It’s a Wrap for Downtown Design 2018

20 Nov , 2018  

It was impossible to throw a stone and not hit a piece of art, installation, or gem of creativity (possibly even a designer or two). All of d3 was abuzz with inspiration and a hive of activity during Dubai Design Week and its famed white tented trade division, Downtown Design 2018.

The Trends

Creative Lighting

In our opinion, lighting took centre stage and truly ‘lit up’ the venue (pardon the sad pun). It was wonderful to see this functional arm of design really coming into its own, standing tall and equally worthy of artistic, aesthetic and design merit. With smart technology thrown in too. We were bowled over by some of the jewels showcased by giants in the lighting world alongside individual designers. Here is a sneak peak (look out for a full blown feature on lighting entries coming soon on

People, Nature and the Planet

Holistic design, biophilic elements, sustainability and a ‘back to nature’ trend were thoroughly popular across the board. Big and small brands, old and established or young and starting out, and anywhere in between, all chose to go green, using natural materials and environment friendly manufacturing processes, thus taking active steps to save the planet, and their own wellbeing, in the process.

Colours of the Desert

As Catalina Ruiz-Urquiola of Poltrona Frau cleverly pointed out to us, some of the same celebrity design names from Europe and her hometown were showcasing here but in an entirely different colour palette. Rightly so, we noticed warm tones, golds and sunset shades dominating the wider palette at the show, with the currently popular pastels thrown in for a retro effect.

Individual Talent and Home Grown Gems

This year’s Downtown Design had a couple of new elements, our favourite one being Downtown Editions, which was dedicated to bespoke design, capsule collections, individual studios and designer collaborations. Here is where we came across some incredibly fresh and inspiring new global, regional and homegrown talent showcasing their designs to test the waters and break ground in the local design community. And they could use a boost.

Damj Design

Designer Ahmed Khouja’s unassuming and understated apothecary wall cabinet caught our eye from afar. It is part of his Curiosity series all of which feature a ‘wonder emporium’ style of drawers in walnut exterior and beach interior, and showcase expert craftsmanship and a designer who would have to be good at math. The technicality of its curves and angles is insane!

The Line Concept

Their pieces are a culmination of their brand name – ‘a spectrum of possible shapes and lines depending on the angle with which they are viewed’. The designer duo work with marble, wood and antiqued metal to create quite cool, minimal furniture and accessories with a strong linear quality, right here in their own workshops in Dubai. Truly homegrown.

The Tanween Collection

Emiratis would be proud of the designs created right here in their country, and showcased at the Tanween stand. Tanween takes a selected cohort of emerging UAE-based designers through a nine-month programme to develop a product inspired by the surroundings of the UAE, and see it through from concept to completion.

AYA The Art of Living

Saudi born, Parsons School of Design grad Ayah Al Bitar has already broken many a status quo. In turn, she directs her creative juices to conceptual design that is relevant to the Arab world. Her design house, AYA, creates products that are easily the most unique, given the niche market addressed, and incredibly well crafted. Clean lines, rich textures and fluid forms.

Albal Design Studio and Lasvit

The local design house, Albal, teamed up with Czech glassmakers Lasvit to create a stunning light installation especially for Downtown Design. The chandelier that was so beautifully orchestrated construed of organic shapes that layered past each other in a ripple effect, as if to mirror reflections on water. Aptly titled, Flow, this was one stand that you would find difficult not to stop by and admire.

Wajih+Omar Nakkash

We bumped into Omar Nakkash displaying what he called, their ‘passion project’ – a father and son collaboration and Nakkash Design’s foray into bespoke furniture. The console that we ogled was from a series titled ‘Tawazun’, meaning balance. And the visuals translate this ever so perfectly.


We stopped short at Agrippa’s stand to admire the sheer craftsmanship and beaiutiful curves of this Spanish handmade furniture brand. The smooth wood forms and organic, biomorphic design simply begged the visitor to reach out, touch and try.

And let’s do our bit for education…

‘Design for Good’, an initiative by d3 and Dubai Cares, and The American Hardwood Export Council, held a competition for local designers to create furniture designs that give back. The winning entry, Sakina Kara-Sabur and Alicia Spoljar’s Reading Bench, sat proudly at the fair. The concept behind the design was to encourage thought, knowledge and harmony through sustainable hardwood design, Props for aesthetics that resemble a traditional dhow, combining history with modernity. 100 pieces of this limited edition series are now available for purchase, and all proceeds go to Dubai Cares.

So our point is… buy a bench and give a child a seat in a classroom.

Price: AED 3,000. Contact: 04 – 4504533

Our Walkthrough…

Herman Miller

Herman Miller showed off their Living Offices at the Advanced Business Concept’s stand, and totally worth mentioning was Maja Kozel’s design of the space in partnership with Obaid al-Badoor’s landscape photography. A combination of dunes and a starry sky as backdrops on a multi-planed vertical collage played visual tricks, creating a cosmos of sorts and a desert inspired wave effect. In this magical world resided the Cosm and the Memo workstation. Out of this world!



Humanscale stepped up their sustainability game this year at Downtown Design with the launch of the Smart Ocean chair, and the green story behind its manufacturing process. The material used is sourced from Net Positiva, a collection and recycling program that is aimed at combating the detrimental effects of discarded ocean fishing nets. Frazer Butcher, Managing Director MEA, proudly describes the process in this video clip.


Poltrona Frau Group

Catalina Ruiz-Urquiola from the Business Development wing of Poltrona Frau Group ME commented on the warm palette used by these famed brands in an effort to adapt to the Middle East market, which was in sharp contrast to the usual colours displayed at international shows. Also, of note was that all three mega brands, Poltrona Frau, Cassina and Capellini, shared one space for the first time at an international show, creating an interesting dichotomy of styles that were different yet complemented each other.



Preciosa’s Breath of Light continues to take our ‘breath’ away. We first experienced this Red Dot Award winning installation in Salone del Mobile, and are equally awed by it on our home turf. Martin Fryzelka, Managing Director at Preciosa explains how this magnificent marvel works (breath and artificial intelligence technology are used together to create light). You blow into the sensors, which in turn lights up the crystal bubbles as it travels through the installation. Listen to Martin tell us how to create the perfect storm.



Bene’s focus was, of course, the STUDIO, and Sales Manager Brian Dowling talked us through its multifaceted nature. Their space was a riot of shapes, geometrics and pops of colour, synonymous to their latest office products range, which is meant to accommodate the modern day style of working, offering flexibility and privacy. Check out our chat with Brian Downling, Sales Manager MENA.



We are so proud of our partners at Haworth for sponsoring the Forum at the Downtown Design tent this year. Designers, creative souls and aficionados from the region and beyond, all gathered in this pastel, communal space to talk, inspire and share.


Italian Pavillion

We walked through the sizeable Italian Pavilion and spotted a few nuggets of design. Such as Chi Design, which is headquartered in Rome and known for manufacturing couture carpets for the last two decades in collaboration with a wide range of global designers. Fantini Mosaici & Marmi are suppliers of luxurious, bespoke mosaics, marbles and Venetian terrazzo floors for over a century. Four generations of designers and artisans have amassed sizeable knowledge of raw materials and manufacturing processes, creating interesting and innovative designs. And of course lighting companies Zafferano Bespoke Glass Lighting and Vetrart could not be overlooked. The latter is a glass factory founded in 1990 and comprises of a creative team of venetian glass masters who work manually on every single piece.

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