House & Garden | Diary of a Somebody

Rabih Hage

The designer draws gorgeous conclusions to architectonic challenges

Rabih Hage

November 09 2010
Rabih Hage

Day: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6

Monday morning, after a nice weekend where I nearly had a proper time off work, highlighted by our family friend Barbara’s decision to have her 40th birthday party on Saturday night at the Pantechnicon Rooms in Motcomb Street, I feel all enthusiastic about a Monday at work.

That Saturday night is still echoing in my head: delicious food, nice crowd and this good old Polaroid camera flashing around the private room, registering and displaying on paper instantaneously our expressions, not to be seen on a sober morning. I have started my first working day of this week with the naïve idea that I would get the best of my creativity between 9am and 6pm this Monday.

Excited by the rare thought of an empty agenda, I wanted to take full advantage of my bright morning thoughts, sharp Faber-Castell pencils and fresh Fabriano sketch paper – spread on my newly-acquired Jean Prouvé drawing board and prototype stools which I bought from an unlucky novice shop owner at a Paris flea market for a bargain price last spring.

Things got rather mixed up as the hour raced from 8:30am to midday. I found myself answering phone calls from builders in Cadogan Square, emailing my client in Guildford, where the contractor is building a 180-room hotel faster than I am designing its lobby and restaurants. I was interviewing a new intern and choosing fabrics with Gabriella, my assistant, for this beautiful house owned by a wonderful client. Who said only women can do multi-tasking? I think we men can do it too (as long as, in my case at least, we don’t have to change nappies or cook a roast while helping the children with their homework). All this kind of multi-tasking creativity I was having could fit within two- to three-minute gaps between phone calls and questions dropping from all over the open-plan design studio. I wish I had enclosed it all and soundproofed the new intern. The precious time for thinking is more frequently interrupted by questions and observations than all the advertisement breaks on The X Factor.

I finally gave up on trying to be creative when my friend Lara Manzoni, the diva of Italian furniture manufacturing, popped into the office. Lara (www.lmvdesign.com) is responsible for anything that moves, rotates, heats up or cools down that’s fitted on top of the megayachts of all the Candys of this world. She can design and manufacture while preparing milk bottles for her children and keeping her husband happy in Barcelona. So I suggested she run out to get us some food from Itsu of Walton Street, so I could carry on with my attempts to fit a staircase into the plans of the beautifully located penthouse in Beirut I’m working on before end of day. At this stage it was already 4pm on a day that was supposed to have been appointment-free. I then remembered I still had to write up my diary for howtospendit.com this week! I should probably do something other than stay in the office if I want to stand any chance of looking as busy as Paul Smith.

So, I decided to go to Mayfair for some fresh air, which turned out to be the best decision of the day by far. I took a black cab (my favourite taxis in the world) driven by a friendly chap to another favourite thing in the world, the Davidoff cigar shop in St James’s. I have always thought that one’s relaxation is aided by letting the smoke out. And what a smoke it was; a Hoyo du Député, perfectly well preserved in the distinguished (and silent) humidor of the St James’s Street shop. I am usually put off by the sounds of the humidifiers, fitted at the last minute.

But this shop is run by Eddie Sahakian and his father, who founded it in the 1980s truly out of passion for cigars. It’s like entering someone’s home, or the storage facility of a private art collection. When I arrived at the shop a few minutes after the closing time, Eddie, his father and a couple of clients were behind the main doors, which were unfortunately locked. I tried the side door on Jermyn Street, where I was graciously let in by Eddie. I picked up a selection of small Coronas and left very pleased by the great achievement of the day – not the cigar purchase, but the fantastically difficult to find Papier d’Arménie, the oldest, most efficient natural air deodoriser in the world. It really does work, and, moreover, it also disinfects the air. (Some Armenians say it’s also an effective counter to the “evil eye”.)

Strolling up Dover Street and then into Burlington Gardens, I pass by two of my favourite shops in Mayfair: Erco at 38 Davies Street, a showroom for the finest light fittings and lighting systems of museum quality; and Kashkets at 8 Stafford Street, a “Military and Civilian Bespoke Tailor” for more than three centuries. I finished my round of Mayfair (as well as my cigar) in the chill and darkness of a November London evening, rueing the day the smoking ban was passed. No more smoky pubs or clubs; it’s all happening under heaters these days. I was diverted from entering a downward spiral of grumpiness, however, by the emotional and exceptionally spectacular sight of the giant spider by Louise Bourgeois through the window of one of the most beautiful galleries in London, Hauser & Wirth on 23 Savile Row. So at end of day, I feel inspired. I decide to go back to my studio and finish off my morning sketches. So by 11.45pm, the Beirut staircase had found its rightful home in the house drafts, and the lobby of my Guildford hotel is complete and ready to buzz with guests (at least on paper). And that was a standard creative Monday.

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