Musée Henry is a splendid house museum created by Henry Loussian, a painter, designer, and antique collector with a passion for Beirut heritage houses, and a personal mission to save the beauty of that past so it will never be forgotten.
Loussian took it upon himself to salvage antique pieces, furniture, photographs, accessories, and even architectural items from heritage homes that were being prepared for demolition.
He did so for 14 years, going through over 100 Beirut’s homes that were about to totally disappear from existence along with their beauty.
With all that he gathered and compiled for over a decade, he built an impressive house, replicating Beirut’s traditional homes, in architecture and decoration, in the town of Koubba, in the Batroun district.
Everything inside that place is original, even the ceilings, the stone door frames, the beds, and the linen.
Walking through the museum is like being transported to the glorious past of the Beirutis’ family lifestyle and their exquisite taste for aesthetics, from simple to elaborate, while preserving the homey feeling all around.
One can admire imposing large antique mirrors, some vintage Louis Vuitton travel tanks, which belonged to his grandmother, beautiful antique chandeliers, some of which are quite impressive, and even bed linen that speaks of the fine taste of the Beirutis back then for delicate yet comfy.
Flowers and plants in original vases are set right where they would have been in Beirut’s homes decades ago, as well as coffee sitting areas where the lady of the house would have her sobhie with a neighbor basked in the morning light pouring in from the arched windows.
The house is a trove of original treasures that delight the eyes, catch you in awe at every turn, and fill your heart with warmth and nostalgia.
This is not a typical museum where objects and artifacts are displayed in a cold systematic manner with no human touch.
This is a welcoming home as a Lebanese housewife will set up and decorate to house the family and receive guests warmly. It is the feeling the place immerses you in as you easily envision past Beirutis when you enter its rooms, walk its corridors, and step out into the terrace.
Even the architectural plan of a traditional Beirut’s house has been retained: a big central living room, high ceilings with painted panels, arched windows bringing in light and fresh breeze, tiled and marble floors, and of course the ample terrace and the arches.
However, the house is not exactly made like a traditional Beirut house when it comes to the number of arched windows. A Beirut’s heritage house would have about 22. In his love for arches, Henry made his with 77 arched windows!
The museum was Henry’s response to the rapid loss of the historical identity of Beirut post-war years.
In order to be able to acquire contents from these houses that were about to be erased, he offered those tasked to prepare them for demolition to buy heritage objects in exchange for them allowing him to enter the houses and document them.
In his words, “100 houses gone from Beirut will not be forgotten!”
However, Henry isn’t done yet. He is not stopping at the achievement of his museum in Koubba.
He has continued collecting items from heritage houses, including old photographs, and has already compiled enough to create two more similar museums and he’s eyeing the park of Horsh Beirut as their location.
Beirut today is still full of beautiful heritage homes but Henry believes that “we never experience them,” In that, he reminds us, Lebanese, of the importance to fully appreciate what we have of heritage and “live” them and cherish them.
Musée Henry has been such a splendid hit it’s being thought to photoshoot fashion designer collections and for wedding photos. It definitely constitutes a glorious setting like no other.
The museum is absolutely a must-visit. It is located on Saki Street, in Koubba, Batroun district. It is open to the public from Thursday to Sunday at 11 AM and until 7 PM, for a 30,000 L.L. entrance fee.