Bubblegum-pink fabric, lipstick-red lacquer, the plushest velvet in forest green: Mahdavi’s distinctive love of colour was sparked by the Bugs Bunny and Tex Avery cartoons she watched as a child. The French architect and interior design icon says she uses colour to express “the nostalgia of that happy period of my life”. Born in Tehran, she spent her childhood zigzagging the globe, from the US to the south of France. She settled in Paris, where she established her studio in 1999, followed by two showrooms in 2003 and 2012. Acclaimed internationally, her elegant and eclectic projects explore interior design, architecture, scenography and furniture. She has created clubs, bars, hotels and restaurants for clients including Valentino, Ladurée and the Société des Bains de Mer in Monte-Carlo. In 2016, she received France’s highest cultural award, the Officier Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.What do craftsmanship and design signify for you?
Craftsmanship is, in a way, at the origin of design. Design brought an aesthetic dimension to a technical, functional realm. Craftsmanship can transcend design when the combination of a vision and know-how come together. When the might of the hand is combined with the might of the mind, magic is revealed. Beauty only results from this encounter.How does it feature in your work and life?
Crafts have always had a special place in both my projects and personal life – they’re inherent to my creative process. Over the years, the many collaborations I’ve carried out with artisans have been an endless source of inspiration. It perpetuates tradition and nourishes creation. I hope this is what the future holds.Do you work with craftspeople?
I have always worked with craftspeople. When I started my company 20 years ago, it was all about cooperating with available French expertise – carpentry, woodworking, upholstery, ceramic, lacquer, Wonderglass’s blown glass technique, rug manufacturing with Cogolin.Do you have any stories about the artisans you have selected?
Working with a craftsman is always about a conversation; it’s about pushing each other further into an idea. With Atelier Lison de Caunes, I created a collection entitled My Childhood Heroes. One of the pieces we designed is a table showcasing my old friend Bugs Bunny in straw marquetry – contrasting the sophistication of this particular skill with a popular hero.