There’s a house in Bel Air that resembles the subtle archways of a Tuscan Villa, the perfectly manicured gardens of Versailles, and the neoclassical charm of an ornate French 18th-century mansion. This is a place where swans can be found swimming in a nearby pond languidly passing their time amidst beautifully kept ﬂowers, while inside a Moroccan hammam offers respite from the outside world through wonderfully ornate Islamic detailing. This is a house that eloquently comprises many periods, cultures and styles into one extravagant and otherworldly unit. The visitor to this abode doesn’t feel like he or she is in Los Angeles but thousands of miles away or perhaps in another era entirely. But even with its fairy tale vision and impressive décor, this is a home that is, ultimately, meant to be shared with friends and loved ones.
Just as extravagant and worldly as the house is its impresario – Mohamed Hadid, the father of celebrity models Gigi and Bella Hadid and one of Los Angeles’ leading luxury developers. Mohamed shares this particular house, one of several that he owns, with his ﬁancée Shiva Safai. Born in Palestine, Mohamed moved to the US with his family and made his name designing Ritz-Carlton hotels and other mansions around the world under his company, the Hadid Design and Development Group. “I worked on most of the Ritz-Carlton hotels during the '80s and '90s,” recalls Mohamed, who designed and built 15 Ritz-Carlton hotels and bought the Ritz-Carlton hotels in New York, Washington DC, Aspen, Houston and Naples, during the 1980s. Known for his distinctive and opulent style, Mohamed has developed ﬁve-star resorts, mansions and deluxe commercial buildings around the world earning him the label of master luxury real estate developer. He also built a mosque and a school for a Muslim community in Northern Virginia and continues to build homes for Muslims adding his signature touch of Eastern ﬂair. “The homes I have done in the Los Angeles area are a combination of neoclassical style with a very modern interior,” he says, adding that his mantra has always been: “I don’t follow trends so I make my own.” Mohamed is a trained architect and engineer, and what distinguishes one of his properties is his signature attention to historical references and comfort. “I create homes that feel like a home – it could be a palace or a mansion – but each one has a comfortable feeling.” Artful touches reﬂecting back on his Arabic heritage combined with modern décor exude a reverence for the past. “Whether I am building modern homes or classic homes, I always bring in a little touch of the East because this is my heritage.”
Mohamed’s Grand Piano has been played by the hands of many renowned musicians and composers. It is situated in a lavish room ﬁlled with Neoclassical art, a marble ﬁreplace and plush furnishings
Mohamed’s love for art and design coupled with his expansive experience in developing luxury real estate led him to craft his own dream home in Bel Air. From hand- drawn sketches and notes the master developer created his palatial residence on a magniﬁcent plot of land encompassing 2.2 acres. The sandstone 48,000-square-foot Belvédère mansion, as it is called, carries the same welcoming and opulent ambiance as his other estates. Embodying old world architecture at its ﬁnest, within this impressive abode is a multitude of references to Mohamed’s multicultural background as well as extensive travels. He says,
Objets d’art from Morocco, Turkey, and Africa, among other far away places, are placed within each space as memorable heirlooms. These include Qur’ans that can be found throughout the house recalling Mohamed’s Islamic heritage and endowing the house with a spiritual presence. “All the old French and English homes and palaces incorporated heirlooms that families brought with them from abroad,” says Mohamed. “These are things I have accumulated over the years. I ﬁnd a way to place them in my homes so that they become part of the house.”
The estate’s kitchen boasts impressive wooden detailing inspired by an intricately carved wooden side cabinet, featured above
Walk through the estate’s large outdoor gates and through the main foyer with its glimmering chandelier, stucco wall ﬁnishing and rich neoclassical columns, and you will feel as if you’ve walked into the home of an 18th-century nobleman. Among the various Renaissance style paintings that grace the walls of the entrance way are two portraits of Shiva and Mohamed painted by Mohamed himself. “He surprised me with that painting,” says Shiva, who was born in Iran and raised in Norway. “It was actually taken from an iPhone picture of me that Mohamed took while I was on a photo shoot. He then painted it and gave it to me last Christmas as a surprise. “It’s one of the most beautiful things that anyone has ever done for me.” Such an intimate painting was a way for Mohamed to welcome his ﬁancée to his home. “I thought we should have her portrait here so that she feels that this house was hers, too,” says Mohamed. Such a gesture is another example of the many memories that the home encapsulates – the paintings, personal heirlooms and many photographs and picture frames that dot every room welcome visitors with warmth and charm. “Everything he does is with love and passion,” adds Shiva.
Photographs of Mohamed’s family as well as old Qur’ans can be found throughout the house
The many picture frames of Shiva and Mohamed, their friends and family, the constant rotation of fresh ﬂowers – all of these were additions that Shiva added when she moved in. She notes that her favourite areas of the house are the kitchen and their bedroom. “The kitchen is the most beautiful I have ever seen and we have this huge walk-in refrigerator,” she says. “This is where we spend a lot of time cooking and hanging out with our friends and family.” The kitchen was inspired by one piece of furniture, an intricately carved wooden side cabinet that Mohamed found in a ﬂea market. The rest of the kitchen was then designed around this piece so that the woodwork matched it seamlessly. “I always loved this piece – the way it was built and its design,” he says. “It’s so delicate – I wanted to buy something that had volume and height and I used this piece as the focus piece and then I hand carved the whole kitchen and breakfast area around it.” Artisans in Mexico, Italy and Indonesia worked to create the rest of the kitchen. “And it came out literally perfect because we used the same wood throughout,” adds Mohamed. “I also incorporated Greek ceilings. I was trying to make it warm and comfortable. I love a cooking area that serves not only as a kitchen but also as a place to converse and have fun – sometimes I even throw a few cooking lessons for my friends’ wives. It is a very pleasurable place to be.”
