With a passion for design from the age of 5, cultivated by his parents and extended family, Ramzi decided to take a leap of faith at the age of 28 and get his Professional Interior Design Certification from UCLA, after completing his BA in International Business from George Washington University.
His background of business studies, doubled by the marketing & product development experience, allowed him to solidly create the perfect brand and personal identity for clients and their desired designs in coherently glued solutions.
In his job as the founder of Human Nature, the high-end boutique design studio, Ramzi declares himself a functionalist beyond anything else, his ultimate aim being building spaces with maximum efficiency of their intended purpose.
Taking into account a client’s personal style and the vibe of the building area, the look and feel of his designs can be summed up in “the minimal, soulful and earthy” trinity. In a city used to heavily decorate interiors, his style brought lightness, meaningful simplicity and a fresh, contemporary vibe.
- WHAT WOULD MAKE YOUR SOUL SING? WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPY?
A funny person who pushes the envelope and makes me think or see something in a critical yet humorous way. When I laugh from deep inside, I’m at my happiest, and I really believe Egyptian humor is one of the best things about living here.
A CHILDHOOD STORY THAT ANNOUNCED THE CREATIVE PERSON YOU ARE TODAY
When I was 5, my great-grandfathers (Naguib Pasha Mahfouz – father of obstetrics and gynecology in Egypt) estate was being divided between our families. My parents took me with them to his villa, and they actually allowed me to choose the pieces we would take from the inheritance. It was an epic moment, because it felt like I was picking memories for the family. And I don’t know if this is the reason I chose an Aubusson sofa, but my parents literally got married on it. This really gave me a boost of confidence and accelerated my love for design and antiques. And my parents kept on motivating me and encouraging me to design, so much so that I was allowed to re-design my bedroom numerous times – with a budget, of course. I always say this story to parents as it made a world of difference in my life, and I think a good parent has to give their children opportunity and support, and thank the universe, I got two amazing parents who did just that (and more).
BEST CONTEXT EVER FOR INSPIRATION WAS
I live in a very loud city, and sometimes all the visual chaos gets to me. So, when I’m in the middle of nature and I don’t see a single building or billboard or traffic jam, I feel my eyes get a much needed rest and the inspiration begins. The nature in Egypt is epic, and much more diverse then anyone would expect. Take me to the desert or mountains or oasis, and I will feel free like no other place.
THE PROJECT YOU LOVED MOST
Human Nature is a high end boutique firm, so we don’t take too many projects on. I always say I interview my potential clients, just as they interview me. There has to be a chemistry between us for me to take on the project, as I spend a lot of time with my clients and because we need to have a common understanding to create something together. Nahawet Aly, who was the Director of El Gouna’s customer service and I had an instant connection, for example. When I worked with her for the towns CSO, I was given full creative control. This allowed me to create a cohesive space and custom design each piece of furniture (except the chairs). This resulted in a super customized space that I feel reflected both Gouna’s laid-back attitude and its luxury, while also be a true reflection of my design aesthetic and philosophy.
THE PROJECT OTHERS LOVED MOST
GSpace, the co-working space I did in Gouna, was a big hit with people and the industry. This one was a blast, too. At the time I took on the project, my cousin, Khaled Bichara, was the CEO of OHD. He didn’t hire me personally, but once I was hired, I got to work closely with him. Khaled, and only Khaled can do this, managed to make his team and the people Orascom hired (including myself) transform a satellite university into a co-working space in only 2.5 months, including design and implementation. Ever since we were kids, I always looked up to Khaled and had immense respect for him – he was a doer, not a talker. Extremely hard working and a true genius. And this garnered the respect of everybody he worked with, and so when he gave us this super hard delivery dead-line, we all ran and the result was awesome, because the deadline wasn’t just delivery – It was delivering a highly functional, well-designed space done in a very high quality. The large blue space for instance was an add on that I was pushing for, but he listened, despite our quickly impending deadline. I wanted to create an iconic area in the space, something that would be immediately recognizable on social media. We had to transform the existing outdoor space into an indoor space, and this was both technically difficult and time consuming, two things you don’t want when you’re already pressed in time. But, Khaled listened, and gave his on-point feedback of course, and we were able to pull this off very successfully. But, looking back, the best thing about GSpace to me was that it gave me more time to spend with my phenomenal big cousin.
THE BEST THING ABOUT EGYPTIAN CREATIVITY IS
We are a super funny group of people and humor is always around when we are being creative. When you are in a good space, your design is so much more inspiring and happy. As such, creativity in Egypt goes by the beat of its own drum. We do things differently here, and designers who are being true to themselves, create with the Egyptian spirit and soul. If you look at Jam Space for example, you see tons of Egyptian inspirations, but it is never cliché or kitschy. It is current and local, and super well-designed. Or, for a good laugh coupled with memorabilia, Cairopolitan is hands down my favorite souvenir shop. The mini brooms for instance, clean my laptop and always make me chuckle:
BEST STATEMENT OF EGYPTIAN HUMOR
My Arabic is, to my dismay and to the many people who are forced to listen to it, atrocious. But, even with all the words I accidentally make up or pronounce wrongly, people find the humor here and don’t make my lack of language skills define me as an idiot. Rather, they find the humor in it, and after 4 decades of being accused of butchering the language, I still find their feedback to be hilarious.
