THE STORYTELLERS | HOMAN RAJAI AND ELENA DENDIBERIA, STUDIO AHEAD
For Homan Rajai and Elena Dendiberia, design is both a global and local affair. What it is not is siloed around eurocentrism.
Meeting as young designers, the pair, with their respective Iranian and Russian roots, felt similarly disconnected from the world of European antiques they were living in—so they built a new framework around aesthetic multiculturalism.
Questions like, ‘what philosophies do you relate to?’ and ‘what moments in history are most meaningful to you?’ distinguish their client questionnaire, and Rajai and Dendiberia champion a diverse network of vendors and artisans working in traditional crafts.
“There’s this assumption that ethnic goods—say, Persian rugs—are in the past tense. We’re educating our clients that there are living, breathing, modern-day craftspeople making these pieces in a contemporary context,” says Rajai.
At the other end of the spectrum, the firm is devoted to amplifying design at a hyper-local scale—and boasts a fast-expanding production wing of collaborations between Northern California artists. “We’re trying to create an ecosystem that supports people in an interesting way,” says Rajai. “Think of Alice Waters and what she did with farm-to-table. We’re bringing the same idea to design.”