Shiva walks through one of the estate’s neoclassical corridors. She wears a pink Marchesa feather gown. Shoes by Gianvito Rossi. Diamond earrings, Butani. Diamond ﬂower ring and diamond tiger ring, both Carrera y Carrera
For privacy from the outside world there’s Mohamed and Shiva’s bedroom. Each has their own expansive walk-in closet where there are meticulously arranged clothes and shoes. Soft, cream coloured tones prove calming while photographs remind the couple of their wonderful memories together. “The bedroom is our getaway,” says Shiva. “It’s quiet and private and we are away from everyone.” Every week she ensures that fresh ﬂowers are ordered deciding on the appropriate colour and arrangement. Shiva also overseas the Versaille-style gardens which has two ponds with seven swans, as well as manages a staff of around 10 people who work on the house each day. “It’s a beautiful home to live in but requires lots of work and constant maintenance,” says Shiva.
She adds, “Our policy is pretty much the open house policy. Everyone is always welcome. We love to entertain and take care of our guests. It’s a house made with lots of love and as soon as you walk in it’s like your home.”
The Moroccan room presents a decadent majlis area
Additional rooms constitute artistic heirlooms that Mohamed has created from his many travels. The spa area, for example, includes a Moroccan room and a Turkish hammam area, boasting meticulous marble detailing by artisans to the King of Morocco in an effort to recreate the experience of an authentic Middle Eastern spa. The pieces were made in Morocco, Turkey, Indonesia and China and then shipped to Los Angeles. “From when I was a young child I have visited many hammams around the world in Turkey, Morocco and Syria,” recalls Mohamed. “This is the most ancient form of relaxation – these spas came from ancient Turkey and Islamic Empire. They have been decorated in a very serene way and I wanted to replicate the same in this home.” He remembers the time that he took the acclaimed Italian singer Andrea Bocelli into his hammam. “He thought it was so amazing that he started singing and I couldn’t get him out of there!”
The Turkish hammam features intricate tile work made by artisans from the Middle East
There’s also the grand piano – another object ﬁlled with memories. Quincy Jones, David Foster and Amr Diab are all singers and musicians who have enjoyed moments with Mohamed and his friends by the piano. Mohamed recalls how Michael Jackson came to visit them just before he passed away. “He didn’t have a home at the time and on Thanksgiving I gave him the house for three days and told him to invite his whole family.” A year later he passed away but his presence at the house can still be felt.
Gatherings are also held in the baroque theatre where the couple hosts Oscar nights, World Cup viewings and other parties. Inspired by turn of the century European and Russian design, Mohamed notes how he much he always loved the French Cabaret and Old Russian theatres. “I wish I had been born in a different century. But you have to do these things with taste. For the theatre I went for the more authentic French style. But still, it has to be comfortable for whoever sees it.” Sit on one of the sofas and it will feel as if you are seated on a cloud.
The opulent French 18th century inspired private theatre features ornate detailing, plush red sofas and a ceiling painting. Mohamed and Shiva often host Oscar nights here
An aesthetic wonder and an architectural feat, the Belvédère’s spectacular view also sets it apart from nearby properties. “We are very close to the city but once you are in our home you feel like you are far away and that’s one of the best things about it,” beams Shiva. “You don’t feel like you are in the middle of the city but somewhere else – maybe in France or Tuscany.” Still, Shiva notes that the house is large for the two of them and mentions plans of eventually creating a house together that is more modern as well as smaller. This is part of Mohamed and Shiva’s future plans – a new chapter that includes more travel and Shiva’s new businesses; among which is a hair care line.
Shiva strolling in the estate’s enrapturing gardens. Dress, Elie Saab Couture. Earrings, Cartier
Mohamed continues to keep busy with his luxury development projects. He recently completed two projects in Cairo in the form of classic mansions and will be doing more work in the region, including projects in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. As in his Bel Air home, the incorporation of past and present is of utmost importance to him. He says,
He adds, “I want you to feel like you are going into a classic theatre but when you look up you see hand-painted paintings on the ceiling and yet still feel comfortable enough to put your feet up and watch a movie.” It’s ultimately about sharing – giving his clients and his loved ones an experience of beauty and pleasure. “Many people have beautiful homes and beautiful things but other people haven’t ever seen them. So why have them?” It’s about creating memories that will be cherished forever. “My father always said ‘Enjoy your life so that other people enjoy your joy.’” And a timeless moment at the Belvédère surrounded by wonderful art, design and friends is the priceless memory that Mohamed seeks to achieve.
Words: Rebecca Anne Proctor. Styling: Deborah Waknin-Harwin. Photography: John Tsiavis. Creative Director: Acacia Stichter. Assistant Fashion Stylist: Larissa Ricci. Hair: Peter Savic. Assisted by: Connor Tingley. Make-up: Brendan Robertson. Production Assistant: Emily Dell. Photography Assistant: Jeremy Danger, Patrick Ryland With special thanks to Turkish Airlines
Click through the gallery above for more images from our shoot with Mohamed and Shiva.
This article appears in the autumn 2016 issue of Harper's Bazaar Interiors.