After a long period of time spent abroad, Mark Doumet came to value the open spaces, high ceilings in dwellings like those designed in the outskirts of major European and American cities and known as Lofts. He introduced the Loft concept and design to his country, changing the form and conception of regular buildings’ design and offering people an alternative lifestyle leaving his fingerprints on major construction designs in Beirut as an innovator and trendsetter…
1- How did achieved the success story of Loft construction since 2005? What were your tools to achieve success and to reach the apex in your field?
Initially, we introduced a concept which didn’t exist in Lebanon, which is the Loft Concept, common in Europe and the USA, mostly in big cities like New York, London, and Paris etc…
The concept didn’t exist in Lebanon, where all buildings were built in a traditional manner, with closed spaces and separate rooms. The living space was separate from the dining space and from the kitchen. Apartments had low ceilings and a lot of lost space in the corridors. The idea was to start something completely different, to market big open spaces with high ceilings and a very industrial look from the inside. We resisted any type of traditional architecture and decoration. In order to achieve that goal, we had to partner with Bernard Khoury, a great architect supportive of our ideas. He understood what we wanted and designed most of our projects.
2- What makes your construction designs so unique? A word about your architects, designers, consultants, your sources of inspiration?
I owe my inspiration to the times I spent abroad in different places and to what I see in Beirut which abunds with regular square type of buildings; all looking alike (rectangular or square shaped buildings). All apartments in Beirut are almost similar, and differ only in minor details. For us, luxury starts with design (external and internal) not with the finishing only, but with the volumes we give to the client (high ceilings – huge open spaces – beautiful concrete floors, exposed pipes and ducts).
3- Who are your clients?
Mostly young people (25-40 years old) who travelled a lot and who don’t like to live in a houses resembling the ones of their grandparents, but reflecting more their youngish character and new way of life.
4- How did Loft became a signature of Luxurious elitist construction designs? Ever thought of realizing housing projects for middle and lower classes at affordable classes?
I wouldn’t say lower classes no, because the buildings are very exclusive and the designs are remarkable, with high ceilings and huge windows bays. I would say medium to high classes. Our prices are affordable for the small units. The value is affordable for such a unique design and a special apartment. The construction is expensive, every building is unique, every apartment is designed individually and none look alike. We don’t just copy/paste apartments, in terms of interior designing. When we started Loft Construction, many people didn’t believe in us and we were criticized for our ignorance of the Lebanese way of living. However, we created at the time a product for a need which already existed but was unsatisfied. Many people liked our ideas and concepts and flocked to us to buy some kind of exclusively different premises.
5- What is a typical Loft Construction project/your latest projects?
We have executed and delivered ten projects, for example, Artist Lofts which is a building where there is a car elevator , one can park his car inside his apartment, not the car one uses everyday but a vintage car or a motorbike. The building was sold out in an area not much thought of at the time , but today it is becoming Beirut’s Soho. The Factory Lofts is another project, having the shape of a ship (people call it the Titanic) 105 apartments, 80% already sold. The concept of Lofts consists in building premises outside of city centers. In New York and London, warehouses, factories, old houses at the outskirts of major cities were turned into living spaces or “Lofts” and plots of land in such areas are usually cheaper. We also have a project under construction in Soho Beirut, “Warehouse and Lofts”, consisting of small amodules 60 -90 m2 with an industrial outlook and ceilings of 5,75 meters high.
6- Your dream project/the project/s you will be proud of executing one day in Lebanon or abroad?
To find a big old factory in Lebanon or abroad and to turn it into living spaces.
7- Expected professional performance of Loft’s staff
We need engineers taking care of all technical issues in buildings, to be highly qualified, sharp and competent because the buildings we build are not traditional and we do encounter a lot of technical, mechanical, and structural problems during the execution phase. When a client buys a loft, he needs to be of an unusual, funky, untraditional character to design the interior of his home. Our own interior designers are creative persons and “out of the box”, so that the interiors reflect the external designs of our buildings. We need to differentiate ourselves from developers doing the traditional nice luxurious buildings, because we have our own definition of luxury.
8- How much do you take ecological considerations into account, are you ready to go green?
We are going Greener. For example, we don’t use boilers in our buildings for the heating anymore. We use European electrical heating systems (fully computerized, to save energy). In our new projects, we are inclined to put solar panels to heat the water. Unfortunately, when you build Green in Lebanon, you don’t receive enough governmental help and consequently our clients are obliged to pay additional costs.
9- How did the Lebanese public view and accept some of Loft designs?
Obviously, they liked our projects. There has been a very positive response to the Loft Concept, considering that they are all almost sold out.
10- How much do you try to be innovative and different from others in your field?
Extremely, as you can see. None of our buildings looks as a traditional building. They are absolutely different from the inside and the outside. We go to extremes and many people like that.
11- How do you face competitors and competition if any in your field?
We don’t really feel competition in our own niche of business. A lot of people come to us and find our prices expensive, saying they found cheaper apartments in nearby buildings. We are selling different concepts, and different ideas. You might hate it and never buy one or like it and pay premium for it or else live in a regular building, which no high ceilings and no open spaces. If they want a Loft, we are the ultimate address. Lately, the prices have been dropping due to the economic crisis and the war in Syria. We didn’t feel the pinch as much as the other developers because when people like our designs they end up buying since there is nothing comparable.
12- How much is Mark Doumet considered as a trendsetter in the Lebanese field of Construction designs?
When we started Loft, people said it will not work, but when the concept proved to be working, everyone copied us. Even regular buildings are now named Lofts though they don’t even come close to what a loft is supposed to be. In that sense, I can be considered as a trendsetter. Anyhow, I guess I am not well positioned to answer this question. I would rather let others answer it for me.
13- They used to say that late Dame Zaha Hadid was constantly pushing the boundaries of architecture and design, how much is Mark Doumet, at the head of Loft, following suit?
Who am I to be compared to Zaha Hadid!, I am not even an architect. She is one of the world’s geniuses in architecture. What she did is absolutely beautiful, I really admire her.
14- What about the expansion of Loft beyond national boundaries, in the Gulf Area? Europe?
I tried a little to expand in the Gulf States, but didn’t get a positive feedback, people there are more attracted towards the traditional style of apartments. I haven’t been yet been able to expand beyond the country. I was offered the opportunity to build regular apartments, but wasn’t interested because it doesn’t reflect my designs and own convictions. I don’t want to stain my image as a Loft builder.
15- Who is Mark Doumet the simple man standing behind the tycoon, the Achiever at the head of Loft Construction?
Just a family man. A man who never thinks about financials, when he feels fascination and passion for his business.