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Arts + CultureCultureA new home goods store highlights Palestinian creators—and benefits...

A new home goods store highlights Palestinian creators—and benefits Gaza relief efforts

Ariel Magidson and HK Elkhoudary's Senses in North Beach is creating a safe space for discussion and relief.

On a recent Sunday afternoon, Middle Eastern music floated down a quiet street in North Beach. It was emanating from Senses (414 Francisco Street), a new home goods store owned by husband-and-wife team Ariel Magidson and Hammam (HK) Elkhoudary. The music was courtesy of Elkhoudary and his friend, Volkan Eren, jamming on the tanbur—a stringed instrument that resembles a mandolin, and the kanun, a type of autoharp—as they often do on weekends since Senses opened at the end of February.  

Magidson is an interior designer and founder of Ariel Arts design studio. Thanks to Elkhoudary nagging her to make a TikTok video that went viral during the pandemic, she’s also a social media influencer (@arielarts)—and the author of the design book Your Space, Made Simple. Elkhoudary has his hands full too. He’s a general contractor (@hokbuilders) and runs a tech company focused on workforce development and construction management. 

Entering the busy couple’s serene store at 414 Francisco St. feels like stepping into the living room of friends with impeccable taste. Magidson and Elkhoudary spent two years renovating the space. An attractive seating area with a large sofa, striking wood coffee table, and a fireplace filled with plants invites people to linger with a cup of tea. Handsome midnight blue bookcases—built by Elkhoudary—stretch from floor to ceiling in a corner of the shop, displaying an assortment of treasures. The subtle but pleasing scent of incense adds to the welcoming vibe.  

Elkhoudary and friend Volkan Eren jam in Senses. Live music is a common occurrence in the shop.

As the store’s name suggests, it’s brimming with lovely, sustainable products from local and global makers that appeal to all the senses. Think dried flowers, patterned throw pillows, candles and incense, pottery, teas and a variety of artwork. You’ll also find crystals and sage to bring positive energy to your home and nurture your intuitive sixth sense.  

“We want you to smell, taste, feel, touch everything in the store,” Magidson told 48 Hills. “I firmly believe your home will feel more complete if you have something for every sense in it. You feel a little bit more cozy when you’re not missing things like a textural piece or something that has meaning to you.”

Like many a fine San Francisco love story, Magidson and Elkhoudarys’ began in a bar in the Mission. That was six years ago. The couple married last June. 

“We weren’t meant to be together,” joked Elkhoudary. Both he and Magidson noted that designers and contractors are notorious for butting heads. Magidson is a Bay Area native and Jewish; Elkhoudary is from Gaza—most of his family members still live there. 

Senses’ distinctive blue bookshelves, made by Elkhoudary

When Israel invaded in October, he fell into shocked despair for several months, unable to think about anything but his family and the tragedy unfolding in Palestine. 

“People were really supportive. At work, they were nice about giving me extensions on jobs,” he said. “But we were like, ‘let’s open this store so people can make an impact with their shopping.’”

Creating a place where customers can buy beautiful pieces to enhance their home, while simultaneously making a positive difference in the world, was always a priority for Magidson. Senses features artisans from the Bay Area and other parts of California, along with sustainable, globally-sourced products from countries like Kenya and Uganda. 

 “The goal is to be low-impact to the environment, high-impact to small economies and small communities of people,” she said. 

That mission became even more important with the onset of the Israeli-Gaza war. To support both local Palestinians and those still living in the country, she continues to add more Palestinian-made products to Sense’s inventory. Proceeds from sales of these items are being donated to UNICEF and other organizations providing emergency relief to Gaza.

Andalus candles are among the many products you can buy at Senses to support Palestine.

“We have Palestinian creators based in the Bay Area making candles and incense and other things,” explained Magidson. “We also have creators throughout the West Bank, including women refugees. We even have Palestinian people in Jordan making stuff for us.”

Magidson said customers like knowing they can help Palestinians when they buy soap, olive oil, spices or other products at Senses. Such purchases can also be educational. Buying a candle that says, “Free Palestine,” as a gift, for example, might open the door for a conversation about the devastating situation in the Middle East. 

“It’s been great seeing people show support,” added Elkhoudary. “We’ve had overwhelmingly positive interactions with folks here, both from the neighborhood and the Bay Area at large. And we’ve accidentally created this safe space where people can come in and cry and talk and laugh.”

The couple is also passionate about making sustainable, functional design available to everyone, regardless of their budget. While the pandemic spurred Magidson to leave her job as a designer for a commercial real estate company and start Ariel Arts, she was already frustrated by the high cost of design services. 

Sustainably made dishes, vases, pottery, baskets, and more at Senses

“I think everybody should have a home that they love and that they want to be in,” she said. 

“However they get there, that’s their own journey. But we want to help people get there. ” 

To do that, she provides design hacks, how-tos and tutorials on Instagram and in her book. In addition, she and Elkhoudary team up to offer clients holistic renovation services, whether they’re redoing a kitchen or a whole house.  

Soon, Senses will also start hosting a variety of special events, including reiki, grief circles, yoga and somatic healing. More info here.

48 Hills welcomes comments in the form of letters to the editor, which you can submit here. We also invite you to join the conversation on our FacebookTwitter, and Instagram

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