The luxurious Levantine/Syrian Furniture
From its famous name known among the elite interior designers, “Levantine Furniture” is one of the most exotic, intricate, and unique furniture ever produced by mankind. Architects and Designers have always been looking for this unique and sought-after luxurious furniture and one-of-a-kind statement pieces.
This furniture dazziling with intricate details and amazing designs is originated from the eastern Mediterranean region of greater Syria, known as the Levant. This region reaches as far as southern Turkey. Untill today small workshops still strive to continue this amazing craft despite the flooded market with machine made and mass-produced furniture and products. One of the uniqueness is that each piece is individually carved and inlaid.
The craft itself is deep routed in history as far as The Sumerian city kingdoms. These cities flourished on the banks of the Euphrates River in the ancient fertile crescent where some of the inlay woodwork was uncovered in the Royal Palace of Mari and in other kingdom cities dated back to the 3rd century B.C. The ancient Egyptians were also known for producing and importing inlay furniture and pieces.
In addition to the above, the Phoenician kingdoms along the eastern Mediterranean used similar means to produces artifacts of carvings and inlays. Some of the furniture pieces and artifacts produced during that ancient period can be seen in the museum of Damascus and at the Louvre.
The ancient Silk Road that stretched from China all the way to Europe through Syria where it used to be a measure hub for caravans was a trade center for such materials and crafts.
The furniture created with carved details and inlaid with mother of pearl flourished during the early Islamic periods and spread all the way to Spain through the Mediterranean and Northern Africa where some workshops and factories in Southern Spain still produce this hand-carved and inlaid pieces of furniture with the same ancient Levantine and Islamic Geometrical and floral designs found in some of the ancient building of Andalusia.
During the 16th C. the Ottoman Empire moved many of the artisans from Damascus to Istanbul to grow this industry in and around Istanbul as it was flourishing and needed during the expansion of the Islamic Ottoman Empire. This craft died out later at the turn of the 20th century in Turkey while it continued to strive up until today in the famous and one of the most ancient cities world, Damascus the capital of Syria.
Today this astounding woodwork can be seen at mosques and found in religious buildings in Palestine, Lebanon and Syria. Today furniture-makers in the city of Damascus and around it use several types of wood such as walnut, oak, cedar, and firewood to produce various types of beautiful furniture pieces that can be produced in several styles such as carved, inlaid with mother of pearl, or marquetry furniture highlighted with mother of pearl inlays.
In addition to furniture, the Syrian artisans of today do other architectural interiors such ceilings, joinery, doors, and windows. What is today known as Levantine or Syrian furniture is just scratching the surface of this craft which especially the Damascene artisans mastered through the ages.
Despite the challenges the craft faces today; designs are more varied, and anything can be done or produced to the architect or client’s needs and requirements.
This is not a one person craft, It requires skills and knowledge with the designs; Artisans for cutting different woods into distinct geometric shapes and patterns; Carvers and artisans to create a whole standing piece by fusing the pieces together to make a solid piece of furniture; as well as artisans who are specialized in cutting and inlaying the mother of pearl pieces to fill in the carved details as the design requires.
The last phase of finishing the furniture is applying numerous coats of varnish made from natural shellac or wood stain, mainly walnut.
The most popular wood to use is solid walnut as it does not chip and holds well overtime and has great and respected value.
The inlaid marquetry woodwork, also popular in Damascus, is a design the artisan creates in which he cuts the wood and makes skeletons of different furniture parts such as the backgammon board or side table. The same carpenter may then place the veneer of marquetry into the skeleton frame.
Although similar craft and pieces are made today in other neighboring counties and as far as Morocco and Spain; Damascus still produces the finest pieces in both quality and materials. In ancient times they used to use shells, mother of pearl, from the Euphrates and now they use the imported mother of pearl from the Pacific, especially from the Philippines where the quality and iridescence of pearls are superior.
Although Akbik carries several lines of furniture, and we design our own pieces, this traditional Syrian furniture is still our specialty and we pride ourselves on our experience in manufacturing it and selling it in the American market and around the world.