Frank Lloyd Wright’s career was underpinned by the principles of ‘organic architecture’. Among them was the desire to create buildings that existed in harmony with their surroundings, using natural colours and safeguarding the integrity of chosen materials; or as Professor Kimberly Elman Zarecor puts it: ‘you don’t twist steel into a flower.’ It’s no surprise that he gave his seal of approval to Villa Sebastian in Hammamet, Tunisia, calling it ‘the most beautiful house he knew of.’

In the 1920s, Hammamet was a fashionable location amongst the elite, who were drawn to the area for its unspoilt scenery, simple square white houses set against a clear blue sky, Mediterranean climate, local produce and handcrafts. Today, the villa, now known as the International Cultural Centre, is used for galleries and receptions and is one of Hammamet’s most popular attractions.

And it makes the villa the perfect location for Gokalp Hamurcu, a young Turkish photographer based in Paris, to capture the work of Cinq étoiles, or Five Star, a Tunisian company established to promote and distribute local handicrafts. Cinq étoiles is a company that, on a small scale, adheres to the same principles as Frank Lloyd Wright almost instinctively. Take their ‘foutas’: these multi-functional cloths adapt to their surroundings beautifully. Originally used as towels in the hammams (steam rooms) of Tunisia they transcended this original purpose to become elegant lifestyle accessories – bath towel, beach sarong, tablecloth or throw.

Faiza Khaled, founder of the company, lends a master hand and an eye to the aesthetics of all the products. Whether wood, linen, wool, cotton, ceramics, glass or willow, collections are born of an alliance between traditional skill and a response to the needs of contemporary life.

To read this article in its entirety, order your copy of Selvedge issue 58 here.

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