When Dala Farouki Kakos was a child, her parents invested in three Syrian chests, with matching mirrors, in the traditional sadaf style – on the understanding that they would be passed on to Kakos and her two siblings once they were grown up and had homes of their own. Beautifully embellished with mother of pearl, Kakos’s set has accompanied her on her travels around the world, and has now taken up residence in the Dubai home that she shares with her husband and two young children.
"My now antique mother-of-pearl mirror and chest take pride of place in my home, but alongside other treasures such as Chanel's The Little Black Jacket book and a miniature crystal chandelier from London's Portobello Market," she says.
This blending of design styles is reflective of Kakos’s own multicultural background – the Palestinian-American, who has a doctorate in education, grew up between the UAE and the United States – and is the cornerstone of her recently launched Misk Nursery brand.
Misk Nursery specialises in artfully crafted cribs, where mother-of-pearl, that most traditional of Middle Eastern decorative elements, is combined with smooth, contemporary lines that take their cues from the Scandinavian school of design. From the gently curving edges of the Embrace crib to the oval-shape of Surround and the half-moon shape of the brand’s mini cribs, there’s an inherent softness to the Misk offering.
The mother-of-pearl is to be found delicately adorning the sides of the cribs – in the shape of hot-air balloons, flying fish, moons and stars. “It is timeless and almost fairy-tale-like, even thought it is very simple,” Kakos says.
There’s also the option to spell out names and phrases in mother-of-pearl, either in English script or Arabic calligraphy. For example, the Embrace model is now offered with the words “Sweet Dreams” or “Nawm El Hana”.
The idea for the business was born when Kakos had her first child and was scouring the market for a suitable crib.
“I looked everywhere but all I could find were either white or brown cribs. I wasn’t happy with that. Even the luxury brands were only offering these white cribs. More and more people are choosing to include purposeful design elements in their homes, so why shouldn’t the same apply for children’s rooms?” she says.
Kakos wanted something unique for her child, ideally something that was slightly artistic but featured a mix of contemporary and traditional design features. So she set out to create her own.
Misk Nursery’s small but stunning selection of cribs is handcrafted in Lebanon by a team of third-generation Armenian woodworkers, who use chemical-free natural hardwood. Each piece is laser-cut by hand to ensure it’s entirely smooth and safe for little hands and feet. In terms of colour, Misk’s signature shade is pistachio green – inspired by patisserie Ladurée and also Kakos’ background as a certified bean-to-bar artisanal chocolate maker. Additional colour options include grey, light pink, light blue, navy blue, turquoise and natural wood. There’s also a clear, acrylic version for those looking for something more modern.
The brand’s signature Embrace crib comes in US standard size, which translates to 140 centimetres wide and 78cm high. It can be used from birth until your child is 3 1/2 years old. Three separate mattress heights also accommodate your child’s development, and the front section of the crib is removable, so it can be transformed into an easily accessible bed for toddlers. There’s the choice of slim, stiletto-style legs or wheels, both in chrome.
“We’ve tried to make it as flexible and customisable as possible,” says Kakos.
Misk Nursery also offers custom-created bedsheets and mattresses, including the Cocomat by British company Naturalmat, which is crafted from organic lamb’s wool, then treated with an extract of lavender, lemon and eucalyptus essential oils. The bedsheets (which include the adorably named Pink Salad and Blue Travel) have been designed by a Greek street artist. “We want to work with different artists every year to create limited editions,” Kakos explains.
Misk products are sold online, as well as at a by-appointment-only showroom in Dubai Media City. Next year, they will be stocked in stores in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. The brand will also be extending its range to include changing tables, nightstands and nursing chairs.
With prices from about Dh12,000 and averaging at Dh15,000, these cribs definitely fall into the “investment item” category. But they’re also little works of art that can be passed on to the next generation, much like Kakos’s chest and mirror. “Everything is handmade and there is that semi-precious element to it,” she says. “There is value in what it is made from. You get guaranteed safety and longevity, and we’d like it to be seen as a modern heirloom – something that you can pass on.
“The crib has traditionally been viewed as an accessory – but there is no reason why it can’t become the focus of a room. It is so important to make sure children feel content and happy in their home from a very early age. And at the end of the day, it’s as affordable as a designer handbag.”
For more information, visit www.misknursery.com.