What is the story of the genesis of P & E Noujaim?
Ever since I was a little girl, design was a passion. How many people are fortunate enough to say that their passion has become their profession?
Throughout our fourteen years we have worked very hard at maintaining the highest standards in our work.
I think if you can make it in Lebanon, you can make it anywher. The Lebanese have a passion for design, they have good taste, they have a good eye. There is a lot of competition in Lebanon. You cannot fool a Lebanese client.
In our early days we attracted a lot of high profile clients, a number of well-known singers. This helped get us known very quickly.
How do you design an office, let’s say I came to you today and told you i was moving into a new office. Where would you start with me?
We start with a theme. What is your business? Your logo? Your impression that you want to create? Is it a luxurious image, or a stark look? It depends on each client. Every clinic, every restaurant, every office we design is unique according to the client’s intended profile. We spend a lot of time with our client’s before we even sit and begin to design.
Design is typically so subjective though. What you see as a good design may not necessarily be seen by me as a good design.
That’s not true. A good design is always a good design in the same way that good art is always good art. I accept that some may not like it, but that’s different to saying something is not a good design. It is up to us as designers to create a good design that is also liked by the majority of people who will use the space.
As a professional, you must design spaces that you don’t like?
Very often. Clients sometimes have their own fixed ideas. In these cases all we can do is to take their concept and make it work in a practical sense, so here we are doing our job as designers.
Have you ever been asked to take on a project that has pushed you far enough to refuse to take it on?
Many times. Especially when the client insists that the concept he has arrived at is not open to interpretation. We do try to convince the client that, whilst it is fine to have his taste at home, this same taste is not necessarily appropriate to have in a public space.
This is particularly the case in restaurants. We have the circulation to think of, basic mistakes are often made by restauranteurs which results in a poor quality of service and lower level of enjoyment for both their customers and their staff.
But the reason they engage you as a designer is for the same reason I go to the dentist rather than fix my own teeth.
You’re right. But sometimes they hope to engage a designer who will simply endorse their own plans, it’s very good for their vanity.
It’s not something we do - unless we can be honest about it when a client really does hit upon a plan which works from beginning to end.
Where can we see your work in Kuwait? Where is the hidden hand of P & E Noujaim most publically revealed?
We completed a number of projects for banks and investment companies. We also did Shogun Restaurant at The Palms Resort. Most recently we completed the Ocean Pacific boutique at The Avenues.
With global business the way it is right now, how are you seeing things going for you during 2009?
Well, an important marketing strategy in times like these is to give your company a face-lift in order to revive your profile. It’s one of the easiest and most enduring this a company can do. This relates to your company’s physical face - the premises and corporate identity - as well as through advertising. The worst thing to do at a time like this is to stop spending money.
While morale may be low, it is a wise-thinking company that would follow this strategy.
Sure. But they’ll know that most of us spend far more of our waking lives at work rather than at home. They’ll also know that if their staff are not happy they won’t produce good results. There is no more important a time than this to be producing results better than your competitors either.
Design. It’s a psychological thing. It is up to us as designers to put all the right elements in place to make people feel comfortable when they use our spaces,
First Published in Men's Passion Issue #11 March 09