From Accounts to Aesthetics


Omer Nabi, an owner of Studio O and leading furniture designer of Lahore, tells Fatima Sheikh how to make a space aesthetically pleasing and fully functional

How long have you been in this business?

Since 1996, I have been in this business for about 21 years. Doesn’t seem that long ago to me though.

How did you move from banking to interior design?

The transition from banking to interior designing came automatically to me. As a banker, I wasn’t enjoying my life because I have always been a creative person. I was 22 at that point and I had recently finished college so I started banking for a year. I found it to be very mundane and not at all challenging. We were moving into a new home so I wanted to design furniture for my room and I found myself thoroughly enjoying the process. I had a small window of opportunity because I was planning to go back to graduate school. So I made a small collection of furniture and accessories for an exhibition I had and I’ve never looked back. I started receiving projects instantly. In fact, I never returned to graduate school. Designing furniture became my lifeline.

How has your work evolved?

It has been constantly evolving. I started making furniture in my house and had an exhibition there. At that time wrought iron was trendy so I started designing it in ways no one else would. I had a vendor who would come to my house and work under the chikoo tree in my house, but my family objected. They suggested that I move to the garage, which was still a hassle for them due to late nights, loud sounds and increased number of vendors. Then, I rented a small premises. In 2000, I rented a premises, which became my showroom. We worked hard and business moved slowly and gradually, but I was recognized instantly. I was featured in Libas magazine.

“Form and function should be equally important.”

What are your most favourite projects?

I have enjoyed doing a lot of projects. My current one is a four-star hotel in Multan called Ramada Multan. We are redoing that and all the living spaces are done but the lobby is left. It’s exciting and challenging because it is a running hotel and we cordon off a few spaces at a time. We have to design and complete it while it continues to run on a daily basis. It is coming to a close very soon and I am really looking forward to its completion.

One of the previous projects was an office building of Guard Group I designed, which was a leap for my work, because I am not an architect. I am currently rejuvenating a 150 year old property in Khaira Gali. I want to preserve it in a way that it doesn’t lose its essence and wisdom. I want to preserve its antiquity so the walls talk to us, as the saying goes, while giving the property an updated look and maximize its functionality.  I am extremely fortunate because I enjoy and get excited my work.

I am currently rejuvenating a 150 year old property in Khaira Gali. I want to preserve it in a way that it doesn’t lose its essence and wisdom. I want to preserve its antiquity so the walls talk to us, as the saying goes, while giving the property an updated look and maximize its functionality

Whose home or place of business would you love to design the most?

I can’t recall any names, but I would love to do the homes of someone who likes creatively done, minimalist spaces, the kind of space that you encounter in my studio. Something that is very sleek, modern, eclectic and brings out the personality of an individual. For instance, I would love to design for Armani. Interesting use of material, use of textures, but very clean and straight lined and of course with personal touches—overall muted and understated, that’s my style.

What are the latest trends in the market?

I feel that everything goes generally. It is very fashionable to use a lot of brass. I find myself being utterly attracted towards gold. Interesting use of different materials and textures is trendy. For instance, you see the use of brass with marble nowadays extensively, which means it is trending. Mixing eclectic things like modern things and interesting Oriental objects is great. It is how you combine materials to present something, which is not only aesthetically pleasing but also functionally accurate.

What inspires you?

For inspiration I do a lot of net surfing. I go once a year to the East, mostly Thailand, because I love the beach. I make at least one trip to the West and one to the Middle East, like Dubai. I love to travel in fact, I live to travel. It truly inspires and rejuvenates me. I do major research. I make it a point to visit the museums in Europe, skim through all the architecture, visits furniture stores and fancy hotels. Even meeting different personalities and walking around opens your horizons and is extremely inspirational for me and my work. I travel within Pakistan as well to places, like Skardu, etc. These places are mind blowing and I recently went in the thick of the cherry season. It was just brilliant.

What advice would you honour people with regarding their spaces?

I think that my biggest advice to people is that they should follow the mantra less is more. Don’t over stuff your homes and offices. Throw away the things you haven’t utilized within a year. Let go of things because people don’t like to let go of things. Don’t let the furniture and accessories overburden you. Give it away. Buy two things and give two things. Your space should reflect you and not the designer or anyone else. Add personal touches.

Do you follow spiritual factors before designing a space?

I certainly believe in energies and I do follow a bit of Feng Shui. I am not terribly spiritual but I am slightly superstitious and I don’t overdo it. I definitely believe your mirror should be in the right place because it reflects bad and good energy. Make sure your mirror doesn’t face your window or door. Follow this basic rule and you are good. I also believe that the less clutter you have in your space, the happier and focused you become. In fact, I just organised a bunch of clutter in my office before this interview.

What is your most precious and favourite piece in your office?

This paper weight in my office that my daughter made while she was in summer school. I am sure the teacher did half of the job but it is my favourite piece in my office.

Tell us about your fussiest client?

I find fussy clients to be challenging, because they cringe and cry about minute details, which makes my work even better. I would not like to take any names but I have had my fair share of fussy clients and still do. I take them as a challenge.

How are men and women different as clients? 

Generally, you might say women are fussier but some men can be equally fussy. On certain occasions I have experienced men being more into what they want resulting in fussy and finicky behaviour. As a general rule women are slightly harder to please but individually there are a lot of fussy men as well.

Describe yourself in 3 words. 

Meticulous, which comes as a subset of being Passionate



Describe your work in 3 words 


Straight lined


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