Design Centre Stories

Design Date – Alidad

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Award-winning designer Alidad is internationally acclaimed for his spectacular interiors that create the perfect harmony between colour, opulent textiles, style and comfort. Ahead of his ‘Conversations in Design’ evening at Focus/13, we spoke to him about the romance of textiles, history and being his own worst client.

An Audience with Alidad, Space, Third Floor, South Dome, 24 September, 6.30pm-8.30pm; Tickets: £15

How would you describe your style? Layered, but I don’t just mean layers of fabrics. It’s about building a sense of history. I like to think of the house as having been there for a long time, with each generation adding to it. It doesn’t look designed. The fabrics might not necessarily go, but it’s not forced, it’s timeless.

What does ‘timeless’ mean to you? In two decades’ time all you’ll have to do is slightly tweak the design and it will still look great. I’m not interested in ‘the colour of today’ because it will be different tomorrow. There are people who break new ground and people who follow. Then there are people like me who continue in a fairly classical style but can also be influenced by new ground.

Where does your passion for design and interiors come from? I used to do antique textiles at Sotheby’s and I fell for the stories, textures, colours and combination of materials. Some people visit old houses and look at the paintings, the first thing I look at are the textiles. As a child I remember my grandmother having red velvet in her home and I loved how it felt.

How did you find putting your book, ‘A Timeless Home’, together? It was nerve-wracking, with elements of fun, but deep down I was excited about showing the homes I’ve worked on, because only a very small fraction of them have ever been photographed. I wanted to show how diverse my work is.

What are you obsessed with in your work? Detail. Often our projects can be empty concrete shells and we start from scratch – every layer, every moulding, everything is done in-house. It’s one vision and it’s all precisely planned. It’s the details that make a huge difference to the end result.

Why did you launch Studio Alidad, which focuses on smaller projects? Our big projects can take several years and all that time you’re aiming for that last day when the client moves in. You see them smile and that’s it! Of course we keep in touch with our clients, but we don’t see their daily enjoyment. With Studio Alidad, it’s the same level of perfectionism, details and mood, but we can reach that crescendo in a few months!

How do you find saying goodbye to a project? Being so busy, I go from the great heights of completion one day to a new empty shell the next. It’s harder for the client, I think, because they become so used to us being there. It’s a business relationship, of course, but it’s also intimate. You’ve designed around their needs and their dreams.

What draws you to a project? The chance to break down my own barriers. I enjoy working for people who love and understand design but they know they’re not experts, so are confident when they take a step back and let me explore. When you have this close relationship, my obsessions increase.

What’s your home like? It’s a complete disaster! It’s that well-known thing, the cobbler who wears broken shoes. I had to redecorate my flat frecently after major structural damage. I couldn’t decide what to do, so I just did it exactly as it had been. Isn’t that terrible? Some of my friends even offered to come and do it, just to get it finished, but I didn’t dare expose them to the worst client they’d ever have!

What’s your secret? I feel very dedicated and completely responsible for a project. I want to make it as magical as possible. I give it my very best. I have respect for people and try to put myself in their shoes. When you bring humanity and kindness into everything you do, life is easier – although not necessarily at that moment!