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Technicolour Spaces

Classical Arabic Design

Vamvakas Anastassis

This is an article which speaks about Classical Arabic Design With Western Contemporary Trends. We thought that it will be useful for some of our *Members who work on more classic renderings quite often. Enjoy it!

Tunisian Style by Cherni Amir


Arabic architecture and interior design span a huge region rich in cultural traditions and diverse history. Globalization, in conjunction with booming economies in many Arab countries has created demand for revised attitudes to design and an overall tendency to merge western design elements with traditional Arabic architecture and interior design. For those wanting to infuse their interiors with a sense of understated contemporary luxury, this article explores ways of deviating from the traditional norm and effectively paring down the exquisite opulence and glamour that characterize traditional Arabic interiors, in response to the need for a more relaxed, contemporary, yet always luxurious outcome. 


Guiding Principles.

Following the basic principles of this design style, one can subsequently break them down into softened versions, which do justice to the centuries-old tradition but at the same time give way to a fresher, less ponderous approach.

  • Arched doorways.

Arched doorways are an essential architectural element of traditional Arabic design and allude to power, impression and luxury. Horseshoe arches are emblematic of Islamic architecture and can indeed lend amazing architectural depth and perspective to an interior. For a more contemporary approach, they should be used sparingly, always in conjunction with double height ceilings, which offset the dramatic effect of an arch. Using an arched doorway as a frame to an adjoining room or inner courtyard is also a good idea, since it functions as a focal point for the space. Two arches on either side of a focal point, e.g. a fireplace, also accentuate the principle of symmetrical balance and combine the best of both traditional and contemporary approaches to design.

Interior design by Alhomsi‎‏ Abd Rhman.


  • Light.

Lighting has a mystical quality in this kind of architecture and is constantly manipulated and filtered through elaborate carvings on casement windows, inner courtyardsand rich, heavy curtains.

For a more contemporary look, designers would be well advised to maintain big openings and skylights, which are another seductive element of Arabic design. Paring down the complexity of carved screens and partitions is conducive to a more decluttered feel. Double height ceilings are of importance here as well, as they accentuate the majestic character of the windows without rendering them overpowering.

Lighting fixtures play a very important element. Cove lighting should be skillfully used, in order to bring to life the complexity of ornate ceilings frequently designed for Arabic interiors. Chandeliers are also paramount. For a more contemporary feel, chandeliers should be modern in design and in direct proportion to the space. Once again, double height ceilings yield the best results when a contemporary, clean, decluttered look is aimed at. Accent lighting should be achieved by means of modern lampshades resting on side tables and statement pieces in the way of floor lamps and wall sconces halfway up to the ceiling.

Blackum by Asswad Mouhamad.


  • Colour schemes.

Red and gold colour schemes are typical of Arabic interiors, which are renowned for their sumptuous atmosphere.

Royalum by Asswad Mouhamad.


A way to deviate from the strong colour norms is to replace such striking colour schemes with neutral monochromatic schemes where black and white play a dominant role. These two contrasting tones maintain class and elegant simplicity throughout, as well as facilitating the use of pattern, which is another striking characteristic of Arabic design. Accents can vary from red and gold to green and blue, all familiar shades to traditional interiors of that style, but should be kept to a minimum and repeated around the space in order to create coherence and a pulled-together look.

Modern-Classic Dining Room by Hashemi Mohsen.


  • Materials.

Rich, opulent, shiny materials are favoured by traditional Arabic architecture. Floors and ceilings are very ornate, with central medallions and florid embellishments on all corners. Marble, onyx and granite are predominant. For a more relaxed feel, keep patterned floors to a minimum and avoid segmentation from area to area, which adds visual weight and is considered dated by contemporary standards. Tray ceilings are favoured, but should not be overpowering and stuffy, double ceiling height again being a point for consideration. Tiles, stucco and various other wall painting techniques should be used with a view to creating focal points, rather than on large expanses of wall, in which case they end up commanding the senses and obstructing the eye from easily flowing around the space, a characteristic of minimal, contemporary architecture.


Private Palace by Layouni Walid.


  • Textiles.

Luxury textiles, especially those woven, printed, or embroidered are exactly the type preferred in traditional Arabic design. Silk brocade wall hangings and carpets with ornate depictions alternate with damask curtains, cascading swags, plush throws and a multitude of scatter cushions. Patterns also hold a prominent place. Red and gold hues interact with darker purples and striking turquoise blues. For a more relaxed, contemporary look, pare down multi-colored schemes by opting for neutrals such as beiges, tans, warm greys and taupe shades, accentuated by unique, display pieces of traditional value. Try to keep patterns to a meaningful minimum, with a preference for large scale graphic designs.


Oriental Style Study by Cherni Amir.


  • Furniture.

In line with the overall sumptuous design, furniture tends to be ornately carved, massive and luxurious. Furniture groupings are elaborate and stretch out to long linear arrangements around the walls. Sofas are enormous, with multiple seats, and rounded sofas accommodating many people at a time are a frequent sight. Again, paring down furniture style and volume is of paramount importance, if a more contemporary look is to be achieved. Baroque pieces can very well be substituted for a variety of other styles, ranging from carefully curated Art Deco pieces to modern, contemporary designer pieces used in moderation. Furniture placement can become more intimate, even in social zones, by introducing circular or parallel furniture groupings.


Royal Majlis - Qatar by Al-refai Yasser.


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