Profile: Karabachian Design Office

written by:
March 12, 2014
The brother-sister duo behind Karabachian Design Office share how they make and locally produce their minimal, fun furniture designs.
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  Design runs in Grace and Sevak Karabachian’s, of Karabachian Design Office, family. Their father was a furniture designer and builder in Beirut, Lebanon, and their mother designed and tailored her own clothes. Sevak went on to study architecture at Harvard, while Grace pursued a career graphic design. “Initially we were very hesitant about working together. We both were starting our careers and I was getting ready for grad school. We had zero clients. The only thing we could do was build and create art for ourselves and share it with one another. The good thing about working with my sister is that she won't spare my feelings. If she didn’t like something she’d say ‘that’s the ugliest thing I’ve seen so far,’” Sevak says. One of their projects, a series of side tables called Ministers (shown), was named after various prime ministers of Lebanon, each table has a different design based on the ministers’ personalities.

    Design runs in Grace and Sevak Karabachian’s, of Karabachian Design Office, family. Their father was a furniture designer and builder in Beirut, Lebanon, and their mother designed and tailored her own clothes. Sevak went on to study architecture at Harvard, while Grace pursued a career graphic design. “Initially we were very hesitant about working together. We both were starting our careers and I was getting ready for grad school. We had zero clients. The only thing we could do was build and create art for ourselves and share it with one another. The good thing about working with my sister is that she won't spare my feelings. If she didn’t like something she’d say ‘that’s the ugliest thing I’ve seen so far,’” Sevak says. One of their projects, a series of side tables called Ministers (shown), was named after various prime ministers of Lebanon, each table has a different design based on the ministers’ personalities.

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  "Most of our furniture pieces are influenced by the toys my dad would build for us when we were younger. The only other figures that have left such strong impressions have been past political figures of Lebanon. They were all we’d hear about on the radio during the civil war in Lebanon,” Sevak says. Fox magnet shown.
    "Most of our furniture pieces are influenced by the toys my dad would build for us when we were younger. The only other figures that have left such strong impressions have been past political figures of Lebanon. They were all we’d hear about on the radio during the civil war in Lebanon,” Sevak says. Fox magnet shown.
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  In 2013, they obtained a business license in Pasadena, California, although they both are keeping their day jobs and each takes responsibility for different clients. Pictured, a detailed shot of the Minister Rafik Hariri side table.
    In 2013, they obtained a business license in Pasadena, California, although they both are keeping their day jobs and each takes responsibility for different clients. Pictured, a detailed shot of the Minister Rafik Hariri side table.
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  For the Minster Adib Pacha (shown), walnut, glass, and enamel were used to create contrast. "My dad goes over the sketches for the furniture design, and sometimes he laughs. He sits on the mockup chairs and says the armrest needs to be one-fourth inch shorter or tilt the back another degree. He’s always right. He’s also the tie-breaker if Grace and I can’t agree on a specific design,” Sevak says.
    For the Minster Adib Pacha (shown), walnut, glass, and enamel were used to create contrast. "My dad goes over the sketches for the furniture design, and sometimes he laughs. He sits on the mockup chairs and says the armrest needs to be one-fourth inch shorter or tilt the back another degree. He’s always right. He’s also the tie-breaker if Grace and I can’t agree on a specific design,” Sevak says.
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  A detail shot of the Adib Pacha highlights the easily accessible, glass-topped drawer.
    A detail shot of the Adib Pacha highlights the easily accessible, glass-topped drawer.
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  Lumber is bought from a local company and furniture is constructed in the garage (shown).
    Lumber is bought from a local company and furniture is constructed in the garage (shown).
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  This desk, built for Grace, was requested by other clients who admired it’s sleek and practical design. 

    This desk, built for Grace, was requested by other clients who admired it’s sleek and practical design. 

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  A nine-foot solid walnut dining table (shown) was made for a couple that fell in love with Grace’s desk. The table was designed specifically to their preferences and plate sizes. Sevak painted the legs white to visually separate the table from the hardwood floors in the house.
    A nine-foot solid walnut dining table (shown) was made for a couple that fell in love with Grace’s desk. The table was designed specifically to their preferences and plate sizes. Sevak painted the legs white to visually separate the table from the hardwood floors in the house.
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  When we delivered [the table], my dad and I stood on top of the table to show him how strong it was. [The client] was so impressed and asked us to design chairs to go with it,” Sevak says. The project, dubbed “Five Chairs Times Two” are still in progress.
    When we delivered [the table], my dad and I stood on top of the table to show him how strong it was. [The client] was so impressed and asked us to design chairs to go with it,” Sevak says. The project, dubbed “Five Chairs Times Two” are still in progress.

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