At home with India Mahdavi

India Mahdavi invites us to her Paris and Arles homes, and tells us about her approach to interiors, the objects that surround her and what inspires her

India Mahdavi's home
Inside India Mahdavi's Paris apartment, photography by DerekHudson, left, and India Mahdavi, right
(Image credit: Courtesy India Mahdavi)

India Mahdavi lets us into her world, giving us a glimpse into her daily rituals and the small things she loves. Wallpaper's Designer of the Year 2023, Mahdavi's expressive output includes furniture, objects and interiors defined by a strong sense of colour and forms that often defy tradition by imagining new silhouettes for our everyday objects. 

Scenographic in her output, Mahdavi is often remembered for her staging of Sketch's Gallery, an all-pink room recently revisited in collaboration with artist Yinka Shonibare. But her work has been stretching far and wide, with projects including an interpretation of Rome's Villa Medici interiors and variations on traditional furniture codes through an ongoing collaboration with Gebrüder Thonet Vienna.

Mahdavi offers us a peek into her Paris home, and tells us about her favourite objects, books, music and more. 

Interview: at home with India Mahdavi

India Mahdavi

Siwa, Egypt

(Image credit: Courtesy India Mahdavi)

Wallpaper*: Where do you live? Can you tell us about your street, and neighbourhood?

India Mahdavi: I share my time between my apartment in the 7th arrondissement in Paris and my house down in Arles. The 7th is a residential area close to Saint-Germain and rue de Grenelle is one of the longest streets in Paris - a 10 min walk to Saint-Germain and 30 min from Orly airport. Ideal.

W*: What do you like about living here?

IM: My apartment has a great view overlooking a garden - I love being in the centre of the city and enjoying the silence of the countryside. 

W*: How would you describe your home?

IM: An L-shaped flat where one room takes you to another with the charm of Parisian spaces – quite unpractical crooked, Versailles parquet floors and Neo-Grec mouldings from the 30s. 

I moved in 27 years ago when I was pregnant with my son Miles. It amasses the different layers of my life, furnished mainly with my prototypes and other vintage pieces and objects that I have gathered over the years and through my travels. Somehow, it has beautifully absorbed all the periods of my life and has become my personal landscape. 

W*: What is a favourite room or corner?

IM: I have the smallest kitchen with a little corner next to the window, where I created a suspended garden overlooking another. 

I have placed an orange velvet screen and a yellow oval table, checkered curtains and a glass light suspension like a tiny cool dining room. My friends love to be there - we squeeze in 4 for dinner. 

India Mahdavi

Blossom Baby Bishop

(Image credit: Courtesy India Mahdavi)

W*: What’s the story behind your favourite piece of furniture?

IM: Let me tell you about my Bishop – it was originally conceived as a wood turned bar stool for a club I designed in NY’s meatpacking district in the early 2000s. A few years later, it made its reappearance as a glazed ceramic stool in Mexico City’s Condesa DF Hotel I designed for Grupo Habita and became my signature piece ever since. 

Over the years, the Bishop has been derived and expanded on at different scales and with different accessories, but my favourite of them all is the Apple Blossom Baby Bishop that came from my collaboration with the French manufacturer, Émaux de Longwy – they applied the ancestral cloisonné technique to lace my Bishop with their stunning floral motif – it prevails as an intricate haute couture version of the Bishop that seeks to modernize and sustain an ancient know-how.

India Mahdavi

Siwa, Egypt

(Image credit: Reto Guntli, Courtesy India Mahdavi)

W*: How do you start your days?

IM: My days usually start with a coffee in bed - listening to the matinale on the France Inter radio station. If (and when) the news induce too much anxiety, I start reading.

W*: What do you do to relax?

IM: Sit by the fire in the living room, read a book and listen to music.

W*: What do you collect?

IM: I don't feel I am a collector - I just buy stuff that I like - mostly furniture art or tableware, objects that surround me and give me a sense of joy.

India Mahdavi

Siwa, Egypt

(Image credit: Courtesy India Mahdavi)

W*: What is the last object you bought?

IM: A pink ceramic basket by artist Audrey Ballacchino I discovered at the Artorama fair in Marseille. I just bought Small Fires, an epic in the kitchen by Rebecca May Johnson.

W*: Where and when do you find your best ideas and inspirations?

IM: In my dreams.

W*: What are you reading at the moment, or what is the last book you read?

IM: I am reading several books at the same time - I just finished "Nina Simone's gum" by my friend Warren Ellis – light and fun. And “Histoire naturelle de l’architecture” by friend and architect Philippe Rahm – architecture through the perception of the human body.

India Mahdavi

(Image credit: Courtesy India Mahdavi)

W*: What’s on your playlist?

IM: A wide variety of melodies that range from Melody Nelson by Serge Gainsbourg to Chopin’s preludes by way of Miles Davis, Dave Brubeck or Duke Ellington. Baraye by Shervin Hajipour is also one I often listen to.

W*: What is your favourite meal of the day, and why?

IM: Dinner of course - it's the meal for which I meet with my friends to just relax and laugh.

W*: If Wallpaper* came for dinner, what would you cook?

IM: I would probably cook my favourite Persian meal: wild cherry rice with lemon and saffron chicken. Rose water ice cream for dessert.

India Mahdavi

(Image credit: Courtesy India Mahdavi)

W*: What has been your most meaningful collaboration recently?

IM: The refurbishment of the Villa Medici in Rome. It was such an honor to be invited by director Sam Stourdzé to refurbish the Villa’s Piano Nobile – and quite intimidating to intervene after artists like Balthus or Richard Peduzzi. The challenge was to revive the essence of the Villa without overpowering the space’s long history and heritage. With the help of the finest French and Italian artisans, we created imposing and contemporary furniture that I juxtaposed with pieces from the Mobilier National’s archival collection and sought to free the Villa from its palatial label towards a fresher living, thinking and building space.

W*: What is your favourite place, anywhere in the world, and why?

IM: I love my place in the Oasis of Siwa in the Egyptian desert, where I designed and built a house made of Kershef (salt blocks and mud). The whole place is illuminated by candles and it’s one of the most magical places I have ever visited.

India Mahdavi

(Image credit: Courtesy India Mahdavi)

W*: Where was a place you visited recently that inspired you?

IM: I find Rome to be a very inspiring city with its everlasting beauty. I discover new places every time I return. Lately, I visited Giacomo Balla’s fantasy apartment which contrasts my latest visit to Giorgio de Chirico’s apartment and studio in Campo Marzio. But I’m really looking forward to my next discovery, visiting the foundation Zinsou in Cotonou, Benin.

W*: What is an upcoming project that you can tell us about?

IM: For the first time, I am working on a contemporary and modern art museum in Trondheim, Norway, opening in 2025, and an artist’s residence in Arles, with Maja Hoffman (among others).

W*: What advice would you give to the next generation of designers?

IM: Hard work, humility and curiosity.

Rosa Bertoli was born in Udine, Italy, and now lives in London. Since 2014, she has been the Design Editor of Wallpaper*, where she oversees design content for the print and online editions, as well as special editorial projects. Through her role at Wallpaper*, she has written extensively about all areas of design. Rosa has been speaker and moderator for various design talks and conferences including London Craft Week, Maison & Objet, The Italian Cultural Institute (London), Clippings, Zaha Hadid Design, Kartell and Frieze Art Fair. Rosa has been on judging panels for the Chart Architecture Award, the Dutch Design Awards and the DesignGuild Marks. She has written for numerous English and Italian language publications, and worked as a content and communication consultant for fashion and design brands.