12 Oct 2018
Amman, Jordan
Sustainable Furniture

Having been a masterful interior designer at the world’s biggest furniture retailer, Ikea, for three years, Nour Nsheiwat knew the ropes of how to create an art piece. And though it all started off as an experiment with freelancing, upcycling discarded-of furniture suddenly became a fully-fledged business for Nour Nsheiwat and her husband, Nabil Haddad. “It was one of those stories you tell yourself then get surprised by life,” Nsheiwat says.

At the time, Nsheiwat was getting married and found it laborious to attain furniture of certain qualities. That’s when he took her to a number of junkyards where she sifted through old furniture and disposed-off materials. “I had been aware of junkyards and second-hand backyard sales since I’ve been upcycling purchased materials as a hobby and gift the outcome products to friends like an upcycled chest of drawers for example,” Nsheiwat adds.

How it all turned into a tradition:

The chain effect of turning pieces that were deemed as garbage to valuable items became a lore in the Nsheiwat-Haddad household. “I started getting requests to customize and upcycle items and then it became a monetization scheme I called N Products, then later, Hunaya,” Nsheiwat says.

Nsheiwat’s business is still small scale with a small shop and customization upon order. “That gave us the opportunity to focus more on dining items and business-to-business transactions,” she remarks. Despite not actively promoting Hunaya, Nsheiwat and her Haddad’s restaurant, Shawerma Zarb has been playing a role in disseminating knowledge on Hunaya’s upcycled marvels.

Due to the mounting industrialization and the increased influx of refugees into the Middle Eastern country, the solid waste issue is escalating with a limited number of disposal sites and recycling plants. Such lack of infrastructure is proving heavy for the society to recycle or upcycle and constitutes an indication of insufficient awareness on trash and recycling.

But Nsheiwat’s lean realm managed to have her work seen and managed to design upcycled furniture for a restaurant in Germany. This came as part of a side initiative, Nsheiwat and her husband called From war to love. “We wanted to find old Syrian chairs as well as war remnants which we fashion into plant stands. So now we’re turning war into love through those war dregs, while those chairs would live forever telling the story of the time we used to import from Syria, but not anymore because of the war,” she explains.

Techniques and materials:

Hunaya’s choice of materials and techniques to upcycle is far from arbitrary. She borrows styles and ideas from bygone eras. For example, the stools at the Shawerma Zarb restaurant are massively inspired by stools used by farmers in milking cows.

“Most water-based materials are usually imported from Italy and they can be really expensive. So I manufacture my own and for our dining items we use wax or olive oil instead of other oils that can be full of chemicals, and if mixed up with food, they can be poisonous,” Nsheiwat says of her simple techniques.

Hunaya’s clientele varies from business-to-business to business-to-customer clients. “Customized items are a hard ask and I can only do it when it’s a big order like for a hotel or a school, as it’s a different business model. So the B2B can also be restaurants or cafes, while the B2C could be for households and not necessarily for families; I get requests from single people, too,” Nsheiwat explains.

Amongst Hunaya’s other customers are photographers who use Nsheiwat’s items for conceptual photography, as well as jewellery makers using Hunaya’s designs for display. “I thought I would sell only to expats as they are more likely to know what trends they want to follow, but I was surprised to see locals demanding my products,” Nsheiwat proudly adds.

One thing Nweishat is set on working on next is establishing a webshop. “We’ve recently made a look shop that we send over email for people interested in our products,” Nsheiwat says adding that she is considering deploying her items via the famous e-commerce website, Etsy.

The Jordanian entrepreneur and artist might have too many irons in the fire yet manages to occasionally give talks at universities on recycling and upcycling, narrating her story to attract younger minds.


Learn more about Hunaya through its Facebook page.

Photos: Courtesy of Hunaya.

Eman is an editor, and a finance and startup ecosystem journalist.Eman El-Sherbiny
One Jordanian interior designer is turning second-hand furniture items into aesthetic marvels | The Switchers
Hunaya Resource Efficiency & Sustainable Waste Management