jane asher


jane asher
Celebrating the
skills of our
local artisans
Chelsea’s Queen of Cakes
joins the Great Pink Bake Off
October 2013
This month Judith Wilson opens the door to
the hidden projects of interior designer Alidad
and reveals the top design news for October
theresident.co.uk 45
Vertical plaster filets with
tiny mirror insets create
subtle stripes in this eastfacing sitting room
Hand-painted portraits
depicting various fictitious
Ottoman Sultans are set into
verre eglomise panels in
Alidad’s dining room design
Opulent LIVING
Judith Wilson steps inside the sumptuous interiors of
Chelsea designer, Alidad for the release of his latest book
helsea-based interior
designer Alidad is,
‘obsessed with the unseen.’
It is an unusual claim for a
decorator who has built
his formidable reputation on creating
opulent, richly-decorated rooms,
interiors that simply cannot be ignored.
But what Alidad means is the crucial
need for planning: hidden concepts like
human traffic flow, the placing of
electrical sockets, how a space functions.
‘If a room looks beautiful but there is
nowhere to put your teacup, it can fall
54 theresident.co.uk
apart in seconds,’ he says.
This month sees the publication of
award-winning Alidad’s first book
Alidad: The Timeless Home (Rizzoli).
Putting it together has been a big
operation, and he has flown around the
world to photograph the completed
homes of his often publicity-shy
international clients. ‘It has been an
exciting and sometimes nerve-wracking
year!’ he says. The finished book looks
incredibly luxurious. It is not just a
visual celebration of Alidad’s career, but
also a distillation of his philosophy and
decorating aesthetic. Alidad wanted
more than just a coffee table book. ‘As a
trade, I still don’t think we command full
respect for our skills,’ he says. ‘I was
keen to highlight the complexity of all
the projects involved.’
The work is indeed breathtaking,
including apartments in London and
Paris, villas in the Middle East and
seaside homes in Sardinia and Cornwall.
The informative text is cleverly
divided into themes. ‘We’ve got chapters
on topics like the Sixth Sense and The
Unseen,’ Alidad says. ‘I am an instinctive
designer but I had to really dissect my
work to find out how I create my
interiors.’ The book takes the reader into
a world of luxury and detail. Here are
rooms with velvet or embossed leatherpanelled walls, trompe l’oeil ceilings,
hand-painted wallpapers. And, although
Alidad is traditionally associated with
deep colour palettes, he is also
‘comfortable with lighter shades.’ One
London master bathroom has ivory
polished plaster walls with mother-ofpearl diamond trellis, while a Gustavianinspired study is decorated in pale tone.
Alidad’s London breakfast
room creation tells an
oriental story
Alidad has been designing for almost
30 years. He set up his practice in 1985
and runs a team of ten at his Gasworks
Chelsea studio, ‘an extended family’ of
in-house designers and hand-picked
specialists. Persian by birth, he began
his career as department director for
Islamic works of art and textiles at
Sotheby’s, so he has an unrivalled
knowledge of antiques and historical
If a room looks beautiful,
but there’s nowhere to
put your teacup, it can
fall apart in seconds
influences. Many commissions involve
complex renovation and restoration,
while some are new-build properties.
Intriguingly, the final chapter of his book
reveals some of the incomplete concrete
shells that he has transformed.
In a design world increasingly
obsessed with the specialist and the
bespoke, Alidad remains the king of
unique interiors. No detail is left to
chance: when working on a dressing
theresident.co.uk 55
The Studio Alidad team
offer a lighter approach
to design as seen in this
Cornwall barn conversion
(left) contrasting to Alidad’s
rich, bespoke interiors
room, even the client’s clothes will be
measured to ensure that wardrobes
perfectly fulfill their function. And for
every client, Alidad presents a fresh
facet of his personality. ‘I shift 180
degrees just to say hello,’ he says. ‘I
build a huge rapport with my clients.’
He will find out how they like to live,
right down to where they want to hang
their keys. The level of craftsmanship is
painstaking, upholstery trimmings are
made to measure, walls hand-painted
and gold braid is hand-woven.
It is all the more interesting, then, to
hear that in March, Alidad launched a
new venture: Studio Alidad. This is a
ready-to-wear design service, offering a
‘lighter, younger’ approach yet still with
the Alidad twist. Many clients have
wanted him to help out on second or
third homes, or to design their children’s
homes. ‘For years, I turned away smaller
projects because I was focusing on the
larger bespoke commissions,’ he says.
‘But there is a market for a less
expensive design service and it has
proved popular.’ Do Studio Alidad
clients benefit from some of his personal
expertise? ‘Of course,’ he says earnestly.
‘I am always there behind the scenes.’
One suspects that he is enjoying the
Left: An
design for a
17th century
dining room
challenge of a faster turnaround.
‘I am certainly very conscious that I’m
entering a new phase in my work,’ he
says. As well as branching out into new
decorative avenues, he is open-minded
about retail opportunities. He has
already designed two fabric collections
for Chelsea Textiles, plus one for Pierre
Frey and is constantly adding to his
own-design furniture, the Velvet
Furniture collection. ‘I’ve reached a
point in my life when I am crystallizing
my ideas,’ he says. ‘With that has come
the realisation that not everyone wants
the full-on bespoke experience, but just a
facet of my style.’ If that means we can
all have a piece of Alidad, on a goldthread cushion or an intricate rug, then
that is cause for celebration indeed.
✤ Alidad, alidad.com
Studio Alidad, studioalidad.com
theresident.co.uk 57