Award-winning social enterprise, 2B Design brings life back to Lebanon’s dying heritage

Down a Jeitawi side street in Beirut,

a traditional Lebanese home houses

a small atelier. Past an old iron gate, a

garden is filled with the peeling wooden

shutters, decorative iron tables and old

balconies of Lebanese heritage buildings,

giving a hint to what lies within. The

atelier belongs to 2B Design, an awardwinning

Lebanese social enterprise with

a mission to “restore the unseen beauty

of the broken.”

Based in Beirut for years, French native,

Benedicte de Vanssay de Blavous

Moubarak, saw Lebanon’s old heritage

houses being destroyed around her;

the decorative iron pieces that once

stood grandly, or the former railings of

mountain villages melted down and sent

to scrap yards. In 2004, she decided to

do something about it and set up the

furniture and home decoration social

enterprise, 2B Design.

The enterprise works to save

architectural salvage from destroyed

18th, 19th and early 20th century houses

and revive them into contemporary

home design creations. Combining

Moubarak’s long career working on

social-angled projects, 2B Design places

social-responsibility at its core. They have

a long-standing collaboration with the

Lebanese social organization, Arc En Ciel,

whose team of skilled disabled craftsmen

works on rejuvenating the pieces. The

enterprise also works with women from

marginalized backgrounds, training them

to hone their artisan skills to make an

income to support their families.

They have also built strong collaborations

with social-leaning enterprises from

a New England-based homeless

charity, Pine Street Inn and Habitat for

Humanity, an NGO which helps with

home refurbishment for its employees,

to Tahaddi who fight against poverty,

including the Dom (gypsy) community of

the Hay el Gharbi slums of West Beirut,

and Dream InDeed, an organization that

strengthens local social entrepreneur

projects.

2B Design’s flagship brand named “Beyt,”

a nod to the symbolic meaning of home

in both Arabic and Hebrew, highlights

the enterprise’s focus on promoting the

inclusion of people from diverse religious,

ethnic and cultural backgrounds, a kind

of small-scale protest against what

is often a divided sectarian region.

“We show that diversity can be an

element of beauty, unity and strength

and is an important factor in building

lasting peace,” says 2B Design’s mission

statement. “We also work on building

bridges and promoting understanding at

[a] grass roots level between [Arabs] and

Americans.”

“The philosophy of 2B Design is to give worth to the past and keep it alive”

“Benedicte wanted to combine both

sides – salvage all these architectural

items and at the same time try to do

something different and actually employ

people that are in need and marginalized

in society,” says Katia Boueri a recent

addition to the 2B Design team. The

atelier itself is filled with decorative iron

lamp bases with a modern touch, juniper

wood candle holders re-salvaged from

aristocratic mansions and delicate iron

tables. “We source them from all over the

country, from the north and south, Basta

and scrap yards,” Boueri says. “Most of

the pieces are in a very bad state. Some

of them still have bullet holes in them.

We try to keep them as they are, to leave

the character and scars.”

Once the 2B Design team has salvaged

the raw material, Moubarak, now based

in the States where the organization has

recently opened a store in Cambridge,

Massachusetts, works on the designs

from photographs. The drawings are

then sent to the team of blacksmiths

at Arc En Ciel, where the salvaged

wood of old doors on window shutters

might be added to the pieces. Once

the basic design has been completed,

they’re returned to the atelier, where

every morning Nada and Rania work

on the finishing – scrubbing down the

iron and removing the years of paint

layers, and doing patina work, in natural

pigments. Below the atelier is a dark

basement filled with finished stock

which is shipped to the US once every

few months to the enterprise’s largest

customer-base. The final products can be

found in several outlets, from US-based

furniture design fairs to furniture stores

across Europe.

While Beirut’s heritage buildings are

quickly disappearing from the urban

landscape, the philosophy of 2B Design

is to give worth to the past and keep it

alive. Within a modern-day throwaway

culture, the value 2B Design places on

the discarded pieces of the past and

recycle-philosophy stands out. “Through

our pieces you can actually see what the

houses used to be like. They’re destroying

Beirut, but we’re trying to keep the past

alive through new designs. This is the

way to not forget,” Boueri says.

In January, 2B Design became the

first Lebanese company to receive B

Corp certification from bcorporation.

net, joining 900 other social and

environmentally minded international

businesses. And, after receiving a

USD15,000 grant from USAID earlier in

2014 to buy raw materials, 2B Design

hopes to further expand and be able to

employ more people from marginalized

communities and extend their reach.

2B Design’s presence in the US is

spreading the narratives of Lebanon

and the region, helping to break down

stigmatizations of the Middle East and

build a deeper emotional connection

between the two countries.

2B Design Atelier

(01 572217, www.2bdesign.biz)

Shereh el KazenB

Jeitawi

Beirut

www.2bdesign.biz

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