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Bridging the Modern and Middle East With Furniture Inspired by Bedouins

Swedish/German designer Katrin Greiling plumbs Arab traditions in her furniture designs.

Katrin Greiling

Unlike most of her peers on the hotshot contemporary design scene, Katrin Greiling doesn't live in Sweden or Denmark or the Netherlands. Sure, her works are sometimes bought by rich Middle Easterners. But she's not exporting Scandinavian style abroad. Rather, she lives in Dubai, and she's a pioneer in bridging modernism and the Middle East—part of a new generation hoping to entice contemporary Arabs with products drawn from their own history.

Specifically, Greiling is obsessed with the nomadic Bedouins, and she creates furniture inspired by their way of life. In Milan this week, in the Handmade show sponsored by Wallpaper*, she's presenting a new piece, Tiger and Elephant.

Katrin Greiling

You might not realize it at first, but the basic function here is as old as the Bedouin culture—when they settle in and raise their tents, they use their camel saddles and rolled up carpets to make something akin to a chaise lounge for the floor. Greiling appropriated that tradition in the new design:

Katrin Greiling

In Milan, Greiling will also be presenting Bidoun, a line for Dubai-based furniture startup Traffic. Again, it's inspired by Bedouin culture and specifically the majlis—a traditional Arabic sofa that at one time would be been made of rugs stacked atop one another. For Bidoun, Greiling turns to that motif to create sofas:

Katrin Greiling

The seats are composed of layers of mattresses, covered in modern interpretations of traditional Middle Eastern designs. They're joined by ropes—a ubiquitous tool in Bedouin life. They can also be re-stacked, if you want to change the color of the top layer, or the height of the seat. A coffee table made of a slab of wood and carried by ropes again riffs on Bedouin life:

Katrin Greiling

Katrin Greiling Katrin Greiling