Visualising Spaces with Naya Lab

June 29, 2021 by Ramy Khorshed & Hussein El Kheshen

At Sakneen, we strongly believe that a home is more than just a price tag. In our new series, Visualising Spaces, we sit with leaders of the design community in Egypt to discuss and gain insight into how they connect with a living space, and what it takes to make a house a home.

As part of the first instalment in our new series, we spoke with Naya Lab, the design duo behind iconic locations for brands such as Zooba, Nola Cupcakes and 9 Pyramids Lounge to talk about their expertise in architecture and design. The powerhouses behind the studio, Yasmin Hamza and Nada Shalaby (both proud IAAC graduates), gave us some valuable insight into how to effectively choose and remodel a home that you can call your own.

Private residence in Cairo designed by Naya Lab.
Naya Lab-designed residence in Cairo. 

How to effectively budget for designing a home?

The overall budget varies depending on the clients' preferences, whether that is basic, mid-range or luxury. However, when budgeting for a new home, there are three important aspects to consider while designing or remodeling your home; design, contracting and the FF&E (furniture, fixtures and electric).

1- Design: are you hiring a designer? If so, depending on your square footage and how experienced your designer is, you can expect a cost of around EGP500-1,000 a square meter. We recommend you make sure the designer gives you a full package that includes working drawings and renders for the contractor to guarantee precise execution. Alternatively, you could share your budget with the designer and she/he accommodates the scope of work accordingly - however, this could eventually lead to outsourcing (which would end up costing more than opting for the full package) or execution errors.

2- Contracting: contracting includes everything related to finishing - from AC, electrical, plumbing, overall materials and anything that requires building. All contracting relating to the infrastructure of the house (AC, electrical, and plumbing)is typically the highest cost. A reliable contractor would charge around anywhere from EGP 4,000 - 8,000 per square meter for residential space and EGP 12,000 for commercial.


3- FF&E (furniture, fixtures and electric): this includes any additional purchases related to contracting - for example, electrical sockets. This can be expensed under FF&E, or excluded depending on client preference.

What signs should you look for that a house has potential for remodelling?


Any house can be remodelled but it's important to ask for an “as built plan” in order to be able to know the existing structures that cannot be moved or changed; (e.g. beam columns). These can only be discovered with a proper “as built plan”, unless you are willing to break down all the walls to see the house bare…


What should someone consider when buying an apartment in an old building?

The most important things to consider are how intact the the electricity and plumbing are. We highly advise buyers to check before proceeding with any paper work, to make sure the building’s foundation is strong and the apartment is clear of any potential infrastructure issues.

Private residence designed by Naya Lab.

What should you look for in a summer home?

Always research the infrastructure, good windows and shutters. The house should best be facing north for good wind flow. Usually, homes on water bodies are considered a better view than gardens. Any water body gives your home a more valuable price.

Remodelling do's and dont's?

Do's: always consult with  professionals (your contractor or interior designer) on any structural changes you want to apply. Repurpose or refurbish existing furniture, home accessories etc. - a remodel doesn’t always have to break bank.

Don'ts: don't take any remodelling decisions without doing the research, including having a realistic budget.

Private residence designed by Naya Lab.

‌‌What to do if the apartment/villa doesn't have enough natural light?

Light-coloured walls and furniture. Use cone lights to mimic natural light and have the lighting well-distributed to combat this problem. Always use yellow light.

Private residence designed by Naya Lab.

‌‌Tips and tricks to make a room look/feel bigger?

Clutter usually makes you feel a room  much smaller than it is. It is good to go minimal by using light colours. The more you add into the room and use dark colours, the less spacious it seems. It's also very important to place warm light in good amount to make the room seem brighter and more spacious.

Private residence designed by Naya Lab.

What room should you spend the most (budget) on?

Of course, everyone has his own preference but it’s highly recommended to allocate sufficient budget to the most labor intensive spaces in the house (e.g kitchens and bathrooms). Make sure to get the best quality of infrastructure/finishes/appliances for both spaces. Generally speaking, when designing a home it’s imperative to invest in the infrastructure as it guarantees longevity.

Private residence designed by Naya Lab.

‌‌What in your opinion makes a house a home?
1- Accessorising right.
2- Using warm and natural materials.
3- Adding a touch of heritage makes people feel more grounded and the space warmer.

4- Maximise comfort & coziness. A picture perfect home is not important on the long-run.
5- Right colours. It's good to have a pop of colour in some areas, but the more earthy and less crowded textures/patterns there are, the less your eyes get bored of it. The use of colours & patterns is important, but keep those for the rooms you won't use on a daily basis.
6- Use yellow/warm light for a cozy effect, and distribute it well. You never want an overly lit room.
7- Natural materials are always a key for warmth and comfort.

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