Through Solli Concepts, Sohel Contractor and Zahabia Abid offer hand-crafted furniture that makes the best, and often unusual, use of different varieties of wood
What, in your opinion, does it take to create a timeless piece of furniture?
SC: A timeless piece takes time; it needs to follow certain timelines, processes, and guidelines. Creating an original design, selecting the right wood out of the numerous varieties available, selecting materials that fuse with that particular form of wood, and then a lot of trial and error to carve the perfect piece of furniture with the right balance of form, function, and esthetics that’s a timeless piece!
Sohel, tell us about your journey from engineering to furniture design.
SC: I have always had a personal affection for wood, and it fascinates me to learn about the variety and its properties. Wood is so unique that not a single square inch of it is the same. Each piece is different - you could create thousands of pieces of the same design from wood and no two would be the same.
It started with a friend of mine who wanted to create a desk and was finding it difficult to get the resources to do it the right way. That’s when I offered to help him out, and I haven’t stopped! Later, I started creating furniture from my living room, after which I moved on to a garage where I designed furniture at my leisure. Eventually, I started designing for a lot of expats who were extremely particular about the output of quality and designs.
My engineering qualification helped me immensely to follow my passion for woodworking. It was a no-brainer for me to get into this industry after a short stint in automotive engineering in New Zealand.
Zahabia, what made you give up an international career in finance for the furniture business?
ZA: I realized I had the potential to be part of a legacy in the making! Sohel was/is absolutely brilliant at what he does (and I am yet to find someone who has his level of depth and passion about the trade) but he has/had little experience with marketing, promotions and basically creating a brand out of it. When I met him he didn’t have any business cards! At this point, I was quite convinced I wanted to get onboard with strategizing for the brand.
Creating and promoting furniture was far from what I did but when the opportunity came along, I was extremely excited. I had been doing my job for 15 years and the change and challenge was awesome! It is as far removed from the corporate banking life as it gets but you look at a good idea and you roll with it!
How did Solli Concepts come about?
SC: I don’t remember when it started precisely, but a lot of my friends used to call me Solli. It was like a nickname that just caught on. Eventually, after doing my first project for a friend we decided to give the venture a name and my friends suggested Solli Concepts.
What is Solli’s design philosophy?
SC: At its core, Solli strongly believes in not putting waste into the environment. This drives the entire design and production process. By trying to avoid trends, Solli looks to create statement pieces that are built to last with the promise that it will still look good in a hundred years.
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