As an international interiors, furniture and objects designer, India’s work is influenced by memories of her nomadic life. Each of her projects, be it a bar, restaurant, hotel, private residence or a piece of furniture, carries in it elements that are modern yet familiar. Her style is by turns playful, sexy and chic, and she’s not afraid to let her femininity come through in her work.
Biography: the woman before the myth
India Mahdavi was born in 1962 in Tehran, Iran. Raised by a Persian father and Egyptian-English mother, Mahdavi lived in Iran for the first year and a half of her life, then spent the rest of her childhood traveling with her parents, living in the U.S., Germany, and France. This culturally diverse lifestyle is reflected in her inspired, eclectic designs, which range from homes, hotels, and commercial spaces to airplane interiors and furniture.
Mahdavi studied architecture at the École des Beaux Arts in Paris between 1980 and 1986. She earned her Architect Diploma DPLG in 1987. In 1989, she spent a year in New York, studying graphic design at the School of Visual Arts, furniture design at Parsons, and industrial design at the Cooper Union. She then returned to Paris and joined Christian Liaigre’s design studio as Art Director, where she remained for seven years. Mahdavi’s company, imh interiors, was founded in 1999, with the designer subsequently opening her own showroom in Paris in 2003. The following year, Salon Maison & Objet elected her Designer of the Year. Mahdavi lives and works in Paris.
When asked about her origins she replied: “I didn’t grow up in Egypt. And my family left Iran when I was one-and-a-half. I’ve lived in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Germany, New York, Paris, and the south of France. When I had my son, I suddenly felt uncomfortable because I had all of this cultural heritage within me that I didn’t know much about. For example, I don’t speak Arabic.”
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Mahdavi’s work is minimal yet playful, and characterized by a combination of humor, elegance, and sensuality. Notable projects include the Hotel du Cloitre in Arles, Coburg Bar at London’s Connaught Hotel, Monte Carlo Beach in Monaco, Rivington Hotel in Manhattan, and Townhouse Hotel in Miami. She has collaborated with names like Ralph Pucci, Jonathan Morr, Ian Schrager, Givenchy, and Louis Vuitton.
Curves, from languorous to hairpin, define the creative world of India Mahdavi. Based in Paris, the Iranian-born designer takes wood, ceramic, metal, and lacquer and combines them into playful, captivating interiors. Mahdavi’s latest public spaces include the Café Français brasserie in Paris (podlike seating in red and blue; acres of bronze-tone mirror) and Le Cloître hotel in Arles (baroque mosaic floors; off-kilter palettes of peacock-blue, moss-green, and saffron). Pop Art liveliness infuses her lighting and furniture designs, among them her signature Bishop stool/low table, which resembles a chess piece writ large. These and other delectables can be found at her Paris showroom, while her thoughts on living well are laid out in her recent book, Home Chic (Flammarion).
- The Most Iconic Projects
Designed exclusively for the Carwan Gallery, the Landscape Series is made up of colorful tables and vases inspired by Iznik tiles, ceramic tiles that are a 16th century Ottoman tradition. Designed by India Mahdavi, the series came about from research into the Ottoman style of making quartz tiles which led to a new way of constructing tables. The entire collection carries a unique reflective shine thanks to the tiles made in custom colors solely for this project by the Iznik Foundation.
The Landscape Vases were inspired by urban and graphic landscapes that can live indoors. They can be used together or separately, and come with/without a pure gold interior coating.
Funny Facts about India Mahdavi
India grew up wanting to be a filmmaker; therefore, it’s not surprising that her interiors have a dramatic, almost theatrical quality to them. In her mind, a space is a three-dimensional story waiting to be told. She admires the work of Stanley Kubrick and Federico Fellini. Her hero is James Bond. When asked why she replied: “James Bond is a happy, positive character. He’s sexy, and it always puts me in a good mood when I see him. I think one has to remember to think about what’s sexy in life. I’m not talking about sex so much as a bit of glam, a bit of fun. I try to incorporate that feeling into all my projects. APT has that freshness if it were grander, APT would be very Bondian.”
