Karen Chekerdjian, Contemporary Design in Beirut, Lebanon

Karen Chekerdjian is an object and product designer of Armenian-Lebanese origin. She graduated from Milan’s prestigious Domus Academy in 1997 with a Masters in Product Design and Design Direction.

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Her route to industrial design has not been direct. Film, adverstising and graphic design have each helped shape her vision. Prior to attending Domus, Karen worked at Leo Burnett advertising agency and in 1994, co-founded Mind the gap, a graphic design studio that contributed to the beginnings of the practice in Lebanon.

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Karen’s work is displayed at a number of boutiques around Beirut and Milan, chief amongst them contemporary Middle Eastern handicrafts boutique Orient 499, the city’s premier vintage furniture stockists XXe Siècle, and the famous Gallery on Via della Spiga.

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Karen regularly participates in some of the biggest annual design fairs, including New York’s ICFF, Milan’s Salone del Mobile, Cologne’s Mobelmesse and Paris’ Furniture Fair. Her work has also been displayed at a number of international exhibitions, amongst them Utopi (Copenhagen), Beyond the Myth (a pan-European show), Promosedia 2007 (Milan), Northern Lights (Tokyo) and ECHO (Beirut) and at galleries ranging from The Issey Miyake Foundation (Tokyo) and Spazio Orlandi Gallery and Gallery (Milan) and Sfeir-Semler Gallery (Beirut).

Karen Chekerdjian Store

Located just off the busy main road ringing Beirut’s port, Karen Chekerdjian Store, which opened in December 2010, is an early outpost of design in what is still a largely industrial neighbourhood. It shares the street with two high-end neighbours; the avant-garde fashion boutique IF and Maison Rabih Kayrouz, the first Beirut showroom of the Lebanese couturier.

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The semi-industrial feel of Karen’s boutique is the result of careful intervention by the designer. Just enough was done to make the interior of what was previously a metal warehouse feel deliberate and lend it sophistication, but enough was left untouched to allow it to retain its original raw edge.

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The Store operates under the generous rubric of ‘things we make, things we like’. The idea is that in addition to showcasing Karen’s work, the Store also stocks a thoughtful selection of items produced by other people. These are things Karen finds inspiring and can be anything from furniture and design objects, to fabrics or books and they further illustrate the designer’s global and eclectic vision of beauty.

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Also falling under ‘things we like’, the Store carries a selection of edible items; pastas, jams and biscuits, among others. Mostly organic, mostly handmade and mostly of Italian origin, these are some of the designer’s favourite foods, sourced during her years in Milan and are not available elsewhere in Lebanon.

Photos by Karen Chekerdjian www.karenchekerdjian.com

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