Insight Magazine
When Elegance Meets Eccentricity

October ‘16
Space is but a template where Karem Mahmoud can embed his sumptuous artistry in. The interior designer has synthesized his matchless ideas into some of the world’s finest furniture. Employing the philosophy of Zen, Karem makes sure your home is a serene place for the ultimate meditative relaxation.
Karem Mahmoud

How would you describe your style? Do you have a signature touch?


I would like to describe myself as an artist with a Bohemian touch, which is especially becoming for people who live an unconventional, and usually artistic life. To me, being unique and ionic outweighs following daily routines and customary trends. It’s why I couldn’t tolerate being an employee for a company that does not suit my taste, so I started my own business. I like to think out of the box and I deem nothing impossible for me to craft.

What determined your passion for interior design?


It was when my friends started getting married and I saw how they dealt with renovating their houses – that was when I realized that a designer must interfere. An interior designer has a bigger vision and gives a taste to the project that the owner doesn’t always have the ability to provide.  Hence, I don’t consider myself a mere interior designer; I always think of myself as a “designer”; a professional who is capable of creating anything, has his own style, and reflects his personality in his design. ‘ZEN’ is not only my office’s logo; I’m planning to officially brand it in the future.

Can you remember your first design project? What was it?


My first project was to design one of my friend’s houses, and it was not an easy task for multiple reasons: It was my very first project, so I wanted it to be a gateway to prove myself. The second thing that made it even harder was how different the customers’ opinions were; one was going for ultra-modern and the other wanted it to be more classic, and it’s hard to mix between both. After a challenging journey, both were satisfied with the results. 

What are some of your most popular/difficult designs?



The palace of the president of Chad in Africa, Idriss Déby, was a hard project due to the mix of different cultures and having to adapt for four months in a location where the only communication between them and I was through an interpreter that showed up a single hour a day. Other than that, I communicated by hand gestures because I do not speak Chadian Arabic or French. In the end, everyone was pleased with the final output and it truly was an experience that cannot be forgotten.

Name one project you’re most proud of and tell us why?


The Hama Film Productions’ office. I was given the space to craft whatever I wanted. I started designing this place to reflect a part of my personality, giving it an industrial look using recycled materials and customizing every single piece as I imagined. Every one who enters the placed is impressed by how unique it looks and it does a great job grabbing the attention of anyone with an artistic eye.

Where do you draw your muses from?



Egypt is full of places where you can extract your inspiration and creativity from. For me, Sinai is the best location for that purpose. It’s the perfect place to go alone to with nothing but a notebook sketch down your ideas. 

What is the most frustrating aspect of your career and what is the most gratifying one? 


The most frustrating aspect was the timing in which I started building my own business, ‘ZEN GALLERY’; it was the same year the revolution happened and a lot of businesses closed at that time, so it was very risky. What is most gratifying is how things are right now concerning the ban on imported goods. This helps us manufacture more products and it’s helping Egyptian goods to rise again in the market.


What colours, texture, and furniture pieces do you love working with the most?


I’m more of an industrial person. “Less is more” is how I like to do my job. Sometimes a person can only hold to natural beauty and simple things, furniture does not have to be massive to be of high value . My office was named ‘ZEN’ after the minimalist philosophy of making use of natural materials, patterns of light and space, as well as a near monastic rejection of clutters. A Zen home is meant to be relaxing, contemplative and visually balanced. 


What are some of your favourite interior design magazines or books?


This Old House, Dwell, Interior Design Homes, Maison Francaise, and House & Gardens. 


How has the declining Egyptian economy affected your work?


The decline is actually facilitating my work as it’s giving us the ability to create and manufacture our furniture and sell it for a lower price and with better quality.  Moreover, we now have the capacity to export our goods.



If you had no limits of money and resources, what would you craft? 


I would try to collect the handicraft workers and give them modern designs and new materials to start designing products we can export as handmade Egyptian crafts. 


Any upcoming projects you would like to tell our readers about?


I’m currently working on renovating my gallery with different styles than the one shown, and it will be open soon for everyone to come and see.