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Pamela Shamshiri on fusing vintage glamour with considered finishing touches

A founding member of Commune Design, Shamshiri shares her top decorating tips and little black book

bar marilou, new orleans
Stephen Johnson

Who is she? One half of LA-based Studio Shamshiri, which she set up with her brother Ramin in 2016, Pamela always knew that she wanted a career in the design world. ‘We grew up playing in our father’s furniture showroom. Ramin has a business background; I studied art history and architecture, then production design at NYU,’ she recalls.

I like to honour the architecture, there's a lot to be learnt from history

The siblings were two of the four founding partners of Commune Design studio, best known for the Ace hotels. ‘When we started Commune it was a moment when all of us wanted to change our lives,’ she says. ‘At that time, there weren’t many multidisciplinary firms and it felt so thrilling. We were approaching design in our own way.’ Today, Studio Shamshiri and its team is housed in the historic Thomson Building, a 1920s Hollywood landmark.

pamela shamshiri portrait
Pamela Shamshiri
Photography: Dewey Nicks

What’s her style? Narrative and research driven, Pamela’s process always starts with the building. ‘We’ve been lucky to work on a lot of restoration projects,’ she continues. ‘I like to honour the architecture; there’s a lot to be learnt from history.’ Supporting local artisans and sustainability have always been important, too. ‘I have never been a fan of plastic; I prefer organic materials and metals such as copper, which develop a natural patina as they age.’

hallway in la home
The entrance of a recently completed residential project in LA
Stephen Johnson

What are her recent projects? Studio Shamshiri’s first hotel venture was the eclectic Maison de la Luz in New Orleans, which was completed in 2019. ‘We imagined that Iris Apfel had travelled the world and then decided to open a guest house. It was a more-is-more, layered concept where the colours lighten as you go up the building. By the time guests are in the bedrooms, the palettes have desaturated and it feels like you’re in the clouds,’ explains Pamela.

living room palladian villa
The living room of the Palladian villa in California, originally decorated by Mark Hampton
Stephen Johnson

Colour also played a key role in a Californian Palladian villa (above) that was originally decorated by Mark Hampton and took a decade to complete (she began the work while part of Commune Design). ‘The house needed to be freshened up and we did that by infusing a lot of colour into it,’ she says. ‘For instance, the dining room was red but we changed the shade to paprika so it more suited the clients’ personalities.’

breakfast dining room
The Maison de la Luz’s breakfast room
Stephen Johnson

What is she currently working on? The iconic Rainbow Room event space, restaurant and cocktail bar at the top of the Rockefeller Centre in New York. ‘We’re revitalising it; preserving the architecture with an element of art deco but also making sure it’s a cool place for people to hang out.’

studio shamshiri office
Studio Shamshiri’s offices in Hollywood’s Thomson Building include this kitchen and dining area
Stephen Kent Johnson

She says: ‘Currently I’m responding to colours from the 1940s, but since Covid-19 I can see that my aesthetic is shifting daily. When there is a complete change in a way of life, design has to respond to that. I think, overall, that it will feel simpler, more edited and grounded.’ studioshamshiri.com


Shamshiri’s tips on how to add finishing touches to a space


Don’t underestimate the small details. It’s easy to get so focused on the colour of the rugs or the walls that you don’t take into account those functional everyday items that make a space sing. For instance, the sponge by the sink or the water carafe next to the bed.


Be conscious of materials. I would always advise clients not to buy plastic unless it’s vintage – not only because it doesn’t often look good in a space, but also because it’s important to be conscious of what we’re putting out into the world. Plastic doesn’t ever leave the planet.


Consider storage. I’ve gotten into shallow storage as a way of both organising and also creating a display of all our favourite pieces. For instance, a pantry with shelving that’s eight-inches deep keeps all the bottles and cans looking good. Everything is visible and can be easily managed.


Shop local. As a studio, we have always supported local craftsmen but it’s our mission to do this even more. Pieces made by artisans will help ground a home by telling a story and giving it a sense of place.


Every project has its own unique list of suppliers and craftspeople. Part of making it special is finding the right mix


Diedrick Brackens is an incredibly talented LA-based woven textiles artist who combines historical European and African methods, as well as imagery, into his work. His tapestries give voice to many of the challenges we face today with such beauty and materiality. diedrickbrackens.com


New York and Mexico City-based Luteca specialises in contemporary and modernist furniture inspired by Mexican and Latin American heritage. For the upstairs bathroom in our office we bought the ‘Txt.05’ tule [bulrush] bench seats, which are made in the same way as they were centuries ago. luteca.com


We have used Zellige tiles from Exquisite Surfaces in most of our projects, in some way, including for cement floors in our office and black terracotta floors in our kitchen. xsurfaces.com


'I can’t think of a job where we haven’t used OK The Store. It sells everything from glassware to ceramics and clocks, and is our go-to for all objects and household items.' okthestore.com

This article first appeared
ELLE Decoration January 2021

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