Material and artisan-forward design is central to the Dubai-based practice, Chapter Studio. The imperfectly perfect slabs of noble marbles, (Samaei opts to keep marbles unrefined in favour of their natural textures and character) including a rich array from saint laurent to dark emperador, define the distinctly imposing designs that they create. Infusing each piece with a unique distillation of principal historical and cultural influences, founder Shima Samaei catalogues a particular moment in time through the paradigm of the contemporary.
For Samaei, design was woven into her story from childhood. Distinct memories at the renowned Golestan Palace in Tehran to artistically-steeped surroundings meant that even within a pursuit as removed from design as finance, the Iranian origin talent couldn't leave her greatest passions behind. And its from that particular place of conviction that Chapter Studio was born. She has since created a studio dedicated to preserving and reinterpreting, one chapter at a time.
Here, Samaei discusses her own Middle Eastern influences, keeping the integrity of materials intact and pursuing her most significant interests.
You’re originally from Iran, are based in Dubai and have a background in finance. Explain the origins of Chapter Studio and your foray into product design.
I was born and raised in Tehran and moved to Dubai with my family over 20 years ago, desiring a better education and upbringing. I pursued a career in corporate finance after graduating in 2013, but as I grew older I turned back to design, driven by the challenges of self-creation. That is when I decided to dedicate a year to my design project while working full-time. The opportunity of being able to travel and see different cultures while being exposed to design and architecture gave me the conviction that I should share my ideas and turn them into a reality. 2018 is when I finally decided to leave the corporate world. I launched the practice Chapter Studio, creating bespoke design pieces rooted in Middle Eastern culture.
Your creation process has become a vehicle for exploring historical and cultural references through the prism of design. How does this shape your approach to each collection?
I'm deeply connected to my origins with a respectful eye for tradition. I grew up fascinated by Persian art (with school classes in calligraphy, pottery and art) and I naturally look back to what I have learned and experienced. There's satisfaction for a designer in achieving a connection between such art and the functionality of contemporary furniture.
"By leaping through time, I find the beauty within and pay HOMAGE to the crafts that enables me to create timeless pieces while REDEFINING design."
Marble is a cornerstone of the Golestan Collection, which was inspired by the namesake palace in Iran. Tell me about the design process and the significance of that influence within the collection.
The Golestan Series aims to push the boundaries of design, while keeping it authentic and unique. It's inspired by the past and re-conceived with a modern twist. Mixing natural textures and functional compositions allowed me to create a feeling of harmonious collaborations. By exploring the anatomy of each design, it allowed me to blend together the incredible diversity of Persian culture into the series.
The architecture and design of the Golestan Palace allowed me to mirror its outlines into differently shaped marble pieces that eloquently invites any individual to engage and celebrate its design.
With such a diverse background and roots in the Middle East, how does representation and championing these rich cultures to a global audience impact your work?
The main pillar of Chapter is the artistic and cultural influences of heritage motifs from the Middle East and Persia. By leaping through time, I find the beauty within and pay homage to the crafts that enable me to create timeless pieces while redefining design.
How did imperfect organic materials and specialty craftsmanship become pillars of your designs?
I admire natural textures that lends an earthy touch and feel, as well as the beautiful dramatic shapes and objects that enables the creation of stories within spaces. It's the love of materials that brought me here.
"Chapter [Studio] is a never ending STORY as it's meant to grow with each collection, ultimately into a multidisciplinary design studio with many TALES to tell."
Chapter is described as “a never-ending story”. Founded in 2018, the studio is quite young. What do you see in the chapters to come?
We're the sum of our experiences. In the course of life, we never cease to transform ourselves. Throughout each chapter, we welcome new perspectives and write new memories. Chapter is a never ending story as it's meant to grow with each collection, ultimately into a multidisciplinary design studio with many tales to tell.
What, ultimately, do you hope each Chapter Studio patron derives from your collections?
Chapter’s purpose is to create soulful pieces that have contemporary functionality. They should hold an enduring value that feels settled. The pieces are what I wanted to see and believe in, shared with others, and I hope to share culture through memorable design pieces.
Meet the Founder
Home with my family
Greatest source of inspiration
Life itself really, can't bring it down to one
Favourite piece of architecture
The Ali Qapu Palace, Golestan Palace, Nasir-ol-Molk Mosque… the list goes on
Currently I admire the work of Farshad Mehdizadeh Architects
Best historical period?
Favourite part of the design process