Paris-based designer India Mahdavi is best known for her way with colour: from Ladurée’s boutiques in various shades of acid and deep greens to the all-pink Gallery restaurant at Sketch (said to be the most Instagrammed interior in London, it helped create the trend for millennial pink), Mahdavi has a gift for eye-popping palettes. Now, a new monograph, released during Milan Design Week, explores her vibrant canon.

India Mahdavi: the monograph

Laduree Beverly Hills green interior designed by India Mahdavi, an image from her monograph
Sketches of chairs by India Mahdavi
The monograph is filled with project photographs, such as this interior of Ladurée Beverly Hills, 2017 (top, photography: Sam Frost, courtesy India Mahdavi) as well as preparatory work, such as these sketches for the project (above, © Studio India Mahdavi, courtesy India Mahdavi)

It’s 20 years since Mahdavi founded her studio, so this long-overdue publication is packed with an entire career’s worth of creations. And we’re lucky the book has finally been published: it seems only the recent enforced lockdown allowed the designer the time to complete it.

Mahdavi, who trained at Paris’ Beaux-Arts and worked for Christian Liaigre before setting up her own studio after the birth of her son, has barely stopped for two decades, as this retrospective makes clear. 

There have been hotel designs in Mexico and Monte-Carlo, private cinemas and residences, and restaurants in New York and Paris. She’s also opened three spaces of her own – a showroom, a boutique and a gallery – near her office on Rue Las Cases, from where she has launched designs including elegant blown-glass lamps, Mickey-shaped rattan masks, and her iconic ‘Bishop’ stools, the last now part of the collection of Musée des Arts Décoratifs de Paris.

‘If there is a common denominator to all my projects, it is the necessity of creating a sense of joy, a joie de vivre that I like to convey by using the primary colours of my emotions’ – India Mahdavi

Making colours sing is only part of Mahdavi’s approach: ‘I have always practised interior design at the crossroads of other disciplines, such as scenography, film, decor, furniture, and product design, exploring as many opportunities that were given to me to design, decorate, remodel, or reveal a space, creating new experiences, embellishing life,’ she writes in the book’s introduction.

Pink interior of Gallery restaurant at Sketch, designed by India Mahdavi and featured in her monograph
Mood board for India Mahdavi’s design of Gallery restaurant at Sketch
Top, Mahdavi’s interior for Gallery restaurant at Sketch in London, 2014 (photography: Rob Whitrow, courtesy India Mahdavi) and, above, her moodboard, © India Mahdavi Studio, courtesy India Mahdavi

‘But if there is a common denominator to all my projects, it is the necessity of creating a sense of joy, a joie de vivre that I like to convey by using the primary colours of my emotions to listen, to understand, to feel, to respond to an environment,’ she continues. 

It’s this joie de vivre that makes her output so special. And the source for this vision and passion for all things colourful might be found in Madhavi’s countries of origin, Iran and Egypt, as well as her peripatetic childhood, which saw her move to the US, Germany and France. Certainly, the boldness of light and the pastel colours of the Mediterranean, where she lived as a child, seep through her work (coincidentally, many of her projects are based in the region).

Bishop stools designed by India Mahdavi, one with flower pattern, the other in marble, image from her monograph
Among Mahdavi’s takes on her ‘Bishop’ stool. Images © courtesy India Mahdavi

As well as a detailed interview by Javier F Contreras, dean of the Department of Interior Architecture at HEAD in Geneva, the monograph includes a booklet of Mahdavi’s photographs, capturing details, patterns, colours and more from her travels around the world.

Art-directed by Studio Achermann, the volume also comes with a bespoke patterned slipcase. Its cover features the designer’s profile and dots in a variety of shades, including periwinkle blue. Perhaps the new colour of the decade? Mahdavi will know. §

Colourful interior of Germain bistro by India Mahdavi, with giant model of woman’s legs in neon
Multicoloured sketches of chair by India Mahdavi and a cut-out image of finished chair
Top, interior of Germain bistro in Paris, 2009 (photography: Derek Hudson, courtesy India Mahdavi), and, above, Mahdavi’s sketches and chair design, © India Mahdavi Studio, courtesy India Mahdavi