The Bubbles chandelier was originally designed for a coffee shop in Saudi Arabia. The design took inspiration from the droplets of coffee that bubble through the filter in the brewing process. Many custom options are possible, and each piece is made to order. 

Nader Gammas 


o a layperson, a light from Nader Gammas   is an artistic object, designed to bring beauty and function to a space. Gammas, however, sees a narrative. His lighting does not necessarily have a “beginning, middle, or end” like a story, he says. “But first I start with this one element, then this other idea is introduced, and then that starts to affect the design. That’s why I think of it as a narrative more than a one-liner concept.” In his work, concepts and materials build upon each other and set new limitations, naturalizing the next step in his creative process until a richly layered, unique fixture emerges. Like a writer building a plot, each line added shapes the next.

Educated at Parsons in New York and the University of Jordan, Gammas has experimented with a range of creative fields, including graphic design, writing, and photography. He brings the lessons of each discipline to his lighting design practice. Taking inspiration from avant-garde jewelry makers and collaborating with clients to customize his work, he offers innovative pieces that challenge any restrictive notions of what lighting should look like.

To understand how he approaches a project, we explore how he developed his original Bubbles chandelier, step by step.

Bringing the Bubbles chandelier to life 

Left: A close-up of the Bubbles chandelier. Right: The Bubbles Wall sconce, a recent addition to the Bubbles collection.

The Bubbles chandelier stands out as a prominent element of the AD 2020 Hospitality Design Award winning Elixir Bunn coffee shop in Riyadh. When Gammas was first commissioned for the project, he sketched three “generic, uninteresting” designs, before reaching out to the owner for more information about who he was and what motivated him. Through conversation, he learned that the owner would travel out to the villages where the coffee is harvested and sit down on mats with the workers. Gammas tried to conceptualize coffee as a natural resource that is transformed into an integral, consumable component of the global economy. As ground coffee is brewed with near-boiling water, the liquid trickles out into a carafe. “The first sight of it is that drip, that goo, that oozing of an extracted product,” he says. “That became these amorphous bubbles that are suspended from the bottom in my chandelier.”

In referencing the shop owner’s craft in the look of the light bulbs, he had found his starting point for the overall design of the Bubbles chandelier. He sketched out the bubbles and developed Photoshop renderings. “I’m looking at references of what those pieces could be,” he says of that point in his process. “Is it something that’s jagged or clean? Are the bubbles cylinders, or are they one massive blob?” The light could follow any of these paths.

This past year, Gammas produced the Bubbles Curved, a new iteration of the popular design with sloping edges.

The manufacturing process imposed new boundaries and cut away at implausible directions, as the light began to direct its own journey. “You give life to these characters, and now they start to take control,” he says. Gammas explored different materials for the fixture and decided against glass for the base, as glass is fragile and needs to be cleaned often, which would not be practical for a retail environment. However, he wanted to use glass for the bulbs, and contacted the only glassblowing manufacturer in the United Arab Emirates, where he is based half the time. The glassblower was unavailable, so the fabricator offered to “slump” the glass instead. Instead of forming the glass into a predetermined shape, they created a mold and let the glass melt on its own. “We got these really cool results,” he says. “I was surprised that it worked.” 

Then, he needed to choose how to incorporate the bulbs into a fixture. He found a French furniture maker, Hubert Le Gall, who had created a stainless storage unit with convex, Macassar ebony cut-outs, and he was inspired to try placing the bubbles as a protrusion from the base, in a way that would look natural to the fixture. After he contracted local metalworkers to build out the design, the first prototype of the Bubbles chandelier was born.

Sculpture & Jewelry as Narrative Inspiration 

Top: Gammas designed the Fin Chandelier for a villa in Dubai. Because of low ceilings, he determined that the fixture should be low profile, measuring only about five or six inches in height. He ultimately chose a starburst style for the fixture and played with reflectors to focus the light where it was needed. Bottom, left: A close-up of the Fin Chandelier. Reflectors minimize any excess light. Bottom, right:  
The first product Gammas designed for his namesake brand was the Tower Lamp. The lamp debuted at Art Dubai in 2017.
To create the radial spread of the Fin, he looked to the design of the lamp, which also featured a central hub and a radial spread. 

For Gammas, ideas tend come from sculpture and jewelry designers, as opposed to other lighting manufacturers. This process allows him to reimagine what a lighting fixture can look like. One common design, the single-arm chandelier, has become an archetype in the lighting world, with other kinds of chandeliers measured against the standard it has set, he suggests. However, the single-arm chandelier was created through “layers of history and discovery” over time, as creators refined its different aspects, until this modern concept of a chandelier was defined. Yet, “there could be other ways to do it,” he says. There is no rule that for a chandelier to be a chandelier, it must reference the single-arm model. Rather, fixtures are potentially more visually interesting when their creators imagine that they are designing a chandelier for the first time.

To help him think outside the box, he consults other practices that thrive on innovative aesthetics. “I need to look at a medium that knows no bounds,” he says. Avant-garde jewelry inspires him when it takes unusual materials and shapes them into wearable art. He often consults a book on brooches called New Brooches: 400+ Contemporary Jewelry Designs (Promopress 2018), in which various pins are crafted from ceramics, metal, and cardboard, and Flora: The Art of Jewelry (Thames & Hudson 2017). “There’s so much more that we could be doing instead of putting a glowing sphere at the end of a tube,” he says.

Top: The Wind chandelier. Gammas came up with the idea for the chandelier after contemplating a wind tower in Dubai. One of the city’s most well-known design shops, Nakkash Gallery, featured the Wind in a 2018 showcase held during Dubai Design Week. Bottom, left: The Wind Tall. Bottom, right: The Wind Wall.

No matter the course his narrative takes, each product has to perform well within the constraints of the space. He is careful to position the bulbs within the fixture to create the lighting effect he wants, from an up-light effect (as shown in the Wind Tall) or a down-light glow. With the Bubbles Chandelier, he arranged the bulbs to create a soft, glowing effect that would light the surface of the table below. As he creates each fixture, he questions, “How can I place the bulbs in a way that doesn’t disrupt the visuals of the fixture but meets the needs of the space?” Function is just as important as visual merit. “A chair needs to be comfortable,” he says. “If it’s not, it doesn’t work. It’s the same rationale with lighting. It becomes tethered to the space that it’s in.”

In his products like the Bubble Chandelier, inspiration, reference, function, and craft coalesce to create a narrative that couldn’t be told by anyone else.