Furniture making is a Lebanese traditional craft found in many cities like Tripoli, Beirut and Sidon. There are no actual statistics for this sector as the majority of its manufacturing centers are not registered in the Chamber of Commerce.
This industry includes many craft disciplines: making patterns, woodturning, scraping, sanding, engraving (light, medium, deep), veneering, inlaying ( wood or shells), drawing on wood, upholstery, Painting (spray paint or “shellac” for old furniture), gilding and silvering, molding some copper pieces to decorate furniture.
This craft progressed since the end of the nineteenth century, and was influenced by the Western culture (France, Austria, England and recently the US). Furniture industry was also influenced by the Arab style (Damascus) present in some palaces (Karami Palace in Tripoli and the Palace of Beiteddine) and executed according to traditional methods (quilts, mattresses, rugs, pillows…), cabinets, beds , couches, straw chairs, and boxes inlaid with silver, copper and shells.
This craft is still in high demand in local and foreign markets of the Gulf area. The used raw materials (timber in particular) are imported from several regions of the world according to the type of wood (Africa, Canada, Asia).
Training in this field is accomplished with traditional methods in spite of the establishment of many technical institutes for carpentry. Technical development (tools) affected a lot of disciplines in furniture industry; nevertheless this sector remains mostly artisanal (using electric saw, woodcutting and engraving tools). The practical expertise of the craftsperson is fundamental in the production operation.
In spite of the Western influence, in terms of design, the well-defined cultural specificity connected to the development of aesthetics is still apparent in this industry, which is directly linked to the ever-evolving tastes of the Lebanese social categories coming from various regions and different economic status. This craft caters to all tastes and economic capabilities and fulfill any export demands. Many of these traditional crafts can be found in the atelier of the designer and artisan Dr Dalal Makki.
Sidon – Old Souk
Maha Kayal, Imitation & Innovation: study of the handicrafts sector in Tripoli. Lebanese National Commission for UNESCO, National Heritage Association, Arab Association of Culture and Arts, 2002.
Maha Kayal, Handicraft Legacies: Monographic study / statistics of the handicraft sector in Sidon.- Hariri Foundation, Lebanese National Commission for UNESCO, National Heritage Association, Arab Association of Culture and Arts 2003.
Maha Kayal, Civil bodies for civil actions in North Lebanon; Syndicate of carpentry and upholstery shops and their dependencies in north Lebanon; Friedrich Ebert Foundation / Lebanon: statistical field study for syndicate members and their establishments, Beirut in 1995.