Master of the House: Alidade London Apartments
Adele, Beyoncé, Bono, Cher, Madonna: In the realm of celebrity, a rarefied few are so widely recognized and acclaimed that a surname would feel super fluous. The decorating world, too, has its share of stars, but only one is known by a single moniker: Alidad, the Tehran-born, London-based interior designer who crafts opulent interiors for some of the world’s wealthiest individuals, including several members of the Kuwaiti royal family.
A home designed by Alidad is as sumptuous as it is singular—which is all the more impressive given the vast scale of many of his projects. “We do enormous jobs in Europe and the Middle East, including 40,000-square-foot villas built from scratch,” says the designer, whose work is featured in the recently published book Alidad: The Timeless Home (Rizzoli). “Things are not bought, they are made. Everything is designed to the minutest detail so that when a client moves in, it’s like a glove that fits.”
A 17th-century Flemish tapestry above a sofa covered in a Pierre Frey linen in the drawing room, a cocktail table by Paula Swinnen, and a Louis XV walnut armchair upholstered in a Pierre Frey velvet; the watercolor on the door is by Natalia Goncharova, and the vertical moldings are inset with mirror.
One might expect the creator of such extravagant interiors to be equally grand, but in person Alidad is refreshingly self-deprecating. Don’t get him started on the renovation of his own apartment in London’s Mayfair neighborhood. “I am my own worst kind of nightmarish client,” he admits. “When I recently redid my flat, the thought of it just horrified me. People in my office went insane. I wouldn’t give them answers. I couldn’t decide. I can’t think that way for myself.”
In the hallway of interior designer Alidad’s London apartment, the brass lantern is antique, the neo-Gothic chair is English, and the carpet is by Roger Oates; the walls are lined with suede and braid work.
Prior to that, Alidad, a notorious stickler about each and every element, had spent more than a quarter-century painstakingly decorating his Victorian apartment. When he moved in three decades ago, he worked at Sotheby’s, in the department devoted to Islamic art, carpets, and textiles. “At most auction houses you hand the objects to porters to place in cases before a sale,” he says. “Not me. I would lock the room for three days and turn everything into an amazing display. That’s when I realized I was more interested in design than in objects.”
Alidad in his Baroque-inspired dining room; the walls are covered in stamped leather, and the shutters are by the New England Shutter Company.
Decorating his own apartment became his training ground as a designer, starting with his bold scheme for the library, where he covered the walls and ceiling in a dramatic red-and-gold pattern inspired by traditional Islamic architecture. He next envisioned a dining room with decor straight out of an 18th-century palazzo, and found artisans to craft a faux-coffered ceiling and stamped-leather wallcoverings hand painted with a Tree of Life pattern. The room was lit strictly with candles. “It looked magical at night with the sheen of the leather,” he says.
The hand-painted walls of the library are stenciled with an Islamic pattern, the cocktail table is from the 1970s, and the Venetian painting dates from the 17th century.
With time, Alidad slowly furnished a dayroom, painting it a vibrant yellow, and at last created a handsome bedroom for himself. The bottle-green shade was so striking that, he says, “my friends made me promise never to change it.” But then catastrophe struck in the form of plumbing leaks emanating from neighbors’ apartments above. He coped for months, but when water damage caused his handcrafted ceilings to come down, there was no choice but to move out temporarily.
The drawing room’s Louis XV chair is covered in a Zimmer + Rohde fabric, a circa-1930 French gilded mirror is flanked by 1950s sconces, and the nesting tables are by Chelsea Textiles.
For most decorators, a renovation is an opportunity for a major change. But Alidad’s design philosophy is predicated on creating intricately layered spaces that feel ageless. “I’m not really after what’s current,” he says. “If my work looks good in 20 years’ time, that means I’ve been successful.”
He agonized over what to do with his apartment and finally realized just how attached he was to his original scheme. Rather than repaint his beloved red library, or redo the dining room that had been the glamorous setting for so many wonderful parties, he decided to restore the elements he loved to perfection while replacing or reupholstering some of the furnishings. He added subtle tweaks: gold beads to further enhance the dining room’s leather walls, and new white wall moldings fitted with tiny mirrors in the yellow drawing room.
In the master bedroom, circa-1880 bronze sconces flank a reeded-brass mirror, a bust of Augustus, and Victorian bronzes; Alidad designed the fabric on the footstool, which is fashioned from an antique box, the chest of drawers is Charles X, and the 19th-century chair beside it is upholstered with antique needlework.
The renovation did afford the opportunity to make a few larger changes. The hallway, a meandering corridor, was transformed into a dramatic gallery with a coat of red paint, gold braid work applied to the walls to give the illusion of paneling, and an assortment of objects and art. “Most of it is rubbish,” he admits. “I’m not a huge snob myself, vis-à-vis what I have.”
The bedding and faux-fur blanket in the master bedroom are by the Monogrammed Linen Shop, the headboard is a custom design, and the lamps are by Vaughan; panels of cotton-linen and suede, separated by studded braid work, line the walls.
Alidad’s friends were patient throughout the renovation, but some were horrified when he announced his intent to redo his bedroom in a hue that had never before appeared in his repertoire: beige. He labored over every inch, from the luxurious wall treatment in suede and linen to the design of the fanciful tufted headboard. The refined and meticulously detailed results—as close to couture as decorating gets—won over his most skeptical companions. Best of all, says this fretfully perfectionistic designer, when it was finally done the serene space, like those he creates for his clients, fit him just like a glove.
The bath off the hall is fitted with a custom sink and an antique wood-frame mirror.