Laguna Niguel resident Mondher El Ouaer wanted to support the Berber artisans of his home country of Tunisia who craft handmade products. In December 2019, he opened Lemdeena Home, a home decor boutique at The Shops at Mission Viejo. “The whole purpose of (my store) is to show the American people what Tunisian (artisans) can create,” El Ouaer says.
How did you start Lemdeena Home?
I had a pop-up at Pacific City in Huntington Beach in 2018 for about nine months. I got the opportunity at the Mission Viejo mall, and we opened in 2019. I found out it would be easier for me because it’s a bigger place and you have the right potential clients from Newport Beach, Laguna, San Clemente—it’s a great position. Lemdeena means “the city” in Tunisian. When we say “Let’s go to lemdeena,” it means where everything is happening—all the good food, all the good design; we go and we hang out there. That’s where you see all the tourists shopping and getting gifts.
Can you share a little about Tunisia?
Tunisia is really a great place to go visit. It’s a small country; we’re all the way at the top of North Africa, miles away from Italy. It’s a very safe place to visit, it’s not too expensive, and there are amazing designers and architects there. My goal is to stay in business by just supporting the artisans and handcrafted (pieces).
How did you find the artists for your store?
Because I’m from Tunisia, it was easy for me to find the right location without contacting anybody else. There’s a Berber village in Tunisia where they make handmade pottery, so I started selling their pottery, and then I (expanded to) hanging pendants, which are made from palm leaves. For the pottery, I have a family of around 15 women, and then for the pendants, I have almost the whole village, so about four or five families. I’m supporting more than 60 people.
What types of products do you sell?
Everything in my store is handmade, everything. I’m focusing a lot on and really promoting the handcrafted pieces from Tunisia because people don’t know about Tunisia—they only know about Morocco, but we’re all the same Berber community. I started with towels, textiles, and Turkish towels. I sell items with a Tunisian, Moroccan, and North African look—so like the minimalist, Mediterranean, boho style.
What types of items can be custom-designed?
We can custom-make pendants ($300 to $3,000) any size—I just made a 7-foot-long pendant for a client. My mom works overseas there; I give her the order, and she goes over to the island in Tunisia (where the pendants are made). We do custom rugs ($1,000 to $4,000), and we custom-make live-edge dining tables and coffee tables ($2,500 to $8,000) in redwood, walnut, and maple.