David Raffoul & Nicolas Moussallem: Poetics of rarity

issue #32: Poetics of rarity

The Diary of David/Nicolas, design studio in Beirut, reflects on the theme of the poetics of rarity. That is, the dual relationship a designer has with everyday objects (such as a elevator) and exclusive pieces characterised by rarity (of materials, techniques and concepts). Welcome to Caleido, an inspirational diary, that narrates many stories: about creative people, trends, travels, objects. / Read the Editor’s letter here

David Raffoul & Nicolas Moussallem: Poetics of rarity
Ph. Sara Magni - Casa di Fantasia
Ph. Marco Pinarelli
1. I believe that music has a strong ability to inspire (when actively listened to) and to stimulate (when in the background). That’s why at Caleido we usually work with background music, which is often the soundtrack of your Spotify channel. Are you a ‘track in loop’ type of persons, playlist, or unknown music discovered in radar mode?

Yes, music definitely shapes our mood and the way our day would go. We tend to be both playlist or discovery oriented, maybe it depends on the type of work we are doing. We probably are more playlist oriented and curated music when we are in a creation process as the wrong music can definitely bring our mood down and we start to focus more on the music than the creation itself. However, on lighter days, we love to explore our discover weekly from Spotify, it often has cool tracks that we wouldn’t have discovered without it!

2. Creative process: from hand sketches (very detailed, congratulations!) to the finished product. Is there a standard method you apply to your projects? Is there a combination of solitary and team work? Are the hand sketches a way of thinking or a way of telling an idea that has already been processed?

Hand sketching is part of the process, so is writing, researching, testing and many other ways of exploration. It all depends on the type of objects we have to work on. Hand sketching can be the final result we present or it can be internal only, it’s a way of communication that helps us show what we have in mind!

3. Yours is a composite aesthetic language. If you were to dedicate a moodboard to yourself, to help us understand your world better, what images would it consist of? What are some references we should definitely include?

It’s a mix of so many different things. The moodboard will probably have a picture of a vintage car detail, a zoom in on a flower, a texture, a color, a spaceship, an ancient architecture, maybe an art piece or installation. We often share these images on our Instagram account.

4. One of your activities is “Gallery Work“: a series of exclusive limited edition pieces with a strong artisanal soul, whose aim is to transcend the object from a simple product to a functional sculpture. When does design become art?

There are many factors that can make an object collectible or not. First of all, we believe that these objects should be the result of a research the creator has been pursuing for some time and be aligned with his overall vision. Another important point to take into account is the rarity of the object, its rarity in material, production technique and concept. Last but not least, the availability of the object in the market can also highly influence its demand and that is very important to control for it to be a collectible.

5. As a studio, you collaborate with established companies such as Pierre Frey, CC-Tapis, de Gournay, Moooi, Vista Alegre. How do you combine your DNA with that of the client? Which aspects of the client do you focus on the most? What challenges are you most passionate about?

For some strange reason, we believe the conversation we have with our different clients shape the products. We don’t think about it, we just let the creative process flow and unconsciously end up with an object that is the result of both our DNAs. We love to see the way the pieces are built, it is often more challenging than it seems, and finding all the different solutions is one of the most exciting part of the process.

6. Everything is design, and behind every object or environment there is someone who designed it. I was very fascinated by your design of an elevator. How did you approach such a special project? What were the most exciting challenges? What is another functional object/environment you would like to design?

Thank you, yes the elevator was a very interesting project as the product becomes an interior. What’s interesting is that the user is very close to the different surfaces and details and that is why we wanted to work on different treatments, dive deep into the details of all the elements. We worked around the idea that these “cabins” are kind of a time capsule, often quiet, strange or even sexy. At the end of the day, you never know where it is going to stop and who is going to join you for a couple of seconds. It could be a friend, a crush, your boss or a sassy neighbor you’ve been avoiding. Any other functional object would be great to work on, we don’t have any kinds of limits and are open to anything!

7. The digital dimension is now an unavoidable reality, which often struggles to combine with the communication and experiential needs of designers or brands, which remain physical and concrete. What is your relationship with “the digital”? How does your work dialogue with digital communication?

We don’t really think about this, we just do our work and communicate it in the way we believe is right.

8. Are you a creature of habit or do you like to vary your routine? Flashing back to 2020, how have you dealt with the “reduced” creative horizon in the pandemic era? Are there any ‘local’ sources of inspiration that you have discovered/rediscovered?

It’s not about being creatures of habits but we do like it, and we actually missed our little comfort bubble during that time. With the August 2020 explosion, we almost lost everything, even the neighborhood café and library in which we would usually sit and chat or brainstorm. Honestly the pandemic was the least of our problems here in Lebanon, but it did teach us that we could actually function really well with smart working, which is good as we are expanding the studio in Milan, it reassured us that we can handle both locations at the same time.

Ph. @matt_harrington
9. Imagine that you accompany me on a 48-hour creative tour to Beirut. Who are the 5 creative people (who can also be reached on Instagram) that you would suggest I interview?

Studio Safar @studiosafar , Nada Debs @studionadadebs , Sandra Mansour @sandramansour , PSLab @pslab, Mara Atelier @mara__atelier

10. What is an object in your home that you would never give up? What is the memory associated with it? Can you send us a photo taken by you?

David: My “Digital Love” plate. It was one of the first prototypes we developed in Portugal when we were just starting the studio.

Ph. David Raffoul
Ph. Nicolas Moussallem

Nicolas: My daughter’s soft toy… Without it she does not sleep and also none of us.

Diary of @davidandnicolas
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All images are taken from the interviewee’s Instagram account, and are an integral part of the interview’s editorial storytelling. See the interviewee’s Instagram account for full credits.

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