“By stylizing life, we make it more beautiful”

Arlesian at adoption, India Mahdavi has put his crayons on in the Luma Foundation’s refectory or at the Hôtel du Cloître. The architect and designer has just signed the revival of The Gallery in London and presented a capsule collection for H&M Home. She reveals her art of living for us during a lunch in her Parisian canteen, Laiterie Sainte-Clotilde.

I dream of renovating …places in my home countries, like the mythical Old Cataract Hotel in Aswan, Egypt, or the Enghelab Hotel in Tehran, Iran.

I find beautiful plates … all over the world, especially Japan. It’s always enchanting. I like to get the table to sing that there are as many different plates as the guests. Never matched. I’m deeply cosmopolitan. At my dinners, neither an environment, nor an age or a nationality …

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Breakfast… I drink a vegetable juice on the way to the office: fennel, cucumber, ginger … When I’m on vacation, things change a little: the date omelette in Siwa, Egypt, wonderful!

I’m getting barbaric … with Iranian rice! I absolutely love the right recipe, the crispy tahdig and its hint of saffron. It makes me crazy.

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My toilet water … I have two: for the winter, Angéliques Sous la Pluie, and in the summer, En Passant, two editions of Frédéric Malle. I have less and less tendency to wear them. It’s like it’s disturbing my senses, whereas I like to keep them intact.

What terrifies me in the decoration … pretension. Not bad taste at all.

Jewelry from the India Mahdavi collection for H&M Home.
Pieces from India Mahdavi’s collection for H&M Home. – © Lent by H&M

My favorite print … that with wine, of course. Red wine, especially Château Chasse-Spleen. It’s easy drunkenness. There are others more complicated, the one with a first cigarette, even though I quit smoking. And I never get tired of the intoxication of the journey.

My food phobias … entrails. Mental phobias, moreover …

A trip associated with a culinary pleasure … Siwa, in the Egyptian desert, at the Adrere Amellal eco-lodge, is the best table in the world. In New York, the Japanese restaurant Omen. In Arles, with my friend François Halard, to share pasta with bottarga.

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My favorite hotels … Claridge is in London, its timelessness reassures me. In New York, Mercer; in Senegal, La Paillote near Cap Skirring; in South Africa, Belmond Mount Nelson; in Egypt, the Winter Palace in Luxor.

The Gallery restaurant in Sketch, London.
The Gallery restaurant in Sketch, London. – © Edmund Dabney

My favorite Parisian restaurants … here, Sainte-Clotilde dairy, rue de Bellechasse; Doki Doki, rue Jean-Jacques-Rousseau, a large Peruvian-Japanese counter; Rose Kitchen at the Enfants-Rouges market for its Thai cuisine; Chez Georges, rue du Mail, it’s Paris I love.

A colour… Navy blue fits well on my complexion. It allows me to be in a certain neutrality that I need to manipulate colors all day long. On the other hand, the gray swallows me and sucks my energy, I have the impression of being engulfed by the Parisian greyness.

Last time I was blown backwards … it was at Bambouseraie in the Cevennes, near Anduze. I was breathless by the beauty, the poetry, with the giant camellias, the Japanese garden, the different species of bamboo. It is wonderful.

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A picture that puts me in a good mood … a great print by Alex Prager, one of my very first purchases. A crowd on a racetrack, very stylized. By stylizing life, we make it more beautiful.

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I like to hide … in my house in Arles. Or in the northwestern part of Iran, my brother rebuilt an earthen building right in the middle of the poplars. It’s like a retreat, I feel protected there. In fact, my hiding place is to get out of Paris and travel. The moment you put space around yourself puts things at a distance and it gives time. Time is so bound to space.

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The missing image … that of the family home that I never had because I moved around too much in my childhood. We were a nomadic family, with every move, it was heartbreaking. My base has been my family and not a house. This undoubtedly motivated the choice of my profession.

It has nothing to do with it, but … a day with a beautiful sun, with a beautiful light, makes me very optimistic in spite of everything that happens in the world.

By Francois Simon

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