2024 Emerging Designer Award: Studio Muka


Studio Muka, which unites the shared vision of licensed architects and designers Zabie Mustafa and Neda Kakhsaz, is anchored by an enviable pedigree. After meeting at Brooklyn’s Pratt Institute, Mustafa came to Los Angeles to work for The Archers, with curatorial duties at the Guggenheim and the Whitney having further polished his well-trained aesthetic; Kakhsaz honed her skills working for Studio Shamshiri.

Studio Muka’s Neda Kakhsaz, standing, and Zabie Mustafa in the dining area of their San Francisco pied-a-terre project.
Photos by William Jess Laird.
The details of Studio Muka’s Palan chair, part of their forthcoming furniture collection, highlights its solid walnut construction and exposed joinery, its raw leather seat and back and the Prima Alpaca upholstery. Photos by William Jess Laird.

Inevitably an opportunity to design a home in Northern California brought them to a crossroads. They combined the first two letters of their last names and leapt into a partnership that has seen them work together on spaces in Joshua Tree, San Francisco and Montauk. “Everything sort of snowballed from there,” says Kakhsaz.

A photo by Robert Mapplethorpe hangs on the wall behind a vintage 1970s Valeria Borsani sofa and a walnut and terrazzo Harvey Probber coffee table from the same era. The sconces are by Jacques Biny. The rug was found at Armadillo.
Photos by William Jess Laird.

Their work, which seems to stretch across time and space and encompasses inspirations that range from ancient palanquin chairs to the work of Italian industrial designer Joe Colombo, is grounded in their respect for natural materials and the importance of place and the environment. “We often say we look to the past to look toward the future,” says Mustafa. That narrative is not confined to the history of interiors and architecture; it also encompasses their diverse backgrounds—while Mustafa grew up in New York, his family’s roots are in Afghanistan and Uzbekistan; Kakhsaz, born in Tehran, was raised in Los Angeles.

A special edition 1965 pendant by Paavo Tynell for Gubi illuminates a custom table with a Forbo linoleum top and chairs by Josef Hoffmann. Photos by William Jess Laird.

While navigating a romantic and professional partnership can be challenging, these two are energized by its advantages, finding strength in their unique yet complementary outlooks. “One of us will take the lead on architecture while the other steers interiors, but that invariably switches,” Kakhsaz explains. “The result is something beautiful, holistic and dynamic.” Perhaps that’s why their work often appeals to couples. “Our strength is in being able to communicate, collaborate and understand different viewpoints and bring them together in a cohesive and visionary whole,” says Mustafa. Truly, it takes two to make a thing go right.

A custom bar console with a green lacquer finish is lit by Umberto Riva’s Tacchini E63 copper table lamp and filled with Joe Colombo glassware. The flat weave is by Beni Rugs. The Palan chair is by Studio Muka. Photos by William Jess Laird.

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