Situated on the border of the Galata and Tophane neighbourhoods, Hiç Contemporary Crafts is an interiors, fashion and furniture store. It carries pieces sourced from Turkey, Africa and the Middle East, and also works with designers to develop lines of its own. ‘We try to combine the essence of traditional craftsmanship with contemporary design, working with many designers and artists to create this atmospheric place,’ explains owner Emel Güntaş.
Founded in 2011, Hiç Contemporary Crafts features a selection of ethnic-inspired handwoven textiles, which distinguishes it from other design stores in the city. It stocks a handful of carefully curated names, including Tulya Madra, Mike Berg and Gunes Terkel, with a balance of modern and traditional decor styles. Industrial metal chairs and tables are juxtaposed with vibrantly coloured African fabrics, while chunky, oversized leather sofas and statement standard lamps are positioned with beautifully coloured embroidered cushions, rugs and blankets. Güntaş has a firm handle on the Istanbul design scene, having grown up in the city. ‘There was an easily recognisable Istanbul style, even in my childhood,’ she explains. ‘It was minimalist with little furniture; long and narrow divan sofas; and small coffee tables.’ It is this background knowledge that underpins the brand’s aesthetic. ‘People like to fill their houses as much as possible but, most of the time, style is missing,’ Güntaş says. ‘We try to inspire people so they can move further outside their comfort zone, to be freer and more unique.’
Hamm offers a truly modern design service and was opened in 2010 by two architects who were keen to develop handmade interior products to complement the houses that they designed. Today, the business incorporates a collective of different designers whose pieces are sold in-store. Heavily invested in craftsmanship, Hamm showcases a streamlined and modern aesthetic, with Scandinavian influences.
‘We design the antiques of the future,’ say founding partners Muhammet Taşlı and İdil Özbek. ‘We work with our designers in a collective spirit through the whole process, from idea to production.’ As a result, Hamm offers new products that have an enduring, one-of-a-kind and almost historic appeal, due to the level of investment that goes into the design and development of each piece. With a keen focus on the sourcing of materials and craftsmanship, Hamm presents signature pieces such as the Mama chair, an oak rocking chair that is designed to mimic a swing boat, with big, soft, pillow-like cushions; the Sandik chest of drawers, which comprises square and rectangular frames with customisable drawers and handles; and the mint-green Bucket table lamp, combining brass, iron and wood with a green plastic shade to give a classic mid-century feel. Hamm’s designs combine style and function, and the store also offers a personalised service for people who are looking to revamp their homes.
Last but certainly not least, lifestyle store Mae Zae is a large industrial-style space filled with vintage pieces. The store was conceived by Münire Alabaz, a former mathematics student whose family owns an eponymous high-end lighting brand. Alabaz curates collections of classic vintage furniture, ceramics, lamps, tables, chairs, books and shelves, as well as colourful and eclectic modern fashion, eyewear and watches by Swedish accessories label Triwa. The multifunctional space is used for workshops and corporate events, and also incorporates a café. Mae Zae offers something for everyone, regardless of whether they’re looking to discover quirky designs and homeware, learn a new skill or enjoy a coffee. More fashion-led that many of Istanbul’s design stores, it makes everyone feel as if they are at home.
While concept design and interiors stores are not a new phenomenon, Istanbul seems to showcase a unique formula, fusing contemporary design with historic and traditional elements in a seamless, enduring way. Describing what makes the city so special, Taşlı and Özbek explain that ‘every corner of İstanbul smells of history and yet it’s also a metropolis. This brings with it the pleasure and necessity of tradition and modernism.’ The result? Design that celebrates the past while simultaneously welcoming the future.