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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.