The designer Beirut guest house helping dreams come true for critically ill children

All rooms in Beit Tamanna were designed for free by 13 Lebanese and international designers and architects

The Oasis room at Beit Tamanna designed by Rania Cortbawi. Photo: Beit Tamanna
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There are not many charity fundraising activities that include the simple act of sleeping but, at the unique Beirut guest house Beit Tamanna, you can do just that.

Conceptualised by Tamanna, an NGO that works towards fulfilling the wishes of critically ill children in Lebanon, the guest house opened earlier this year and uses all proceeds to realise these children’s dreams. Since being founded in 2005, the charity has granted more than 2,050 wishes.

With each of the eight rooms and four common spaces designed pro bono by 13 renowned Lebanese and international designers and architects, the guest house is also a stunning, high-end property.

“They all contributed to help save Tamanna NGO, which was really devastated between Covid-19, the financial crisis blocking all our money in the banks, and then the explosion in 2020,” Tamanna founder Diala El Fil tells The National. “We had a lot of difficulty starting up again, and for a period of time, I thought that we would have to close.

“Fortunately, we had these two bits of real estate that we were renting out as offices. We came up with this idea of converting the offices into a guest house and to our big surprise, it turned out really beautiful and full of love, because each designer donated from their heart to this NGO,” she adds.

“In less than nine months we were able to convert those offices into a guest house and even two weeks before opening we were fully booked.”

Spread over two floors within a traditional Lebanese building in Gemmayzeh, Beit Tamanna’s rooms, lounge spaces and dining each have their own individual identity, specially created by award-winning designers including Samer Al Ameen, George Mohasseb, Rola Vincent and Rania Cortbawi.

More than 50 donors, suppliers and producers also contributed, providing the materials and services to complete the guest house. Bespoke wallpaper designers Inaltera offered to dress the walls with their eye-catching murals, allowing the designers to choose from already existing ones, or to print their own.

Gregory Gatserelia’s Meshwar Suite is one of the most sought after rooms, decorated with hand-painted gold and gray foliage wallpaper, neutral-toned furnishings made from items saved from his blast-damaged gallery, and with pops of light blue.

Also popular is Nada Debs’s Urban Forest room, with its striking pine forest wall murals and her signature Lebanese craft-centered furniture pieces showcasing traditional techniques. The result is a soothing nature-inspired escape in the middle of the city.

“My inspiration started with the floor tiles, which had bits of burgundy and dark green in the pattern. I saw Inaltera was doing these really nice pine tree drawings, so I took that burgundy colour and created a room with pine trees all around,” Debs tells The National. “Of course our signature work is all about craft. You can see the headboard has mother of pearl inlay and then the bedside tables have hand-carved roses on the front.

“We fitted our brass arabesque lamps to give a modern oriental feel. The cabinet that we used is called Keeping it Together,” she adds. “It's made from all the broken window frames from the blast. Our studio is just down the road from the port, and all the windows of this French-Mandate architecture broke, so we saved them and then used marquetry strips to bind them together and make the doors of the cabinet. It's really an amalgam of different craft techniques we use.”

Bokja, a store known for their textiles and embroidery-coated furnishings and accessories, created a joyous, colourful room called The Hills Are Alive, contrasting swathes of white with bright flowers, landscapes and birds, embroidered into cushions, the handmade quilt and armchair.

When designing the Beit Tamanna room, they were in the midst of their The Sound of Music collection, inspired by Bokja founders Huda Baroudi and Maria Hibri’s love for the film.

“It's such an iconic film and we just watch it over and over again; the scenery is of course legendary. It was a theme that we chose on the heels of the theme The Sound of Silence, created after the Beirut blast, as we were all left speechless,” Baroudi shares. “Immediately after, we decided that it's time to dance and have fun, and we wanted to just live again, so we took all the motifs of the fields, the mountains, the flowers, birds and just let our imagination flow free.

“We wanted to create a happy mood after the seriousness of the year before and you can see in that room. We produced the wallpaper design and gave it to Inaltera to print, which was a first for us,” she adds. “The bedspread is inspired by a vintage crochet quilt with birds on it that we adore, so we created the graphic work for the quilt, sent it to the traditional crafts guy who does it, and then we finished it in our own way.”

While some of the suites are very ornate and decorative, Marc Dibeh chose a more minimalist approach for his The Blue Room. The walls are painted different shades of blue with flashes of yellow and red in the decor, leaning towards modern, geometric shapes for the side tables.

He says his aim was to create a calm sanctuary that would offer a respite for the senses, after spending a day out and about in Beirut’s busy streets.

“The door was blue and the only rule they gave me was to not touch the original colour of the door. Because I didn’t want to match or do a colour combination with this very specific blue, I made something with many different tones and touches of other colours,” Dibeh says. “I wanted everything to feel good, comfortable and for guests to not feel overwhelmed by the surroundings, because they're not very big rooms.”

The guest house also offers a lovely traditional Lebanese breakfast each morning, serving up local cheeses, fresh vegetables, eggs and homemade jams. No matter which room guests choose to stay in, each is a creative endeavour worth staying in, all while paying it forward for a good cause.

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Updated: August 16, 2023, 10:37 AM