Gregory Gatserelia: Interior architecture and design master

Architectural Digest has recognized his work among the finest interiors globally. His SMO gallery was a launching pad for numerous object and property designers. “Gregory Gatserelia: The Art of Interiors*,” published by Rizzoli, New York, offers an insightful retrospective of his career and life.

Gregory Gatserelia: Interior architecture and design master

Art & Design: From left to right, works by Eva Szumilas, Hala Matta, Gregory Gatserelia, Georges Mohasseb, Najla El Zein and Karim Chaya. (Credit: Galerie SMO, Beirut)

An interior architect and collector who refuses to be restricted by any definition or label, Gregory Gatserelia stands out as a talent scout, particularly renowned for his exploration of Lebanese designers’ potential. He has showcased their creations on international platforms such as the PAD Fairs in Paris and London, a pivotal event for design collectors worldwide.

The newly published book, “Gregory Gatserelia: The Art of Interiors,” provides an insightful overview of Gatserelia’s career, highlighting his diverse projects spanning various countries, with particular emphasis on his work in Beirut.

Gregory Gatserelia sat on How High the Moon, Shiro Kuramata's chair, SMO Gallery, Beirut, 2011. (Credit: Joe Kesrouani)

Federica Sala, an independent curator for private and public institutions and former curator of the design department at the Centre Pompidou, described Gatserelia as a true cosmopolitan. She highlighted his role as a promoter of the city’s new generations in art and design, noting that he has navigated the complexities of globalization by respecting each place’s unique social rules. Sala now curates Life in Vogue, an annual event organized to coincide with Milano Design City.

The book, an album of over 200 pages, provides glimpses into the architect’s life, thoughts and connections to Lebanon and Beirut. It includes interviews with his friend Anne-Marie Habib and artists Jacopo Foggini and Najla El Zein.

A map created by cartography artist Tarek Abbar, who splits his time between Madrid, Milan and Ishikawa in Japan, allows readers to locate the city’s monuments and approximately one hundred projects designed by the Gatserelia studio. The city is brought to life through the photographs of İeva Saudargaitė Douaihi.

The book signing will take place on May 22 at the Sursock Museum.

The art of staging

Distributed worldwide by Rizzoli International Publications, New York, the book features a foreword by Patrick Perrin, founder and CEO of the renowned international Salons PAD Design group.

“Gregory Gatserelia played a fundamental role in creating a new taste in Lebanese interiors, blending Western and Eastern influences. A great connoisseur and design enthusiast, he laid the foundations for a new wave of Lebanese designers. His eclectic taste and unique style have been noticed and admired by collectors and gallery owners alike,” said Victor Gastou, who wrote the introduction to the book.

“This connoisseur first observes and contemplates the shapes and subtleties of a work with his architect’s eye,” Gastou said. “He scans the pieces for the tiny details that set them apart from the rest.”

Ahnenstunde, oil on canvas, Georg Baselitz, 2012; wooden ring bench, Chris Kabel, 2011; copper substitute panels, Walead Beshty, 2011. (Credit: Eva Szumilas)

Beyond the artist, the story of a son and a Beiruti

Born in Georgia, Gatserelia spent his childhood in Syria, where his father owned a large factory. At seven, he and his brother Alexandre were sent to boarding school in France.

“I was far from my family, so I drew houses. I invented stories, I invented romances ... It was during this whole period that I felt the strength and passion to build my own expression and character,” said Gatserelia.

In 1967, following the coup in Syria, his father moved to Lebanon, and Gatserelia enrolled at the Lebanese Academy of Fine Arts (ALBA).

Since then, he has dedicated his life and work to a magnificent cause: The desire to create. He spatially translates his clients’ desires into appropriate forms by exploring two major concepts, ethics and aesthetics. These principles allow this artist of volume, space and light to transcend the clichés of architecture.

He admired the “keen eye” of his mother, who, of Lebanese origin, had a profound sense of beauty. Of his father, he said, “He was an inventor with a demanding character. He molded me a little, giving me a sense of perfectionism.”

Gatserelia’s love for Lebanon is deeply rooted. “I love Lebanon because it has a history written in blood, drama and hope. I love Lebanon for its people’s beauty, resilience and ongoing struggle.”


In 2011, Gatserelia opened his art gallery, SMO, on Rue du Sénégal in the Karantina district of northeast Beirut.

Contacted by designers who wanted to exhibit their work, he was inspired to discover young Lebanese talent and create a new business concept to give emerging designers freedom. He selected many of them, including Najla El Zein (whom he spotted immediately), Karim Chaya, Georges Mohasseb, Cyrille Najjar, Céline Stephan Eid and others.

“Most of them ended up making a name for themselves,” he said. Throughout this adventure, he exhibited the great masters of design alongside young Lebanese designers.

“I had Ettore Sottsass, Alessandro Mendini, Andrea Branzi, Oscar Niemeyer and Hella Jongerius. I had a lot of them. And lots of pieces, including those by Bořek Šipek, and paintings.”

Today, Gatserelia devotes himself solely to interior design and the Design Disaster project, which he founded in 2019 in Milan with Joy Herro, editor-in-chief of The Good Life Italia, to share their expertise in contemporary art and design with their clientele.

Spine, Naccache building, seaside road (Lebanon), 2018. (Credit: Eva Szumilas)


Speaking to publisher Federica Sala, Swiss-based nephrologist Anne-Marie Habib, one of Gatserelia’s friends and customers, emphasized “the human side and his intellectual qualities, creativity and passion.

“He has a strong work ethic and a deep passion for his profession,” she added. “Gregory was a mentor who helped us approach the world of contemporary art. He is ingenious and innovative. He is an artist himself; he has the soul of an artist.”

When Sala asked Najla El Zein whether the SMO gallery contributed to her career, the artist replied, “Absolutely.” Her work has since been exhibited and acquired by the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and the Dallas Museum of Art in Texas.

“Gregory decided to take part in the first edition of Design Days in Dubai, and the gallery produced many works for the occasion,” she said. “One of them was the installation that helped me make a name for myself: It was a light sculpture called 6302 Spoons. It wouldn’t have been possible if Gregory hadn’t made it a reality.”

The New York gallery Friedman Benda now represents the artist.

“I consider Gregory Gatserelia to be a star who is difficult to classify among many other architects in our world,” said Jacopo Foggini, who worked with him for many years and whose unique pieces and light installations are exhibited in galleries, museums and institutions worldwide.

“What I like about him is his versatility: His projects are always completely different, never resembling any other. And that’s quite unique, because generally, when architects find a language that the public understands, they perpetuate it and apply it so that their projects are immediately recognizable.”

Light and decorative ceilings are key elements in Gatserelia’s projects, evident in restaurants such as Lily’s Beirut, Society, Balthus, Celsius, Le Cocteau and Amar. He collaborated with Foggini on these projects, winning the prize for best project for Asia and the Middle East.

Gatserelia left his mark on many residential interiors, public spaces, hotels, nightclubs and restaurants, including Le Seray, Kampaï, Sultan Brahim, Le Capitole and Cristal.

*The book signing for “Gregory Gatserelia, the Art of Interiors” will be held on May 22 from 6-8 p.m. at the Sursock Museum.

This article was originally published in L'Orient-Le Jour. Translated by Sahar Ghoussoub. Edited by Yara Malka.

An interior architect and collector who refuses to be restricted by any definition or label, Gregory Gatserelia stands out as a talent scout, particularly renowned for his exploration of Lebanese designers’ potential. He has showcased their creations on international platforms such as the PAD Fairs in Paris and London, a pivotal event for design collectors worldwide.The newly published book,...