Inside the home of Alidad
How do the creators of the homes of the rich and famous choose to decorate when free of their clients? The FT’s Alexander Gilmour visits the home of influential interior designer Alidad to find out.
Filmed by Steve Ager. Produced and edited by Josh de la Mare.
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Like [INAUDIBLE], the designer Alidad is so known within his field that he can afford to go by only one name. His style is a blend of East and West. His clients are Russian oligarchs and royalty. In the first of a new series, the FT looks inside the private homes of some of the world's top designers to see just how they do it.
How does this represent, not just Alidad, the great designer, but Alidad the man.
Well, I can tell you first, that Alidad has had terrible problems creating this. Because working for myself, I find it very difficult because you have so many choices, and you're always under pressure because you're supposed to be whatever. And people are going to expect whatever. So it makes life difficult. So I've got to go beyond that somehow and go into the nitty-gritty of what sort of person I am and how I want to live. Most of us know that if we are a sort of blue person or we are a yellow and red person.
You are a yellow person?
I'm a sort of a warm-colored sort of person. I need warmth, especially in this country. I always say to all my clients, let's create a sunny room.
The Alidad aesthetic is famous for blending East and West, The Rock, neoclassical, Hollywood glamour-- is that reflected in this room?
I'm a traveller, you know. My childhood was in Iran, and then I went to Switzerland, then I came here. So I see myself as a traveller and a traveller who's collected things and is collecting things nonstop. There is a 17th century Brussels Flemish tapestry, which I absolutely love. I love textiles and what they do to a room. And then opposite here, that mirror, for example, and the painting above it is completely different. This is a '30s costume design. And the mirror is a mid-century mirror.
You just see that they work together or--
It's a process of not being too worried about things. It's a process of not being a purist.
Does there come a point when you think, OK, enough. Any more and it will be an assault on my senses and I will feel uncomfortable in this room.
Very good question because this is at the back of my mind continuously. And with a lot of rooms I didn't go all the way, but I go a lot further than most people might do. If you're lucky enough to have a room that you can turn into a red room or a green room or a dark room, which is what I call, like, a warm like room, that would be absolutely fantastic. This is the sort of room that I was talking about by that sort of warm-like room. That for me, is very important.
Why is it important?
Because we all have very stressful lives, and you need to have a room where you can just sort of let go. You can sit down. The chairs are quite comfortable. They feel good because they're all covered in velvets and all sorts of things.
And the red? The red is important?
And the red, I think, has got this sort of effect of relaxing one, especially in a situation like you when it is dark.
It feels also a room full of secrets. Can you show me some of them? What would we have here, for example.
That's, again, these are things from my past. And this is actually a small watercolour at the Topkapi palace in Istanbul. And I had it copied it, but then aged quite drastically, so I've had valuations from sort of some grand auction houses, some sort of catalogue, is it 19th century? But what I did was--
But it's a fake? Well, it is a--
It's a copy.
We can call it a fake. It's a sympathetic fake. And in order to make it even more obvious, I've put my face somewhere in the crowd to sort of say, in the end, if you really thought it was 19th century, it isn't. So aesthetic is just [INAUDIBLE].
Can I guess which one is you? Where is the great Alidad? Is it here?
Yeah. You've got it. It's quite obvious, but most people don't see it.
I feel very comfortable in here. But I can imagine that there might be certain days when I'm feeling stressed, I may find that the ceiling, the walls, is may be too much, it may be oppressive.
Does that ever happen to you?
Well, you got to the yellow room. That's why I've got the yellow room. This room is the very first room I've ever done in my life. I was still at Sotheby's. And I was beginning to think I'm more interested in interior design. But I had no idea what interior design was. But I wanted the room sort of like this. And I missed my chance, you know, as life-- the way life brings the right people at the right time. Somebody came into my life so that I met an artist. And he came up with this pattern.
And culturally, where did this come from?
This is-- he's taken it from four or five different places in Iran. And this is the room that launched me in a way because all the press went for me. Because everything was chintzy and [INAUDIBLE] and this and that, and then suddenly this.
You've talked about this being a womb-like space, but also a reflection of your masculine taste. Can you define what masculine taste is?
Well, masculine taste is-- masculine taste, let me just think about it.
I suppose masculine taste is a much stronger taste. The furniture is quite strong. The colours are quite strong.
But it was instinctive. It was entirely instinctive.
Absolutely. I wasn't aware of it. But over the years, I've realised that OK. This is one side of me. But I can do very, very feminine, pinky, whatever room as well, if I want to.
I'm fascinated by this. Is this-- have you just left your dressing gown here?
Well, you could say that. But it's basically nothing. It's rubbish. But I kind of like the pattern and the colours. And I bought it, I think, in Beirut or something and brought it back like I do with a lot of things. And then they go into a cupboard. And this one I though, Oh, god. I'm not going to put in a cupboard. But you're going to see it.
But you wear it?
No. Not really. But sometimes people who come here wear it.
And it always belongs here?
Well, the first time I sort of didn't know what to do with it. I put it up there, and it's been there for years. So--
You can't shut the door.
You can't shut the door. I don't need to shut that door. None of these doors shut. I don't mind.
So we're in the dining room. Tell me about it.
There are certain rooms in a house, that if you're lucky enough to have them, you can go slightly over the top with them. So dining rooms are one of those rooms that, quite often, a dining room doesn't get used during the day. It gets used mainly at night, so you can make them, quite often-- it's a darker, more unusual room than a lot of other rooms. So it's one of those fantasy rooms, in a way, that you can actually bring in some of your fantasy into it.
Does this balance? Does this balance the red room?
It balances the red room because this is sort of, in a way, the European version. And you know, a lot of these leather walls were used from 16th century onwards, particularly 17th and 18th century in Europe.
What is the point of a leather wall?
I think, in those days, they started using them because there were draught-proof and were very decorative.
I'm struck by this chandelier. To me, it looks like you know it may have originally belonged in a much, much larger room. That's a brave choice.
Yes. Well, the thing is, with me scale of any room is the most important thing. If you get the scale wrong in a room, everything falls apart no matter how good it looks. Most people chicken out and never have the right scale or go for the smaller option.
So later, when you invite me to dinner here, what will we be listening to?
Oh. All sorts of things. But I like, for dinner, in a room like this, more like early music, which is sort of not very dramatic and it's more monotonous in a way.
So not hip-hop.
No. And then [INAUDIBLE] I lunched could be if I'm in the mood.
Our conversation has been inspiring, but mainly I felt depressed by it because I don't feel that I can ever have a room with leather walls or the great eclectic range of ornaments and pictures and rugs.
I have to say I disagree with you because you can. And it's a lot easier than you think it is. Because there's no point in trying to create what is here. But you can create this sort of atmosphere. You don't have to have stamped leather walls. You can have something which looks quite rich and doesn't have to be very expensive and put it on your walls. You just have to be a bit more daring in some rooms. And in some rooms just relax a bit more. I think you need to trust your instincts.
If I fall passionately in love with dark purple then--
Go for it.
--just go with it.
Alidad, it's been a great pleasure. Thank you very, very much.