When asked about what influeces her the most :
“ I don’t really have any [influences]. What influences me has more to do with a way of seeing things, a way of being …”
Opinion about her studies :
“ I had the worst time of my life in architecture school. I was completely turned off by it. However, at that time I was very interested in designing film sets. So for my thesis I made a 16mm black-and-white movie, which was very well received. Afterwards I went to work in an architecture firm. But I just knew that wasn’t going to do it for me. People who build should have a sense of environment, and a lot of the architecture studios in Paris are really gloomy. I didn’t like the way of life, nor the pretentious people who worked there. So I decided to go to New York and it was fantastic. “
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Inspirational quotes by India Mahdavi
“I’m trying to give the house I’m doing a modern feeling by rethinking the use of space. In Egypt, the kitchen is traditionally separate from the living areas. Today, in Paris or New York, everything happens around the kitchen it’s often the heart of the house. So I’m integrating that idea in a very different setting.”
“Style is just being clever with space, clever with color, clever with ambiance. Style can create a very good feel. In Miami the budget was kind of tight, so everything we did was very, very basic. If you look at the furniture in Townhouse, the pieces are almost not designed they’re volumes that have proportions. For me, that has nothing to do with design that’s all about style.”
“ It’s always difficult to arrive at that balance and leave enough space for people to use their own imaginations.”
Talent is a heritage
Mahdavi is the author of Home Chic, a guidebook to interior style co-written with journalist Soline Delos and published in 2012.
Having had enough of being asked about endless home design tips at her dinner parties, has created a book that will ensure her peace at the next one she hosts. Although bold enough for the coffee table, Home Chic is more of a guidebook than an accessory. Practical, despite the beautiful illustrations and its very personal tone, the book contains a selection of pointers on how to understand space rather than simply decorating it.
Published by Groupe Flammarion, the book is divided into two main sections: the home guide and the designer’s top design venues across the world. The last section, Mahdavi’s ‘City Guide’, takes the reader from Beirut to Siwa, via Mumbai, Cape Town, and Los Angeles, and reinforces Mahdavi’s international design fabric. The attractive publication has a flexible gold cover, a buttercup yellow inside cover, and carefully chosen eye-popping pictures that perfectly capture Mahdavi unusual flair.
The pages inside reveal some of the designer’s most iconic work, including Parisian projects such as the bedrooms at the Hôtel Thoumieux and the ‘venus and mars’ leather studded walls at the Paradisio cinema, as well as her collaborations with Elle magazine and IKEA. However, the book also takes us right to the heart of Mahdavi’s home, and showcases examples of golden interior design rules, like how to best use a chaise longue to add interest to a room, tips on dressing tables and how to choose kitchen seating where examples such as the designer’s mismatched Osso chairs or Friso Kamer are shown. The book also contains a selection of very easy home decoration tips that don’t require knocking down walls or camouflaging tiling. Other great tips include how to assemble a wall of photos in frames so that it isn’t overwhelming to the eye, and how to turn bric-à-brac into an arty bohemian area of interest.
Rather than being a DIY handbook, Home Chic is a guide; India Mahdavi gives the reader specific things to look out for, like keeping strong colours contained in small spaces and sticking to objects and furniture sourced from no more than three different decades. Lots of the tips in the book are illustrated by images of some of the interior designer’s most successful spaces, showcased by the various private residences she has worked on as well as more high-profile spaces like the Coburg bar at the Connaught Hotel in London and Café Germain (Thierry Costes) in Paris. Here, she advises on combining diverse styles, periods, fabrics, and materials around a common theme – the golden rule for achieving that signature Mahdavi touch.
Home Chic is akin to being able to peek through a door left ajar into Mahdavi’s private design realm, letting us finally peer into the secret behind the harmony of a style that should be busy and frenetic. Neatly packaged in this beautifully-illustrated manual, here at last, are the true golden rules of comfortable contemporary design.
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