Michel Harmouch was born in Beirut in 1925, and grew up in a fast-changing city where there was much to be achieved. He was raised by his father, a civil engineer and contractor who was involved in the building of the first Lebanese Parliament, the National Museum and the Municipality of Beirut. His father was to have a profound influence on his future work.
The Second World War prevented him from leaving the country to study abroad, as was the custom for students of his background. During this time, Michel attended law school and became well-known for his student portraits, drawn during lectures.
In 1946, he left Beirut for Paris, to attend L’Ecole Nationale Superieur des Arts Decoratifs, to study interior design. His particular interest in painting flourished during these years. Amongst others, Picasso and Matisse influenced his work and colour palette. His orthodox and conservative family disapproved of his wish to be a painter. Therefore, Michel chose to become an interior designer, a career choice that satisfied both his family, and his artistic ambitions.
After finishing his studies in Paris, Michel returned to Beirut and began to build his interior design practice. He presented his first projects to a Middle Eastern clientele, and quickly became known as the most influential interior designer of the area. Eventually, he forged an international reputation, as his interior design appealed to a wide Middle Eastern and European Market. His clientele included, amongst others, King Hussein of Jordan, King Faycal of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait Airways with its Boeing fleet. For this prestigious clientele, Michel created ingenious designs, such as furniture sculpted from plexiglas.
Michel opened ‘Perspectives’, his first design store in which he sold a carefully selected range of lighting, furniture, fabrics, and design objects. He later opened ‘Retrospectives’, where he sold antiques, which were collected from his travels from all over the world.
While furthering his design practice, the few hours spent painting in his studio, remained the favorite part of his day.
In 1975, the civil war broke out in Lebanon, making it difficult for him to continue working in a violence-driven community. Michel moved to Paris with his wife Jacqueline and his children Halim and Martine, where they lived for a number of years. He continued his career in Paris. He was appointed by the bank BCC to design its branch in London and by Hilton International to design a number of its hotels.
Upon his return to Beirut in 1988, Michel re-opened his interior design practice and resumed his numerous activities. His son Halim, an architect educated in Paris, joined his practice. During these years after the civil war, Beirut was undergoing a phase of reconstruction and Michel left his son to participate actively in the design of important buildings in the center of the city as well as its outskirts.
In October 2004, Michel handed over the reins of his life time achievements to his son and decided to dedicate himself to his passion: his painting. He began to exhibit his work and his first solo exhibition sold out on the first evening. He painted, in a series of large oil canvases, some of the interior designs he had created during his lifetime. He played with perspective in his paintings in the same manner that he had played with perspective within a room.
Michel Harmouch is presently working on a series on trees, which were inspired by the views from the windows in his house in Faqra, Lebanon.
Some of Michel Harmouch’s work:
(Biography and pictures kindly provided by Michel Harmouch)
For more information on Michel Harmouch check out his Website: