Turning trash into treasure: Upcycled artwork, furniture hit Beirut

BEIRUT: The recent tire fire in Karantina, the garbage mountain in Sidon, the lack of recycling facilities ... Lebanon’s image can be kind of trashy.

But at L’Atelier Fanfreluche in Mar Mikhail, 18 local designers and artists have come together to approach garbage from a new angle, turning once abandoned or presumed obsolete items into beautiful, quirky or functional items, sometimes all three.

Trashy Treasures features upcycled furniture, accessories, sculpture and art works from individuals such as tattooist Hady Beydoun and from collectives including the art group (B)IM Project who created a wall-mounted art piece from plastic bottles and ink.

Rania Choueiri, the owner of L’Atelier, explained the idea behind the exhibition, which features bookcases, tables, plant pots and various trinkets.

“Trashy Treasures is not just an idea, it’s a way of working. Upcycling is not only about reusing, it’s about transforming waste into objects and art.”

Realizing the nascent upcycling community in Beirut had a combined creative power, Choueiri invited contributors to share their talents.

“The exhibition features people who consider the impact of their work and their lifestyle on the environment,” she said, and collectives also “push people to work in a new way ... I’m also trying to make a statement and push this thing further.”

While she admits upcycled goods still represent a niche market in Lebanon, “if you are going to stick to what the market offers you are never going to move forward.”

Maram Atallah, an architect whose lamps and light fittings are featured in the exhibition, explained how he began creating upcycled goods. “The main thing is about recycling, but it’s also about a need to express yourself outside the box,” he said. “And it’s about transforming the function of something.”

One of his works features an old TV set which has been turned into a lampshade and others use reclaimed wood.

“We live in a very commercial world so it was an attempt to break out of that and then it just took over.”

Nathalie Yared, who works as an interior designer, began creating upcycled goods for herself before realizing there was a market for them. She paints old logos and images onto furniture, turning them into homeware pieces.

“I see something, and I want to paint on it. And I love the idea of using something old and making it new,” she said.

Yared finds her wooden crates and pallets by the side of the road.

“I normally see them when I’m driving, if they are still there after I’ve driven past them a few times, that’s when I pick them up and know I should work with them.”

All works at Trashy Treasures are for sale.

Trashy Treasures runs until June 22 at L’Atelier Fanfreluche. Rue Madrid, Mar Mikhael. For more information please call 01-443-517 or send an email to

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on May 28, 2012, on page 2.




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