Karen Chekerdjian


February 19th 2024

Karen's portrait by alain sauma
Anchors Pendant by Joe Kesrouani

My jewellery are heavy, with substance, thickness and volume. They almost look like archaeological jewellery. I don't like well-finished materials, I like them almost imperfect. I don't like shiny gold, I like it matt, as if it had been found underground."

- Karen Chekerdjian
Catene Necklace by Marco Pinarelli

Karen Chekerdjian's trajectory in the world of design is a combination of real-life experience in a variety of creative fields. Her first steps in advertising with Leo Burnet in Beirut in 1991 were followed by the co-founding of one of the first brand strategy companies in the Middle East.

Passionate about her work, she obtained a master's degree in industrial design at the Domus Academy in Milan under the direction of Massimo Morozzi, the co-founder of Archizoom. Her collaboration with Morozzi at EDRA gave rise to Mobil, her first tangible work, in 1999.

With product creation as a secondary interest, Chekerdjian instead used her time in Italy to experiment and push the boundaries of her creative work. In 2001, she set up Studio KarenChekerdjian in Beirut, transforming it into a creative workshop producing her eponymous brand, bespoke furniture and spatial designs. Her work, exhibited internationally for over two decades, blurs the boundaries between art, objects and architectural forms.


1. Can you tell us about your origins and background?
I'm Lebanese with Armenian origin. I've lived and worked in Beirut since I returned from Milan in 2000. So, I opened my studio 24 years ago in a country which didn't know what design was. I quickly realised that I would have a hard time finding work, because of the lack of initiative in local industries. In 2006 I started to create a line of objects for home with local craftsmen. I initiated the beginnings of post-war Lebanese design with two other compatriots who were also at the forefront of what is now happening on the Lebanese design scene. Today I have my eponymous brand, and I still make most of my collection with Lebanese craftsmen, to whom I owe a great deal.

2.You're best known as an artist for your furniture and objects. When did you decide to move into jewellery?
Yes, I was first known for my furniture-sculptures. Objects came later, when I opened my first store in the port of Beirut in 2009. I then developed a line of furniture, and it was lastly that I worked on jewellery. I met an artisan jeweller who didn't have much work. I wanted to encourage him and that enabled me to take my first small steps in jewellery, around ten years ago.

Armor Chocker by Nadim Asfar

3. How would you describe your work? What are your favourite materials? What is the link between the objects you create and your jewellery?
I have a very conceptual approach to both jewellery and furniture. I don't design jewellery, I design furniture and objects; I see my jewellery as little objects with a story behind them. Each one tells a story, usually a small personal one. I work mainly with gold-plated brass. My jewellery are heavy, with substance, thickness and volume. They almost look like archaeological jewellery. I don't like well-finished materials, I like them almost imperfect. I don't like shiny gold, I like it matt, as if it had been found underground.
I make them in gold-coated brass for the simple reason that it would cost me far too much to make them in gold. I sometimes work my pieces in oxidised brass, almost blackened.

4. What are your sources of inspiration?
Each collection starts with a little story. It could be an object found under the sea, a collection of old nails found at the market, an obsession with a theme, a gesture or simply a customer request that inspires me.

5. You work mainly with local artisans. Why is this important to you?
It was basically the result of an observation. I'd just come back from Milan where I'd worked mainly for EDRA, an industrial furniture manufacturer. As soon as I got back to Lebanon, I realised that there was no furniture industry and no publishers. There were craftsmen, and it was a wonderful adventure to draw every time I met one. I always started by meeting a craftsman and then decided to experiment with his possibilities. So, it wasn't a choice I wanted to make at the start, it was something I had to do. Little by little, this reality became an intrinsic part of my work.

6. You lived in Beirut as a child and still spend a lot of time there today. How does this city influence your work?
I still live in Beirut, and my studio and showroom are there. I often come to Paris but I realize that doesn't make me a Parisian. I'm a resident of Beirut, through and through. I grew up there during the Lebanese civil war, and built my life, my family and my work there. This city is close to my heart. It's what gives a meaning to my work. And it's thanks to my mentor Massimo Morozzi who, one day, told me to go back to work in Beirut. I was living in Milan and hoping to make a career there. My return shaped my personality differently and the result would have been quite different if I hadn't followed his advice.

Spike one nail necklace by Nadim Asfar

7. What are the stories behind the names of your collections: Intrecci, Spike, Armor, Catene...? 
Intrecci started as a gesture, a game with modelling clay.
Spike is a collection of old found nails. The nails were very specific in their shapes: each nail had a precise use.
Armor is a collection inspired by the suits of armour that fascinate me.
Catene is a work on chain and Anchor on old boat anchors.

I love the idea of taking objects and turning them into jewellery.

8. If you had one message to pass on to a young designer or artist, what would it be?
To always design with the idea in mind that the object must have a meaning. Aesthetics comes from meaning. It's not enough to be decorative.

9. Do you have a project you'd like to share with us?
A dream or a project? Maybe they're the same thing... Not really at the moment.
But it makes me want to think about it for this start of 2024...

Spike Ring by Marco Pinarelli

If I were...  
A stone: Jade
A flower: A black tulip
A dish: Pasta
A work of art: An ancient Greek sculpture
A book: The Art of Joy (but it depends on the day...)
A country: Japan
An animal: An elephant


Inside out x mmairo
Karen Chekerdjian

38, rue du Mont Thabor Paris 1

+33 (0)1 58 62 25 86


opening hours

Mon: 2:00 pm - 7:00 pm
Tue-Sat: 11:00 am - 7:00 pm

Bijou Viltier

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