THE PIN–UP QUOTE: INDIA MAHDAVI

At the age of maybe 13 or 14 I started watching movies on T.V. all day long — American movies, French movies, I was drinking it all in. I was fascinated because it allowed me to dream. It was some kind of aesthetic world that I couldn’t get in Neuilly-sur-Seine and that you could project your own story onto. Then at 17, I started going out to the cinema about three times a day. My parents had left, I was on my own in Paris, I had my first boyfriend who had a little motorcycle, and we’d go see all these old German movies by Murnau and Fritz Lang, but also the new stuff — Stanley Kubrick, Fellini. I remember what I really liked was very strong aesthetics: I remember what I really liked was very strong aesthetics: Metropolis, A Clockwork Orange, all Visconti’s films, all the Fellini movies. I was eating it all up all, it was food, food, food. I barely attended my first year of architecture school because I was at the movies the whole time. But anyway, I said to myself, “If things don’t work out, if I don’t like architecture, I can go into film-set design.” Then later I was lucky enough to meet [restaurateur] Jonathan Morr at a dinner in London. He called me shortly afterwards and said, “I’m doing a hotel in Miami. Come see it.” It was a small budget, 60 rooms [the Townhouse Hotel, South Beach]. So I go to Miami and I say, “Wow, this place is all about sea, sex, and sun. What is sea, sex, and sun?” And I defined a color code: baby blue, sand color, and red. It wasn’t an expensive hotel, but we did a few fun things. There was no room for a pool, so I said, “I want to bring the feel of the water onto the terrace.” And I remembered a summer I’d spent with an American girlfriend somewhere in Maine. She had a summer job, two hours a day, cleaning hotel rooms, and I’d go help. And that’s where I discovered waterbeds! So on the terrace in Miami I put all these waterbeds together in a huge L-shape, 9 or 10 meters long. I remember going to the tackiest outlets — this was long before Design Miami — and there were all these horrible, horrible bedheads, and I just bought the queen-sized mattresses. And then I made red sunbed covers, and it looked just like a normal sunbed, but when you sat on it you got quite a surprise! [Laughs.] And I put swings on the porch. When I design, I either do it for myself — what I’d like to have if I were using the space — or I invent a character. This was me saying, “When I come back in the evening I want to sit on the porch and be able to swing. I want a glass of white wine and a cigarette. This is after a long day of sun, I’m a bit red in the cheeks.” It’s always that specific. And when you start telling these stories, Jonathan always says, “Yes, of course you can do it!” Then in the corridors we added these big benches, and I said, “I want cartoons.” You have to understand that if you look at everything I do — and I realized this really late — it looks like a cartoon! When things are too harmonious, I think they risk becoming static. I see myself as a plant: I’ve been put in a pot all these years, and sometimes I feel the pot is getting too small. I need to go back into the ground or to a different pot.

Taken from an interview with Andrew Ayers in PIN–UP No. 20, Spring Summer 2016.

Photography by Thomas Dozol.