Pamela Shamshiri with her dog Roquefort at Studio Shamshiri
Since 2018, the Los Angeles interior designer Pamela Shamshiri has worked from a Spanish Colonial-style building on Sunset Boulevard. Built in the 1920s for silent-movie cowboy Fred Thomson, and more recently home for several decades to the punky Cat & Fiddle pub, there’s no doubting its convoluted Hollywood history. In Shamshiri’s hands, it has become an elegant haven of high arches and exquisite period furniture, a handsome workplace imbued with a soft sense of homeliness.
Nowhere could be a better base for Shamshiri. As one of the most sought-after interior designers in the city, she deftly repurposes houses built for California dreamers. This year, Studio Shamshiri completed a transformation of a 1970s Holmby Hills extravaganza by the architect A Quincy Jones for the gallerist Shulamit Nazarian. Shamshiri renovated the original pebble-studded concrete floors, realigned the living spaces and incorporated artworks by heavyweights such as Judy Chicago alongside more contemporary pieces, including a 12ft-high mushroom by the Haas Brothers.
Hudson House: A curated gallery wall is seen from the dining room, which was painted red as part of Mark Hampton’s original design
For a country retreat for Anne Hathaway, Shamshiri reveled in the actor and her jewelry designer husband’s love of color, with dusky pink paneled bedrooms and brilliant yellow and gold fabrics inspired by Rihanna’s canary-colored cape at the 2015 Met Gala. The property—a sweet Swiss chalet set in the Californian countryside—was built by Myron Hunt in 1906.
Shamshiri loves to travel across time periods and styles, bringing the past and the present into sync. “I really enjoy working with historic homes,” she says. “It’s like making surgical insertions, injecting new elements and creating clean lines.” It is something she achieves imperceptibly. Her favorite cities, perhaps unsurprisingly, are Tehran and Rome. “They are places where the past exists harmoniously alongside the present. To me, both are the perfect marriage of old and new.”
Hudson House: Shamshiri subtly integrated contemporary design objects within the owners’ existing collection of antiques, furniture and Old Master paintings in the Green Study.
Shamshiri was born in Tehran in 1970: nine years later her family moved to LA to escape the turmoil of the Iranian Revolution. She was raised in the San Fernando Valley, then studied architecture at Smith College in Massachusetts and production design at New York University. By the late 1990s, she was creating fabulous scenarios for parties and events with her brother Ramin, notably for Virgin Records. “I think the most challenging production we did was for a Janet Jackson album launch at the top of the Chrysler Building,” she recalls. “It was in the former Cloud Club”—a historic private lunch club for high-powered New York executives—“and we made it into a total 1920s period piece.”
She co-founded the multidisciplinary LA studio Commune Design, in 2004, with Roman Alonso, Steven Johanknecht, and her brother. It was an industry trailblazer, focused on projects created around carefully constructed narratives. “I think our first big success was the Ace Hotel in Palm Springs,” says Shamshiri. “We wanted to get away from the Rat Pack thing to a kind of glamping. It was democratic—not high or low—and rooted in a belief that quality doesn’t come from money, but from thoughtfulness.”
The sunken living room, which sits at the center of the Trousdale Estates home, is both cozy and grand.
Shamshiri and her brother set up their own studio in 2016, and thoughtfulness is still one of her trademarks. “Pamela’s work is so intelligent,” says Sam Pratt, co-founder of London’s Gallery FUMI, who has frequent dealings with the studio. “There’s nothing over-the-top or fancy about her work. It’s just very tasteful: very considered but not uptight. In a Pam project, everything flows—the spaces, the artworks, the objects…”
A new book, Shamshiri: Interiors, published by Rizzoli this fall, details nine projects completed by her studio. It illustrates how she rejects a signature style in favor of being guided by a client’s sensibilities, lifestyle or their art collection. Hudson Ranch in California, for example, was “a cabinet of curiosities on a grand scale—a mix of objects, furnishings, artworks, and oddities.” The house, built in 1984, was inspired by its owner’s travels around Italy’s Renaissance farmhouses and Palladian villas, and its original interiors were by the renowned US designer Mark Hampton. “Our color choices were based on those in Hampton’s own book: red for the dining room, you sleep in blue, green for smoking,” she says. “As a studio, we engage with color because it is an emotional leveler. A tool to convey a feeling and set the tone of a room.”
Louise Bonnet’s Hollywood 1, 2019, hangs on the wall of the blue dining room in the west wing of the Trousdale Estates house
At a house in Trousdale Estates, Beverly Hills, owned by Matches founders Ruth and Tom Chapman, she had to negotiate her clients’ highly evolved tastes. “They would send me texts at night of fine Gio Ponti furniture and other treasures they had acquired at auction,” says Shamshiri. “We wanted a palpable sense of warmth and substance.”
Recent projects include houses in the US, London, and Tel Aviv, Irene Neuwirth’s jewelry store in New York, and a hotel in Ojai, California. This follows the much-admired Maison de la Luz in New Orleans, which opened in 2019. “We are very connected to building for the future, for growing families, lives and art collections,” says Shamshiri. “The project in Ojai took 10 years, but the greatest compliment is when people visit and think we haven’t done a thing.”