Ayah Al Bitar has a knack for imbuing her artistry with practicality. The Saudi furniture designer made her debut in 2015 with Wisada, a collection of orthopaedic floor seats, shaped like large, cushioned bicycle saddles, which promote comfort, practicality and good posture. A year later, she unveiled the Sanctuary, a portable storage structure that can house all the prayer items Muslim men and women might need on a daily basis, while earlier this year, she came up with a Quran stand with a hidden shelf.
Al Bitar, who launched her label, Aya: The Art of Living, in the Dubai Design District in 2015, showcased her latest collection at this year’s Saudi Design Week, which ended yesterday. For the Y Collection, Al Bitar looked to her own label’s name, using the “Y” from Aya to design a range of six pieces that include or are derived from the organic and versatile shape of the letter.
The six pieces blend simple lines with art deco influences, and the collection also makes good on the on-trend interior shades of the season: burgundy, mustard, salmon and emerald. “I’m always going home and exhibiting my work – the pool for regional talent is continually expanding and growing,” Al Bitar says. “It’s a great platform, and I actively get involved in opportunities whereby talent and creativity from this region is recognised and given a voice.”
For the Y-Table, the first piece she designed in the new collection, Al Bitar reimagined her previous C-Table design to make it more spacious and sleek. This was followed by the Half Y-Table, which is, she says, essentially the Y table design “cut in half”. Much like Al Bitar’s Wisada design, the Half Y-Table also doubles as a comfortable seating option for those who like to sit closer to the ground, which she points out is a common preference in Arab households.
Next, Al Bitar wanted to create a tray that would fit snugly onto the top of the Y-Table, which resulted in the sleek, lightweight Pebble trays. The shape harks back to her original design, inspired by, she explains, “the negative space of two Wisadas”.
Seating and serving aside, the Y Collection also includes a futuristic-looking coat hanger. But don’t be fooled by its ultra-slim design, because the hanger’s balancing power lies in its sturdy, stable base, which is made from lightweight concrete. The slim neck of the piece also includes a small tray for bric-a-brac, such as keys, coins or phones.
Another mod-con shape can be found in the form of rubbish bins, a category that, Al Bitar says, is lagging behind in terms of design. The small and compact form of the Y Collection’s bins don’t compromise their aesthetic value; these would not look out of place under your dresser or even in your spare bedroom.
The largest item in the collection, and a personal favourite of Al Bitar’s, is the television unit (main picture), which merges all four colours to make for a smart-looking piece, which can be easily moved about as per your requirements. As with the coat hanger, the power of this slim-lined piece lies in its legs. “The legs of the design utilise a special internal structure to give support, yet with a slim aesthetic,” Al Bitar explains. “The Y shape creates the handle, as well as inspiring the piece’s shape – it’s a standout piece, yet simple like the rest of the collection.”