ADVICE FOR INTERNATIONAL HEADHUNTERS, RELATED TO EGYPTIAN CREATIVES
They have to come to Egypt and explore, you can’t google this. A lot of artists and designers are extremely talented here, but do not know how to get their work exposed. So many don’t get the opportunity, which is a huge shame for them and for all of us. So, you have to meet people and talk to them and expand your network here to find the gems sometimes. But the art scene, for example, is thriving, spaces like Gypsum Gallery in Maadi, bring to light many artists that would be almost impossible to find alone.
BEST PLACE IN CAIRO
That’s a tough one! Cairo is full of amazing places to visit, we are blessed with so much culture and history here. So, I guess, it depends on my mood. When I am feeling nostalgic, and want to reconnect with my childhood, I love walking around Zamalek and the Gezira Sporting Club. When I am needing serenity and peace, I love visiting Ibn Touloun and Anafora, in my opinion, the most nature inspired church in Egypt. When I want to be in awe, I visit the pyramids, whether it be a super clumsy attempt at a horse ride around them or having a nice cold beer in the Mena house and overlooking them. Till this day, at 43 years old, I’m always discovering something new and beautiful in this city.
BEST PLACE IN EGYPT
I feel like I’m doing an advert for Egypt, but again, there are so many options! But my favorite place has to be Sidi Abdel Rahman for sentimental reasons and the stunning beach and sea of course. As children, our family would take us there, and we would rent a villa, that is right on one of the most mesmerizing beaches, for a month or two. Back then, the North Coast wasn’t what it is today. It was quiet and there wasn’t much to do, this meant a whole lot of family time, eating, playing and long walks on the beach and hours in the perfect water. They recently renovated the hotel and villas, and I love it. The design honors the history of the space and our culture, while also being super relaxing, minimal and stylish. Another place to explore is definitely Siwa, its ecolodges, the local culture and the salt lakes – and if you time it well, you can stop at Sidi on your way to Siwa.
MOST DISTURBING CLICHÉ ABOUT EGYPT, IN THE MEDIA OUTLETS OF THE WORLD IS
We are an extremely diverse and complex people. We are not one label and, I think, this is a typical problem for any nationality or race. Stereotypes are sweeping and there are many for us, but most of them are completely off.
EGYPT SHOULD BE KNOWN FOR
Its people. I love meeting strangers and having discussions and laughs here, be it with an Uber driver or a sales person or whatever. When I travel, I rarely get that same sense of comfort or connection with strangers. But over here, we have a common need to laugh, and that really does turn my bad days around.
YOUR VIEWS ON SPIRITUALITY
Spirituality is a very personal thing. I was raised, very strictly, as a Catholic, but at the age of 18, my very pious parents told me that I was old enough to make my decisions. Though they are deep believers, they are fine with me going to church only on Easter and Christmas. It’s my journey and it really is the biggest question of our lives – i.e. why are we all here? What is the meaning of all of this? And this, as my parents clearly understand, cannot be forced. We have to read, think, to be open and expose ourselves and our vulnerabilities to reach a spiritual connection.
YOUR VIEWS ON MONEY
I always chose portfolio over money, I always want to be proud of the job I did, and though this hasn’t made me a rich man, it has given me a portfolio that I am proud of. And being a minimalist as a designer is also a reflection of my life philosophy. I’m trying to be more minimal in my possessions, as well. Quality vs quantity. And as I do this, I have so much more space in my home, in my storage units and all of this gives my home serenity. Moreover, it makes the important pieces I cherish really stick out. For example, I inherited my heart-of-gold grandmother’s sofa, its rounded and feels like a big hug from Teta, and without noise and distractions around it, it really sticks out – as does her memory.
AN INSPIRATION SOURCE YOU RECOMMEND FOR A YOUNG CREATIVE
Yourself. You are unique and this is what is going to make your art and design special. The more true artists or designers are to themselves, the more their work will shine. There are endless inspirations around us all the time, it is up to you to seek them and to process what they are and how they affect you. Having role models is risky, it can really limit us as humans, especially when we start self-labeling ourselves. We should be inspired by a lot more than one person or one idea. Never try to be someone else but yourself.
AN EGYPT BASED FEMALE TALENT THAT DESERVES TO BE PROMOTED AT INTERNATIONAL LEVEL, AS EXPONENT OF LOCAL CREATIVE SPIRIT
Currently, my entire team is made of Egyptian women, and I am loving it. My team is super hard working, detail oriented, immensely caring (they have been a huge support in some really hard personal times for me) and see things, obviously, from a different perspective then myself. And I did this intentionally, we can’t just talk about women and do nothing about it. Egyptian women are strong and inspiring and we need MUCH more of them in every sector of society. Women here are gaining prominence and influence, and though this is very late in the game, at least it is improving. And of course, this is because of a lot of female (and some male) pioneers. Laila Neamatalla, for instance, started high-end jeweler Nakhla with her husband in the 80’s, the jewelry honors our past and is exquisitely made. She then went on to create home accessories and fashion designs inspired by Siwa. With a mix of elegance and subtle glamour, she is extremely hard-working and understand the local and international market brilliantly.
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