Thursday, August 13, 2009

Zooroona


It's always fun to hunt for pieces for "theme interiors." Longtime customer Rafat Mandwee and his brothers are opening an Arabic restaurant and lounge in Kalamazoo by their wine/convenience store called Tiffany's (it's also right by the original Heritage Company). The name Zooroona means "visit us" in Arabic and the goal is to create an interior that evokes a typical middle eastern cafe'. We took advantage of the competitively priced, locally sourced salvage that both Heritage Companies supply and mixed warm rustic pieces with new materials in sun-baked colors of the region. Raf recently had me over to his house for an authentic Iraqi breakfast to go over our shopping list. I loved the sweet cardamom tea, the warm bread with a fresh farm-type cheese and honey. He, my husband and I had worked on this house and his jewelry store together years ago. He loves to entertain in a style typical to his culture so out went the traditional living room and in went sitting cushions on the floor with low tables. A baptismal font I'd salvaged from a church became an altar with fountain. A beautiful old picture of his now deceased father hangs above it and he looks every bit the beloved head of a large Iraqi family. A lucky find of mosque windows were turned into table tops, an old rug was cut up and "framed" in an oak church railing. The earthy colors throughout, traditional textiles, painted and worn woods, old glass tiles and lace metal work we selected provide just the right backdrop for hosting Raf's multi-ethnic friends. One typical evening, my husband and I met people from Egypt, Lebanon and Iraq. Raf provides these beautiful leather Morrocan slippers we put on the minute we arrived, leaving our shoes at the door. It was a kick smoking the fruity tobaccos in the beautiful Nargila (means hookah). These and the delicate glass tea cups he serves his tea in will be sold in a retail area of the new restaurant. Raf has a gift for hosting and entertaining and he's a great ambassador for all things Middle Eastern. His attention to authentic detail and design flair will create just the right ambience and I predict Zooroona will be a favorite hangout in Kalamazoo. Look for it to open this fall and say "merhaba" (hello) when you see the brothers Raf, Saad, Habib, Talat.

2 comments:

Alyssa said...

I just interviewed there the other day. It looks wonderful! It's fun to hear about all the great stuff you re-used to create such a wonderful atmosphere.

Naturally High said...

My friend Kimberle & I enjoyed the evening that we spent there at Zooroona. The food is good & the atmosphere is very nice too. The recorded MUSIC they were playing was really FANTASTIC!!!! I'm looking forward to being there again to see the live musicians & belly dancers! My husband hasn't had a Zooroona experience yet, so maybe we will go there for New Years Eve, also our 22nd wedding anniversary! I'm about to call and see if they are still taking reservations. Hope so...