Like it or not, we’re living in a Wes Anderson world; from fashion trends to instagram fads to interiors, the director’s aesthetic has well and truly taken over. And if you want to make it your business to know the names of the movers & shakers behind our current generation’s design movement, you should probably get to know this one: India Mahdavi. Somewhere in between a Stanley Kubrick Space Odyssey and a Rococo painting, Mahdavi’s work has become as recognisable as Philippe Starck’s in the 2000’s or Dorothy Draper’s in the 50s. The Egyptian/ Iranian designer has been nicknamed, “The Queen of Colour”, while she calls her “Pop Orientalism”. We can’t live in India Mahdavi’s brain, so we’ll just settle for the next best thing: her interiors.
India went to high school in Paris, and says she managed to watch on average 3 films a day at her local cinema. She was born in Iran, moved to the United States as a young girl, later Germany and, finally, France as a teenager. But there’s one place where her mind took up permanent residence: an imaginary country called Palapimosak, she told Lauren Collins for The New Yorker, where her fantasies could run wild.
While the Wes Anderson reference is an easy one to use in a conversation about India Mahdavi, there’s one that interests us even more– “Pop Orientalism”– a term the Terhan-born designer has attributed to her style. It evokes the memories of pre-revolutionary Iran, the bold colours of Yves Saint Laurent’s Morocco or groovy Afghanistan, when it used to be the favourite hippie stop on the Silk Road. Mahdavi’s nostalgic decor brings to mind one Middle Eastern location in particular, a time capsule hotel in Morocco we once came across during our internet travels:
The 70s era Hôtel Firdaous, Rabat located on the Plage des Nations is currently closed as far as we can tell, its last reviews detailing the fabulous vintage decor in 2012. While the building still stands, (likely suffering from neglect), one architectural firm appears to have plans to give it rather bland 21st century makeover.
And while design time capsules like Hôtel Firdaous are fast-disappearing, we’re just glad there are designers like India Mahdavi willing to recreate them for us. She’s been commissioned to work for the hippest hotels, luxury brands, and restaurants, hotels– drawing inspiration not just from American kitsch decor of the 1960s and 70s, but also the bold aesthetic of her Middle Eastern roots.
Her most famous work to date is probably “The Gallery” restaurant at Sketch in London, which sought out Mahdavi to create a space that would also highlight the drawings and ceramics of artist David Shrigley. The pretty pink shade that blankets the space took Mahdavi months to perfect she told The New Yorker. Her coveted pink velvet “Charlotte” chairs and sofas are now available to bring home at the Ralph Pucci showrooms in New York, Miami and Los Angeles.
And if you’re curious to see what happens when Mahdavi lets loose for an installation that’s, well, pretty much an artistic folly, check out her homage to French painter Henry Rousseau:
Hunt down her interiors on her site, or visit her showroom in Paris at 3 Rue las Cases, 75007. And if you’re feeling inspired to revamp your home with a few vintage, Mahdavian-y touches, one of her favourite Parisian meccas for shopping is also beloved by the MessyNessy team…