Pamela Shamshiri | Apiece Apart Woman

Apiece Apart Woman Pamela Shamshiri


For Pamela Shamshiri, the last year has been a rebirth. At the start of 2016, she left Commune, the celebrated design studio she co-founded, to launch a new firm — Studio Shamshiri, an interdisciplinary platform for approaching interiors and large-scale design projects with a holistic, 360-degree perspective and a mission of mixing old and new, combining the storied and the modern, paying respect to history while boldly embracing the new and the uncharted. It’s a philosophy that has always been a part of Shamshiri’s work, starting with her first job out of school as a set designer, where she realized every detail has significance, has a story (“down to the fork in hand,” she explains).


Shamshiri lives in an incredible Rudolph Schindler home in the hills of Los Angeles — the space a true relic of design and history. The feeling inside is perfectly in line with her old-meets-new ethos: equal parts respectful of the treasure it is, while still feeling like a place you could call home. She isn’t overly precious about treating the house (which she shares with her two young sons) like a museum. It’s filled with soul, warmth, and depth…just like Shamshiri herself. 


Photos by Claire Cottrell / Interview by Leigh Patterson / Prop Styling by Lauren Spencer King


Apiece Apart Woman Pamela Shamshiri
Apiece Apart Woman Pamela Shamshiri

Can you share more about your background — you started your career as a set designer. How did this inform the way you consider spaces? 
I got my MFA in production design for film. We basically learned how to communicate a narrative or mood through design. It was a very holistic approach to storytelling. Whether it’s the fork in hand, the costume, the lighting, the architecture…it all adds up and communicates something about a character or a moment in time. I have the same approach to design. Whether the house is a portrait of its inhabitants, or the store is a flagship for a brand…it’s telling a story.

You’ve had a very transitional year — can you share more Studio Shamshiri, the types of projects or concepts you are most excited about exploring? 
In work and in life it’s been a year of rebirth and starting fresh. We’ve had a tremendous year of change and growth at Studio Shamshiri. I am most proud of the team we have built this year. This year’s focus was really about finding great designers and architects and grooming them for our work ahead. We are working on three fantastic hotel projects currently and a several houses which are both historic in nature and some very modern ones as well. I love working with a variety of styles, eras, and locations, combining the past and the present. A fresh take on the past. 
What have been some of the biggest learnings of the last year?
I’ve really had to slow down and realize that I am currently setting up for the future. I’m planting seeds and they take time to grow. I also have learned that it takes a lot of talented and driven people to have your business flourish. I love collaborating and want to enjoy the process everyday.

Apiece Apart Woman Pamela Shamshiri
Apiece Apart Woman Pamela Shamshiri

You frequently have cited travel as a necessary part of your work: what places are most exciting to you right now? 
ALL travel is exciting to me. I have an Oscar Wilde quote on a posit at my desk: “To live is to travel. To travel is to live.” I can feel a big India bug brewing right now — I’d like to go there soon. I feel most at home in Italy and Iran, where my roots are; Rome is one of my favorite cities.
What do you do for your own wellbeing — what things (small or big) do you do for yourself in order to feel like the most full, true version of yourself?
I exercise with a trainer five days a week, and hike and run as much as possible. I didn’t give this to myself for years and now I think of it as a gift. It keeps me balanced and clears my head before I re-enter the house. I was taking my stress home for awhile and now I enter clear, ready to give to the kids from the moment I walk in. I also eat mostly protein and vegetables now which has really helped me with maintaining my energy.

In your projects you’ve called out the importance of objects and details you call “smalls” — small things you interact with on a daily basis that say a lot about our personal choices and add value in daily life. What are some of these objects for you?
I love all my crystals and stones that I have by my bed and at my sink. They all have a purpose and a meaning and memories. For clients, I enjoy creating excellent sink-washing situations and good tea, coffee, breakfast moments. All these small settings set a tone — you interact with them so much. When it’s a beautiful inspired situation, everything is just that much better.

Apiece Apart Woman Pamela ShamshiriApiece Apart Woman Pamela Shamshiri

You are strict with your time and schedule — can you talk more about this, especially how it relates to the time you carve out to be with your family?
I very rarely work on weekends. I’m a single working mom and I am very aware of preserving my time with the kids. During the week, I don’t take a lunch break, I leave on time to go to my workout, and get home in time for dinner with the kids and to do homework. I have to be strict with my time because when I don’t, I’ve learned that it affects my kids the most. 
What are your current curiosities?
Currently, it’s music—I couldn’t really listen to music for many years and now I am so happy to have that back in my life and work on collecting it again. My kids are playing instruments and I’m thrilled about that. Usually my curiosities are design related so it feels like a special time for me and music right now. I also currently have a thing for tequila as well… 
What are some of the most valuable lessons you’ve learned?
My parents always said two big things: Live life to its fullest. Things change overnight so live in the moment and appreciate it. I think I have an obsession with this and for my clients.
Second, education is everything. This doesn’t stop at school — continue to learn and absorb. Those are things that no one can take away from you—not a revolution, or a financial downfall, or a person—your education is yours to keep and grow with.