Visualising Spaces with Alchemy

October 5, 2021 by Nazli Kassem

At Sakneen, we strongly believe that a home is more than just a price tag. In our 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. For the third instalment in our series, we sat down with Karim Mekhtigian, co-founder of Alchemy Design Studio, to discuss how to create luxurious spaces regardless of budget, and what it is luxury really means.

Committed to understanding their clients and the kind of lives they lead, Alchemy have worked on various residential and commercial projects, and are known for the experiences they’ve managed to create through interior design.

Private residence designed by Alchemy.

1. What classifies a home as “luxury”?

A luxurious home is not necessarily made up of expensive things or expensive materials. For me personally, I look for luxury in the authenticity of things, the reality of how to make things basic and simple and elegant; all while serving the space and the person living in the space so it is absolutely indispensable and is something that makes sense. So when I’m surrounded with these kinds of elements in a house, this is the luxury for me. Of course you can add some precious things; a piece of art, a sculpture. Something else that is very luxurious is something with a historical background. If you get a brick wall from my house, and one from the great wall of China, surely the more valuable one will be the one from the great wall.

Private residence designed by Alchemy.

2. If someone wants to achieve a luxurious feel with a slightly less luxurious budget, how can this be achieved?

Luxury is not entirely related to expensive things and money. It’s elegance, it’s proportions, it’s material choice, end positioning, and so on; it’s how you put things together.

I think the best way to achieve luxury on a budget is minimalism, and to be culturally cultivated.

For example, you can use flooring that is not so expensive, but with the right texture and the right cut, with just one sofa that you put all the money into (like the belt).

Another very important thing is lighting and atmosphere. You create atmosphere  70% depending on using the right lighting; if you don’t have the right lighting, you don’t have interior. Even if you spend millions, without the right lighting, it means nothing. Lighting is one of the most important elements in interior.

Private residence designed by Alchemy.

3. Which materials/ textures do you find give the most luxurious feel?

I think all those materials that are very noble and raw. Like stone, marble, bronze, metal, wood; things that are not manmade, that nature gives you.

In terms of texture, the luxury is a contrast between the rough and the soft. You can have an extreme luxurious feeling because you will feel much better when they are put beside each other; these different feelings of softness and roughness interact to give a good feeling, and if they are real noble materials that come from nature, they will indirectly relate with your nature.

Private residence designed by Alchemy.

4. What colors give the most luxurious feel?

Gold is considered a sacred, very spiritual material. Silver and bronze as well. But it’s not just the color, it’s the proportion of the color and how you place it. This balance is achieved when you relate it back to the story of the client. I always create a sort of experiential experience that you have to live in so it can stimulate whoever is living in it to be a better, more creative person in their daily lives; you are going to see the same space every day, live in the same room, sleep on the same bed.

Things therefore have to be, in a way, not fixed or stuck in a certain time that can eventually become outdated. It has to be timeless, it has to be neutral so it can adapt with you. This is really important because humans are very fickle; we change a lot, and we have emotions, so the environment you’re in has to support that. If I create an environment that is extremely stylized, the person living in it is blocked. You have to be in a free space to feel like a free person.

5. How can you choose the right patterns for your home?

Patterns for me is a language. It depends what the story of the house is; if the story needs that you something with a pattern – whether it is Islamic, European, whatever it is – I see pattern as graphical language.

Luxury is not in the choice of the pattern, it is in the positioning of the pattern and how it is presented – it could be designed on the wall, it could be engraved on the wall, it could even be projected on the wall. It’s the way of the pattern that gives it its level of sophistication.

Private residence designed by Alchemy.

6. How can you balance between luxury and comfort and functionality?

Luxury, comfort, and functionality meet when it’s not fake; materials that are natural.

7. What are the best places to look for design inspiration?

Personally, my inspiration is in everything. In the street, everyday people. You have to be very observant of your surroundings; seeing everything, feeling everything, even the ugly.

I also find very local, basic, haphazard communities are very real, very pop. This is life, this is how people are living, it’s extremely inspiring and gives you a lot of ideas. Literature, poetry, movies; I get inspired by everything.

Talent or passion or being creative are not enough to employ that inspiration correctly, though. I went to schools to learn how to be creative. You have to learn, and you have to learn how to take this talent to produce creativity. To be creative is a way of thinking that needs to be developed, and you have to be trained to develop it. It’s not always about thinking outside the box; if you’re really stuck, think inside the box, but be creative. You need to train yourself on a daily basis to think differently, and you need to employ certain techniques to come up with new ideas. A lot of people are very talented but they aren’t disciplined or they don’t have the right know-how of the craftsmanship, so they’re useless. Or some people who are very intelligent people who aren’t skilled, or the opposite.

8. What is the most important aspect to think of when designing a room?

How I want to make someone to feel, with all of the senses. I need to know who they are, and based on that what it is that will make them live and develop better. Which space do they need for which function? What do they love, even?

Private residence designed by Alchemy.

9. Which room should you spend the most budget on?

Kitchen and bathroom.

The kitchen is something you use every day in a very important way.

Bathrooms, we also use every day. Their function is also a bit trickier and has to be done correctly. I would say luxury is really in the bathroom.

Also, anything that your body will stay on for longer than four, five hours is so important to invest in; that could be a sofa, or a good mattress.

In so many houses, the electricity is done in the wrong way and so you end up with currents around your bed, or the wrong magnetic field. These areas need more attention.