Located atop a private mansion in Paris, the new showroom of Iranian-French designer Maryam Mahdavi offsets boldness with lightness and glamour.
She is nicknamed by her peers as the Marie-Antoinette of interior design. Maryam Mahdavi knows how to make people dream, infusing a free, joyful spirit and her surety in tastes and choices into decor. Her “royal eagle’s nest,” as she likes to call her space, embodies her gentle madness, her voluble imagination, her rock and rebel spirit, and bourgeois codes showcased with heterogeneous tones, textures, materials, objects, and furniture. This new place where she receives her clients tells stories that delve into the cinema of the 1950s, the wild parties of Studio 54, haute couture shows, and the history of the shahs of Iran.
Centuries-old, vertical wooden beams delimit the open rooms and recall the bower of a forest. Funky and provocative at the same time, Mahdavi takes the liberty of inscribing on the walls and skylights the color references of the Ressource paints she has chosen. Saffron yellow, swimming pool blue, forest green, or candy pink unfold a sensitive mix-and-match. In their wake, the burlap and silk of the curtains are superimposed like a ball gown. Drawings of birds, flowers, pomegranates, rivers, and the Ananbô panoramas evoke distant landscapes or Persian gardens, helping visitors forget the hectic city life. Here, the border between dream and reality is blurred.
In the entrance hall, a graphic black-and-white carpet in wool and silk from Codimat grounds a chair inspired by Jean Prouvé covered with a multicolored woolen camel outfit. Nearby, a superimposition of wooden offering boxes from Persia dating from the end of the 19th century stand tall. Moving into the dining area, antique linen tablecloths and napkins dyed fuchsia, pistachio, or canary lie amid mismatched crockery found in Isle-sur-la-Sorgue. A wink to the sacred, chalices and church statuettes give a spiritual and offbeat mood to the wooden architect’s table she designed. A string of copper lions, “A nod to my zodiac sign,” she offers, and a tomato red floor lamp found at Paul Bert Serpette watch over the kitchen, which is full of silverware and antique objects that interact with two wooden 1950 chairs found at the Vanves flea market. A flamboyant wall tapestry from the 1950s overhangs a glass sideboard from the 80s, on which are placed a Vallauris ashtray and a bamboo lamp enhanced with panache by a raffia shade. “To me, it recalls the shape of Audrey Hepburn’s hat in Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” comments the designer.
The bedroom – “I call it ‘Paradise of the Jealous,’” says Mahdavi – is also dreamlike. Evoking the sun, travel, and chinoiseries, the yellow printed Dedar Paris Collection cotton curtains are used to hide the storage spaces and blend in with the wallpaper of the same color filled with birds by Cole & Son. At the foot of the bed, a saffron wool blanket from Tangier flirts with an antique red-and-black checked fabric bought in Istanbul. An industrial floor lamp and a stool from the 1950s is turned into a bedside table with a Maison Jansen bronze birdie lamp from the 1980s watching from above.
As if one were entering a forest, the walls of the bathroom are covered with a lush panorama. The floor and skylight are painted in soft green, while the celadon sink suggests spring. The vegetal hue of the chair and the bird motifs of the Napoleon III-style chaise evoke nature. The 18thcentury walnut dressing table and the fir ceramic lamp found at Paul Bert Serpette hold meetings in a corner. The lounge area, meanwhile, features a window dressed in a jute fabric worked with braids from Houlès Paris and topped with silk fabric roses. Made to measure by Codimat, a cheetah-printed woolen rug hemmed with a floral frieze (Madeleine Castaing archives) accommodates an imposing antique trunk serving as a coffee table. Rare sofas in Maison Jansen original silk velvet from the 1980s were bought at Drouot.
Mahdavi was born in Tehran to a diplomat father and a mother who loved to party from LA to Crans-Montana, via London, and Rome. Her childhood in perpetual transit saw her develop her own way of signing “luxury nomad” projects. “My interiors are also films in which the occupants feel like stars and imagine themselves in the middle of a scene from Paolo Sorrentino’s La grande bellezza or Blake Edwards’ The Party,” she says enthusiastically. Mahdavi has collaborated with Chanel, David Hicks, and most recently Ikea on the design of a voluptuous, modern-day boudoir.
Nods to her Persian origins can be seen throughout. A picture of a shah of Iran is near a gilded floor lamp. A romantic metal chair sits by an old garden console with 18th-century porcelain figurines. Large wooden rosaries from the past serve as furniture jewelry. “They invite themselves onto an ancient painting that depicts a member of the Kadjar dynasty; he seems to be protecting the place,” says Mahdavi. On a trolley from the 1980s, Christofle silverware, a brass mirror, and a lamp found in Isle-sur-la-Sorgue border a vintage chocolate chair and its leopard velvet cushion. Accompanied by a magazine holder and its drop-shaped opaline glass shade, the 18th-century chair upholstered in zebra-patterned Rubelli silk velvet and a red braid punched with gold becomes eclectic and rock-and-roll – just like everything its owner touches.
Originally published in the Spring/Summer 2023 issue of Vogue Living Arabia