We selected the Paris-based Iranian-Egyptian designer to receive this year’s Frame Awards accolade for her acute (and unparalleled) sensitivity to colour, a skill that has inspired a more joyous, human-centric approach to spatial design worldwide.
In the design field and beyond, India Mahdavi has earned her title as the undisputed Queen of Colour. She’s created some of the most visually recognizable spaces of our time and honed her mastery of hue to the highest degree. Born in Tehran in 1962, the Iranian-Egyptian designer spent time in the United States, Germany and France as a child, the latter in which she settled. Her headquarters – comprising a studio, showroom and shop – are in Paris’s seventh arrondissement, a stone’s throw from the Musee d’Orsay.
It took Mahdavi a month to settle on the rosy pink that characterized her most famous project, the Insta-favourite London restaurant Sketch. First opened in 2014, the space is now enrobed in a golden yellow that she sees as a natural evolution in light of our post-pandemic need for intimacy and warmth. This mood-driven approach to colour – one that responds to the anxiety-ridden, digital-forward times we live in – is indicative of her larger attitude to the tool, a purveyor of joy and sensuality alike.
Mahdavi’s expert wielding of colour’s power to enrich our physical world – and experience – is precisely why we are naming her Frame’s Lifetime Achievement Award winner this year. Since opening her eponymous studio in 2000, her sensitivity has lent itself to projects all over the world, from a restaurant at Ferrari’s homebase in Italy to global Ladurée outposts and the Monte-Carlo Beach Monaco hotel. Other clients include Louis Vuitton, Valentino, Nespresso and more. At the heart, hers is an intuitive process guided by her multicultural background.
It's one that melds with – never overpowers – the needs of the client. ‘To conceive a space, I listen to it,’ she says. ‘I analyse its constraints, its needs and its context. This is how my studio functions, the human scale prevails. I often compare places to faces. I like providing a solution in order to define, with the client, how to work with all the energy the space inspires.’
When it comes to colours, the more the merrier, she thinks. Her ethos is to 'look at them as friends who enter into a conversation’. ‘Dare to use colour in interiors,’ she urges fellow designers. ‘One colour is never enough.’
And who’s to argue with her? We could all use a little more joy, after all.