L’Orient

It is often that we take what we cherish most for granted, only to recognize that after someone points it out.

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After the passing of his grandfather in 1995, Camille started a long, unplanned, documentation of his family’s legacy – which he ultimately published in a book: Vitrine L’Orient in 2016. And so it happened that life was to unfold in that direction, immersing Camille deeper into his family’s history and bringing its grandeur to his attention. Around the year 1996, Camille’s father initiated the restoration of the Residence des Pins – which was eventually achieved by Tarazi family 80 years earlier. It was then, that, with the advocacy of the French architects, Camille realized the importance of the Tarazi legacy and the need to protect and develop it.

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Maison Tarazi has been based in Broumana since 1987, followed by the founding of their own workshop, also in Broumana, in 1995. After the publication of the book in 2016, and following its success, Maison Tarazi went on to initiate a new endeavour, at its new location in Beirut, a plan that came sooner than expected.

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outside view into Maison Tarazi with the reflection of the street

Maison Tarazi is located on a tight small street parallel to Mar Mikhael Main Street. It is surrounded by other local designers, restaurants, and a single small bookshop.

It’s beautiful how the reflection of the old Beiruti street is integrated with the orientalism of Maison Tarazi. It is as if the shop belongs there, in the heart of Beirut, carrying the tradition of this creative house and merging it with the buildings, the people, the noise, the lights.

The rectangular shop is a signature of the design talent of Maison Tarazi and the craftsmanship of the artists who give life to those designs. The designs include furniture, doors, ceiling corniche, tiles, room separators, and products. Camille tries to portray what Maison Tarazi is able to present to its clients, from oriental furniture to interior artwork, through the design of the shop itself and the exhibited items. It is a simple, yet, smart way to present oneself.

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The kitchenette/toilet backside of the shop designed with Maison Tarazi items

Other than the oriental artwork that Maison Tarazi crafts and that are exhibited in the shop, the house collaborates with new emerging designers to create new pieces with a more contemporary look. An example is the cakestand -pictured above to the left of the photo- done with designer Marc Dibeh.

Almost everything is handmade by local craftsmen. And that means carving, painting, and assembly. Other times, however, the use of machinery is deemed necessary. In any case, the process is a long to-and-fro dynamic between Camille and the craftsmen. Nothing is compromised for the sake of another but every detail is handled with the same care and attention.

During my visit, one of the craftsmen walked in to discuss an ongoing project. It so happened that this craftsman’s father had worked with Camille’s grandfather before him as well as his father Michel! This inheritance of skill coupled with meticulous design was very beautiful to experience.

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Camille with one of the craftsmen discussing an ongoing project

While Camille and the craftsman talked, I walked around the shop to look more closely at the pieces exhibited.

I looked up at the ceiling. It demonstrates the process of the ceiling design. From each side, one pattern starts from its inception as wooden pegs coming together to form two types of polygons to contouring and painting. A beautiful element added to the exchange between Camille and his customer is that they engage, as witnesses, in the process and level of detail that each piece entails prior to requesting its ownership.

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part of the celing exhibited at the shop

Even though we can all agree on the grandeur of oriental art and it being part of our heritage, few actually realize the amount of work and precision that goes into making it a reality. Seeing it exhibited would certainly make visitors understand and appreciate it.

The work of Maison Tarazi has been installed in both private houses, as well as restaurants and public spaces and galleries. They try to personalize their work, and not make it redundant or repetitive; and above all, they cater specifically to quality. The work is always one that combines the space in which it is to be installed, the material, the color, and the technique…

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A backlit wall installed musharabiya

It is important for the craft to progress with time, for no matter how valuable it might be, it should be able to be coupled with the contemporary feel in order to speak to everyone. Though the craft is still the same, using the same techniques and fabrication, it can benefit from new ideas as well, and that is what Maison Tarazi aims at doing today with the help of their craftsmen. To continue with this name into new paths and discoveries.

And though it carried different names across time: (1862 – 1926 : Au Musée Oriental- Dimitri Tarazi & fils, 1931 – 1987: Maison Tarazi – Alfred et Emile Tarazi & successeurs until finally in 1987 it got its name: Maison Tarazi which it still holds until now), the essence is still one; otherwise, it wouldn’t have succeeded in surviving the years until today.

The House has risen up, moved forward and adapted to the new life changes and needs while staying true to its character. Maison Tarazi was established in 1862 in Beiut, then opened branches in Jerusalem, Damascus, Cairo and Alexandria. After its bankruptcy, it reopened in Damascus, Rabat then Beirut in Ain Mreisseh. After 1987, it settled in Brumana -where it still is until today- and eventually Beirut in Mar Mikhael. During all this time, and since the 1800s, the work has been moving around, evolving, and developing into what it is today. (For a more thorough understanding of the history of Maison Tarazi, Vitrine L’Orient, – which is almost sold out from all libraries – gives it much more justice than I could ever explain in a few lines.)

And in a way, that makes it very similar to Beirut. It is a combination of everywhere it’s been, everyone who’s worked there, and the efforts and dedication of its masters. It is a history that is still evolving and adapting without losing its identity. It constantly invites newcomers to discover it and fall in love with it at first sight.

So welcome to Beirut, Maison Tarazi.

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