When you first step into the store dar.nur in old Shuwaikh, you get the feeling that you are entering a small and warm boutique come art space. Artistically, it has all the appeal of a museum, without the stuffy pretense. Loud and bright colors mix with textures of various shapes and sizes with the lure of well-crafted and individual one-off pieces of furniture and accessories alike. Given that the name of the store translates roughly to “Noor’s Room,” it is no wonder that it comes off as an authentic and sincere labor of love.
To talk to Noor Alzabin, the owner and proprietor of this now 6 year-old concept, is to instantly understand why the store flows outward as it does. It is so personalized as to her own unique vision that it may as well be her home. If the store sounds familiar, you may have seen previous iterations at Seven Zones design space, or elsewhere. However, at this new location since April of 2012, you get the feeling that they have found their proper home. A store with the rare and calming effect that might lead you to forget you are shopping altogether and find yourself more apt to think you are ravaging through a friend’s treasure trove of things you want to borrow.
As a former investment manager that “did the 9-5 job thing for too long”, she says smiling while overlooking the showroom, she sees her store as an “answer to a creative calling.” It is easy to see why. An artist herself, she handpicks every piece that comes into the store to suit her own varied style and tastes regardless of what fashions and themes may be trending or in vogue at present. Additionally, there are several pieces that she designs herself for local manufacturing here in Kuwait. She sees the store itself as a platform for her to express herself creatively via design. The leap of faith that she took upon leaving the business world several years back now, continues to pay off via this self-expression and a happy, and often returning, clientele.
Noor resists the temptation to classify her clientele. She hesitates to pin down her customer type by price range: products here range from hand crafted organic French soaps from the last remaining family owned shop in Provence and priced at a remarkably reasonable 250 fills, to the High end 5000 KD custom or antique furniture piece. She additionally hesitates to pin them down by style: from the Plexi trays that are her own brain child, to the custom buttons, cards, and books made by various small printing houses, there is something for everyone. However, a closer reveal does seem to define who the customer is not: they are not the people who are looking for the mass produced items that plague so many living rooms these days. Part of this is at least partially a direct result of how she chooses to do business: she prefers to deal directly with manufacturers or artists themselves so that she is able to better guarantee quality, consistency, and originality.
When asked about any inherent risks to this business model she says that, “there are already enough safe options out there in the market.” She wanted to answer that by offering pieces that allowed for more personality infused into them, and simultaneously demanded a greater appreciation of the work of artisanal craftsman. To this point, she says that she “likes pieces that have someone’s blood, sweat, and tears in the item, rather than just the normal high-rate and lifeless manufactured stuff.” Thus, the handmade and recycled papers, which purposefully show the imperfection in the grains of the paper, or the antique furniture that may show some stress, come to serve as warriors of a different sort of home battle altogether—the battle for a homes’ soul. Additionally, the antique offerings, hand stitched fabrics, and collaged artwork, will all again show evidence of hand made work. Far from being flaws, this is where the personality and unique voice of a piece begins to be heard. Noor further reiterates this in stating that she believes “every piece should tell a story.”
As for the success she has seen so far, she adds “there is a nice comfort about just letting the business grow organically,“ as long as she is able to continue doing so, she will. That is one measure of success. She says that “some even come in and just seem to enjoy the experience of being in the shop and admiring the pieces-that is ok by me too.”
It is also worth mentioning that they are the sole distributor of work done by artist Ghadah Alkandari, in Kuwait. If you have not previously seen her variations on figure work-which is beautifully reminiscent of Modigliani without being in any way derivative- you really must. Her pieces are quite striking and should be a welcomed addition to any home.
When it comes to how she runs her business, she says she tends to follow her gut, and uses “a lot more heart than head.” She has always had a clear idea of what she wanted to offer. And, although she finds that more similar stores have spouted up since, she loves and believes in the competition, which of course shows confidence in the difference that they are offering. If you are looking for a custom gift or look to your home that is artsy whilst remaining sophisticated and chic-head to dar.nur-you won’t be disappointed.
dar.nur is located at the Lilly Center in Old Shuwaikh. Reach them by phone at 2491 5758. Find them online at www.dar-nur.com.