It started at university, we understood directly how things work together, but it took time to develop a certain ritual between us without fighting over every project.
TDE: How do you work creatively? Do you split the work, do your skills overlap and complement, or are you polar opposites? Chaos and order, structure and fluidity?
D/N: Our skills overlap and complement each other but mainly we hack each other’s designs until we find the solution. Nicolas is more a ground person and David a cloud person.
TDE: How do you deal with tension and friction, pulls in different directions?
D/N: Thinking about it, it’s true that we argue and fight a lot but we always have the same direction and vision. Over time, we have learned to listen more and think clearly, before taking any decisions.
TDE: Why are two people better than one?
D/N: Two people are more challenging and more fun. A partnership controls your ego so you can always focus on your work. It should be a perfect match for a perfect relationship, if not it can lead to a disaster.
TDE: What are you working on at the moment?
D/N: We are working on several projects at the moment around the world. For instance, a new furniture collection for the French brand Pierre Frey, as well as interior projects for private clients in Beirut, Amman, Milan, Paris and London.
david/nicolas – a Beirut based design studio co-founded in 2011 by David Raffoul and Nicolas Moussallem.
Carpenters Workshop Gallery – the world-leading gallery in collectible design and functional art, with galleries in London, Paris, San Francisco & New York.
Watch an Instagram Live with david/nicolas.