Beyt, located at Palo Alto's Town & Country Village shopping center, designs and builds a range of home decor items out of salvage recovered from the aftermath of civil war in Lebanon.
ART FROM RUBBLE ... It may sound unlikely, but salvage recovered from the aftermath of civil war in Lebanon is being transformed into home decor. "Every single piece we get from Lebanon, we cherish it and we turn it into beauty," said Raja Moubarak, who opened a small shop last month in Palo Alto's Town & Country Village. "It's all a part of history." His 800-square-foot space has an eclectic variety of lamps, jewelry, tables, mirrors and pillows. Moubarak, who is half Lebanese and half French, grew up in Beirut. He and his wife, Benedicte de Blavous Moubarak, co-founded the store, Beyt, which sells the one-of-a-kind items -- all of which were originally conflict-zone salvage. Each item comes with its own unique history. Pointing to the ornate wrought-iron base of a lamp, Moubarak said, "That came from an 18th-century balcony railing. We're preserving architectural history." But Beyt is much more than just a retail store, said Moubarak. It's also a social enterprise. "We're hoping to build bridges, not walls, and to promote understanding at a grass root level between Middle Easterners and Americans," he said. Even the name of the store, "Beyt," means "home" in both Hebrew and Arabic. The Palo Alto shop is the couple's second location. The first is in Cambridge, Massachusetts. "I'm going back and forth all the time," Moubarak said. "We have a workshop there where the rescued salvage is turned into works of art." In addition to transforming salvaged materials, he said, Beyt aims to transform lives. "All our workers are disabled and we train them," he explained. "We provide dignified employment to people who have no access to the job market." Moubarak spoke of a woman he employs who makes lampshades. "She used to be homeless and a drug addict. She didn't even know how to use a ruler. But we trained her for two years in the art of lampshade making." If Beyt catches on in Palo Alto, Moubarak plans to open another workshop on the Peninsula. He recognizes that Beyt occupies a niche market. "We're competing with big box retailers who buy their things from China," he said. "We understand we appeal to a small group of customers. The way we compete is that we have a strong emotional attachment to everything we sell. Our mission is to restore the unseen beauty of the broken."
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