Hoda Baroudi and Maria Hibri source furniture designs from the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s, many unearthed in Beirut’s flea markets and antique dealerships, and then cover them with exuberant tapestries and textiles from the Levant and the legendary Silk Road countries of Central Asia.
Combining ancient culture with repurposed modern design, Bokja is creating one-of-a-kind pieces that offer an explosion of colour, pattern and a richly textured sense of history. Bokja also designs its own range of products, called “Classics”, that are sometimes inspired by mid-19th-century classics but which are often original contemporary designs. Bokja’s designers see the potential for upholstery in any material. Some materials they’ve appropriated are vinyl from billboards, denim from second-hand jeans, and newspaper, to name a few. Alongside their team of local artisans, they’ve applied their unique vision and deft craftsmanship skills to unusual objects such as a life-size Beetle they called the “Bokja Bug”, exhibited at Rossana Orlandi during Salone 2010 and favoured by press and design pilgrims.
In 2009, Bokja was chosen to feature in Li-Edelkoort’s (founder and former director of Eindhoven School of Design) retrospective, where she highlighted what she judged to be the most important themes that have influenced trends in fashion, photography and design. Other designers in the exhibit included Marcel Wanders, Christian Lacroix, Studio Job, The Campana Brothers and Philippe Starck, to mention a few. Li-Edelkoort is one of the world’s most renowned trend forecasters. In 2003, TIME Magazine named her one of the world’s 25 Most Influential People in Fashion, and in 2004 she was listed in Icon as one of the 21 Most Important People in Design. Bokja aims to blur the line between art, craft and design. Its two talented designers regularly come out with new concepts and products that push conventional boundaries.
At Salone 2010, they presented the “Conversation Sofas” — two curved sofas positioned face to face in an “S” shape and boasting beautiful vintage and contemporary fabrics from around the world. The project celebrates the narratives and experiences that make up a sofa. The idea is that the object — in this case the sofa — is the moment from which conversations between time and place emerge, and that these narratives and stories don’t cease to exist with the object, but go on to live beyond it. Dissected layers of fabric from the sofas were strategically hung around them at the same height and distance apart, providing an autopsy-like deconstruction of the sofa — accompanied with descriptions revealing each fabric’s place of origin, context and story. “Conversations” was a celebration of 10 years of Bokja. This year, Bokja decided to crusade for the endangered bees, after becoming aware of their plight. Honeybee populations are disappearing at an alarming rate and we want to keep these little champions buzzing. Therefore, Bokja has aimed to raise awareness by designing a regal queen bee that was exhibited at the Wait & See concept store during the Salone del Mobile. Accompanying the queen bee was a troop of soldier bees marching for the cause.
Bokja was featured in two other simultaneous events in the Salone del Mobile Milano 2011: Romeo e Giulietta at Spazio Rossana Orlandi; and two couture chairs at the prestigious exhibition heralding the revival of textiles, Talking Textiles, curated by Li-Eidelkoort at Spazio Gianfranco Ferre. Bokja’s products are sought out by celebrities and connoisseurs, from Christian Louboutin, who regularly selects Bokja products for his showrooms around the world, to Julia Roberts, Sandra Bullock, Kate Hudson and Norah Jones.