In the heart of Brisbane city resides a modern Moorish inspired interior for Naim – a small Middle Eastern café designed by The Stella Collective. At just 55 square meters, Naim is conceived as a compact expression of Stella’s enormous love for Syria. It is an interior tinged with nostalgia and hope.

The brief called for a “celebration Middle Eastern design with a modern take”. Hana Hakim, director of Stella Collective, drew inspiration from cherished memories with her family in Aleppo, Syria, remembering the ancient city’s internal courtyards, bountiful oasis, elaborate geometric tiling, and hole-in-the-wall tea houses.

“This concept was very personal to me. Aleppo was so beautiful and one of the places left in the world where the spirit and generosity of the people was truly arresting,“ explains Hana.
“A lot of Naim’s design narrative has come from the ancient symmetry of internal courtyards, bountiful oasis and rigorous geometry of tiling and black bold lines.”

Hana’s concept of Naim was a modernist take on Damascene ‘hole in the wall’ teahouses. Drawing on her Syrian heritage as well as time devoted designing and rebuilding projects throughout Palestine, Hana felt this interior was a call to action. “I wanted to create a space that gives a peek into Syrian and Islamic architecture, and to bring a very special message about Syria into the light.”

The petite space delivers a design that fits like a glove. Functionality was limited and focussed around the bar area to maximize the number of covers for the café. Natural light was imperative as well as the ‘feel good’ factor.
This informed the decision of the material palette derived through soft textures and symmetry, the backbone of Syrian Architecture.

Other features throughout the space include Tadelekt – a plaster technique translating
to ‘rub in’ in Berber, which was used on the walls. The custom geometric tile adorning the walls is a respectful ode to the time of old traditions of arabesque tile craft, and the brass waters station filled with hope and purity, while mirrors reflect natural light and blackened steel features contrast with the Tadelakt and tiles, adding definition.

“Food and design to me, are the greatest cultural bridges – everyone loves food and beauty, it’s so inclusive. I truly believe design can bring people together and help communities on a global scale,” says Hana. “The more the Western world gets to experience the Middle East’s food and culture, the more curious they will be about it and maybe they will start to raise questions about what is happening to people over there and how they can help.”


Visit Naïm at 14 Collingwood St in Paddington, QLD.

See more projects by The Stella Collective on Yellowtrace here.


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[Images courtesy of The Stella Collective. Photography by Sean Fennessy.]


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