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Turning a passion into a business

Karina Sukar adds luxury and style to Lebanese homes, one piece of furniture at a time

by Jeremy Arbid

Beirutis often think that Gemmayze is solely a place to relax or catch a late night drink after a long day at the office. But if revellers walked around this affluent Achrafieh residential district during daylight hours, they would find one of Lebanon’s finest custom furniture designers tucked away in the back streets of the neighborhood.

It seems everybody in the furniture business today is mixing contemporary features with styles from past eras, but Karina Sukar does it differently. Her approach to designing luxury furniture is defined by features that are less abstract than they are precise. Sukar’s personality is that of a perfectionist with a strict eye for detail, qualities she may have picked up as a student of interior architecture. She acknowledges these attributes as core elements of her design approach – “I try to confine my ideas and designs to something that I can execute very well with perfect detail and a perfect finish,” she says – as Sukar’s showroom manager unabashedly nods in agreement.

Her gallery, Karina Sukar’s Store, is meticulously organized with furniture dotting the showroom floor. At a first glance, this all seems strictly prearranged. But as she describes why a certain divan fits in a certain place under complementary lighting, it implies a flexibility that allows her to improvise with the arrangement of pieces from her collection to fit a client’s taste.

Over the last few years business has not been bad, but Sukar says that the country’s deteriorating economy and the regional turmoil have had an impact on her bottom line. “If we were in a better situation in Lebanon, my profits would have been better,” she says. Having featured her designs abroad in galleries in New York, Ibiza and Dubai, Sukar’s visibility is rising and driving more commissions and sales her way, but she says she has no near-term plans to open her own gallery outside of Lebanon. “It costs a lot and I don’t want to overstep my financial capabilities. And honestly I don’t want the hassle – you have to be everywhere.” Scaling up would tie her down with all the tedious administrative duties that are demanded by an expanding business. She prefers, for the time being, to focus on the creative aspects of the business.

Sukar’s main occupation is leading her other company, Karina Sukar Interior Architecture & Design. She maintains that designing furniture is only a hobby and passion – one that she has been able to transform into a business. “I only look at the bottom line at the end of the year. I know I’m not losing money, but I am also not designing to become rich.”

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Jeremy Arbid

Jeremy is Executive's former economics and policy editor.

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