Hubert Burda Media

An Eye For Space

Founder of Benua Unit Design Nizar Manaf shares his sense of style and passion as an up-and-coming interior designer.

In short, Nizar Manaf can be described as a comical fellow who has a personality as vibrant as his passion for all things beautiful and stylish. “I guess I got myself into the artistic world for that same reason. As an interior designer, I love the process of translating my sense of style into an empty space. Also, I love connecting with people. When I speak to the clients, their visualisations and choices of materials can unveil several things about them. And I get to understand them better,” he adds.

After obtaining his Architecture degree from Liverpool John Moores University, Nizar flew back to Malaysia and was given the opportunity to work on the designs of several outstanding architecture buildings and monuments. “During my junior years, I was working for AF Consultant Architect, DMP Architects and SNO Architects. From these companies, I’ve managed to earn vast experiences and understand myself better,” he explains. “I felt like I could contribute more and develop myself better on my own. Thus, in 2009, I decided to set up Benua Unit Design, which is now associated with Benua I D and Benua Furniture.”

Since then, Benua Unit Design has been renowned not only for its multi-talents and technical abilities but also its skills to deliver beyond the sketches of each project. “There needs to be a strong emotive engagement with the space. At Benua, we try to bond with the ‘spirit’ of the place and this is something we are still trying to define and redefine,” Nizar shares, adding that a lot of new architecture and interior designers do not practise it. “When you are unable to capture the essence of the place, you can be assured that there’ll always be something missing from it.”

How would you describe your style?

When it comes to designing, I would have to say distinctive and masculine. I take my inspiration from Ralph Lauren and Paul Smith, two genius designers who know what the masses want even before they do. Each piece is simple and on point; no fuss, no complication. Simple, bold and captivating. However, I would like to note that Lapo Elkann is my one true idol. He is the grandson of style icon and business magnate, Gianni Agnelli. Currently, he sits at the helm of flourishing eyewear brand Italia Independent. His new side project, Garage Italia Customs, takes luxury automobiles to a higher level through custom details. And apart  from his growing empire, the man looks good in just about any piece of clothing he puts on. I absolutely adore him.

Do you have a favourite project or a favourite story about one of them?

T.O.L in Kompleks PKNS Shah Alam.  In case you are not aware, KompleksPKNS is a slightly rundown, traditional retail space. Which is why the management invited me to help them inject some new life into it. Compared tomy previous assignments, I needed to create something that the local people could relate to yet looking new and modern. It was a challenge but I did it and I’m glad I took on this project. It feels good to contribute back to the society.

The most frustrating aspect of your job as an interior designer?

For me, it would be how society views the creative industry. People assume that an artwork doesn’t need any necessary skills to realise, that it’s just an overpriced doodle. But art matters! We make incredible sacrifices to push and create innovative ideas; extract ideas from the creases and folds of our brains. So next time you engage an interior designer, please understand that we do take art seriously, and we hope you would too.

Is there a space in Malaysia which you find yourself continuously drawn to because of its beautiful interior?

Unfortunately, the place no longer exists. It was Frangipani Restaurant & Bar in Changkat Bukit Bintang. The interior was classically elegant; it exuded a sleek and sophisticated vibe thanks to the stainless steel pillars, mirror walls and leather upholstered sofas. I loved the soft music that pervaded the space, giving it a light, airy atmosphere by the central pool and high ceiling.

We are at the end of 2016. looking back, what have you achieved and what have you installed for us for next year?

We’ve reached great heights this year. To date, Benua Unit Design has won the Momento Interior Design Competition by Nippon and involved in several corporate projects, namely for Eurocopter Malaysia, Federal Land Development Authority (FELDA), UDA Mall, and the University Teknologi Malaysia (UTM). And I hope we can expand further and work closely with corporate and government sectors. Also, we would like to have a firmer grip on the retail development and fashion industries. I believe they are expanding rapidly. Additionally, I was invited to be a speaker for Malaysian Institute of Architects (PAM) Design Forum at the recent Kuala Lumpur Architecture Festival. It was a great honour as the event is considered Malaysia’s biggest design platform. I look forward to seeing more individuals and organisation help Malaysia achieve its vision through art.


For more information, please contact Nizar Manaf at +60133896689 or Nurhayati at +6012 347 7937

Office Address:

B-31-11, Sunday Tower,

Empire City Damansara,

Jalan Damansara, Damansara Perdana,

PJU8, 47820, Petaling Jaya, Selangor