The Aesthete: India Mahdavi talks personal taste

The architect and designer’s bold, colour-infused interiors can be seen at Claridge’s and hotels, bars and restaurants around the world

India Mahdavi at home in Paris
India Mahdavi at home in Paris | Image: Stephanie Jayet

My personal style signifier is a silk/cashmere scarf. Because I work with colour all day, I tend to wear toned-down outfits with just a splash of brightness. I have the scarves made in Nepal in strong, deep-dyed shades – they are part of my collection, sold at Eden Being. I wear lipstick too: Red Passion by Guerlain. Scarves from £325; KissKiss Shaping Cream Lip Colour, £27.50;

Spider and Maman by Louise Bourgeois
Spider and Maman by Louise Bourgeois | Image: Getty Images; Spider, 1996, and Maman, 1999, by Louise Bourgeois; Collection Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art, Seoul

An unforgettable place I’ve travelled to in the past year is Japan; it was amazing. We went to Tokyo, Kyoto and Hakone, but what really stuck in my mind were the art islands of Naoshima and Teshima. The experience of seeing the work of artists from Lee Ufan to Yayoi Kusama to Hiroshi Sugimoto was breathtaking. I was most amazed by seeing all five of Monet’s Water Lilies in one room at the Chichu Art Museum; Tadao Ando’s architecture gave them another dimension.


And the best souvenir I’ve brought home is a keyring from Naoshima that’s a miniature version of Yayoi Kusama’s huge pumpkin. I carry it with me all the time.  

Bar Hemingway at the Ritz Paris
Bar Hemingway at the Ritz Paris | Image: Vincent Leroux

Next on my travel bucket list is Cuba. What I find interesting is that it’s parked in time. It’s also a colour paradise – and I just drink colours.   

Guerlain KissKiss Shaping Cream Lip Colour, £27.50
Guerlain KissKiss Shaping Cream Lip Colour, £27.50

A hotel bar that blows me away is Bar Hemingway at the Ritz Paris. It’s small and intimate and always full of interesting characters that you end up talking to. The head bartender, Colin Peter Field, is such an artist; his drinks take you all over the world with their flavours and aromas. I remember one that tasted so fresh, I suddenly felt like I was in Bora Bora. 15 Place Vendôme, 75001 Paris (+331-4316 3374;

Yayoi Kusama’s Yellow Pumpkin in Naoshima, Japan
Yayoi Kusama’s Yellow Pumpkin in Naoshima, Japan | Image: Getty Images; The Easton Foundation/VAGA, New York/DACS, London 2017

The last thing I bought and loved was a dark blue cape with a scalloped trim from Red Valentino. It’s a bit military yet very feminine – a wonderful mix. £438;

Palace Merano hotel and spa in northern Italy
Palace Merano hotel and spa in northern Italy | Image: Drescher Guenther

And the thing I’m eyeing next is a jumpsuit from Connolly in London. It’s like a revisited mechanic’s outfit in a dark denim-coloured fabric – the type of thing you can accessorise to look really cool and wear anywhere. £310;


A recent “find” is a place I go to for lunch called Maisie Café; it’s in Paris but feels like LA, without the jet-lag. The food is super-healthy – vegan and organic, just what I feel like eating at the moment. Another discovery is Habit Cactus, which makes Velcro accessories you can stick patches onto. I have a clutch with patches of a fried egg, a sardine, clouds and a bird. It’s great fun. Maisie Café, 32 Rue du Mont Thabor, 75001 Paris (+331-4039 9916;

My three carry-on essentials are a drawing book, coloured pencils and a tape measure – when travelling I often sketch new pieces of furniture and plans and send them to my studio. I find drawing relaxing. 

The one artist whose work I would collect if I could is Louise Bourgeois. I love the way she worked with textiles and created imaginary themes. Her sculptures are simply amazing, although to own one you would need a large amount of space. 

An indulgence I would never forgo is a yearly detox at Palace Merano, in northern Italy, where they use exclusive toxin-elimination methods, as well as techniques to reactivate energy channels. The food there is delicious and the view of the Dolomites very soothing. Espace Henri Chenot, Via Cavour 2, 39012 Merano (+3904-7327 1000;   

My jet-lag cure is to avoid eating on the plane and drink hot water. But if that fails I take melatonin, which works for me. 

My favourite websites and apps are for an international vision of the world, and, an app that tells you about a wine from a picture of the label. I use Polamatic to turn photos into postcards, and Zen Brush to send messages with drawings to my friends.

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