Alidad and Chelsea Editions




Close up photograph of an Alidad designed room.


Chelsea Editions, the England based fabric and furniture company recently announced that both Robert Kime and Alidad were joining their ranks with a new line of embroidered fabrics.   While no mention of the Robert Kime partnership has yet made it onto Chelsea Edition's web site, the Alidad association is now online to be viewed.

The one name Alidad, Persian born and London based, is known for his classic, opulent, and sometimes over the top interiors.   He started his career as head of Sotheby's Islamic Works of Art department before turning his energies to interior design.  Alidad quickly became famous for his richly decorated rooms, which often have a masculine leaning.  Always gorgeous, his interiors are laden with luxurious fabrics and textiles and  layers upon layers of richly textured patterns.  Minimalism is not a term that Alidad has any knowledge of.  Every surface in an Alidad designed room is addressed and is either fauxed, papered, or  upholstered.   Only the most fortunate few can afford the sumptious luxury of an Alidad interior. 

As such, Alidad's association with Chelsea Editions comes as somewhat of a surprise.  Chelsea Editions is famous for their soothing toned checks and stripes and their extensive collection of Indian hand embroidered fabrics with butterflies, flowers, and vines stitched in mostly muted tones.  Hardly the stuff of the velvet damasks and  silk brocades that Alidad prefers to use.   But, being a Persian, Alidad has remained true to his roots and his obvious love of Ottoman design, art, and textiles.   This love influenced his fabric range for Chelsea Editions.   Called "Bosphorous" - his embroidered fabrics have been scaled down for today's interiors, and their colors are muted so as to mix  with antique textiles.  Additionally, Alidad placed the patterns between stripes - perfect for wallcoverings a la Michael Smith's famous Urban Outfitter's Indian Bedspread Room.   With names like Goli, Layla, Cyprus, and Naz, the influence of the Ottoman empire on the fabrics is hard to ignore.  Here's a sneak peak at a few of the new Alidad designed Chelsea fabrics.  Hopefully - we'll get a glimpse of Robert Kime's new collection soon:






A close up look of the embroidered detail of the Saz fabric.








An Alidad designed drawing room:  layers upon layers of opulent excess.



The same drawing room - with a view to the fireplace and bookcases.



An antique suzani from the 19th century was used for a skirted table.  In just this small corner, it's interesting to see how many patterns and textiles Alidad used.  Every square inch is touched by his hand.



In this famous Alidad dining room, he illuminated Verre églomisé panels on the walls to give the room  a romantic candle lit effect. 


For a gentleman's bedroom retreat, Alidad used hand tooled leather panels on the walls.



For this paneled library, the wooden walls were too plain for Alidad so he designed faux painted panels to simulate an inlaid effect.



A closeup of the same library's fireplace:  Alidad placed a painting over an antique mirror.  Layers upon layers are always used to achieve the lush richness of his interiors.



For this listed estate, Buscot Park, Alidad was hired for his knowledge of history and the sensitivity he brought to the project.



Beside Chelsea Editions, Alidad has designed a line of fabrics for Pierre Frey.   Here, a multi patterned fabric is laden with the typical Alidad attention to detail and luxury.



Another Pierre Frey fabric by Alidad. 



Additionally,  Alidad has designed a line of velvet covered furniture for  Thomas Messel.   Here - a bookcase covered in red velvet and nailheads, with black paw feet.



A candle lit sconce in red velvet.



And, lastly, a round hall table with the same details as above.



Of course, he also designs wall coverings - here a close up of a leather panel called Pomegranate.



A dining room, with the Pomegranate wall covering.



And finally - the man of  the hour:  Alidad, handsome with just an air of bemused confidence.  Notice his red velvet hall table to the left of the sofa.  The other two tables are also Alidad designed.

Do As I Say, Not As I Do!!!!


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My courtyard with spring flowers going crazy.


A few weeks ago, I wrote about my landscaping, bragging really, about how pretty all my flowers were this spring - you can read my braggadocious column here.  I also wrote about how, when close to twenty years ago, we were looking for a lot to build our house on and we specifically chose this one because of a beautiful, huge, old  water oak that was growing smack in the middle of the front yard.  The tree's age and girth even affected the size of our house.  In drawing up the floor plans, we shaved approximately five feet off of our front living room - so as not to be forced to cut any of the tree's roots.   And then, we flipped our floor plan - putting the garage on the right as opposed to how it was originally drawn on the left, so that we could, of course, showcase the oak tree.  As I wrote last April, our tree has been fruitful:   one acorn from it produced a baby water oak at the edge of our yard.  To save Baby Water Oak, when pouring our concrete driveway, we narrowed it from two lanes to one, a solution that hasn't been very successful - a few visitors have lost their rear view mirrors negotiating the narrow drive and the ominous tree trunk.  


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Baby Water Oak, grown from an acorn off the huge  oak tree on our yard.   It creates an obstacle course for visitors.  Healthy and growing, no stress for this water oak.


Another acorn from our prolific old tree  was taken by Mary, my mother in law, seventeen years ago, right about the time my daughter was born.  And grow - they both did.  Elisabeth's Tree, as it is known in the family, towers over Mary's yard, letting little sunlight filter in for grass to grow underneath it's branches.  As you can surmise, we cherish our tree and nurture it.  It's our responsibility.  We prune it and feed it and schedule an annual preventive care regimen given by the tree care man.    Yet, basically, we leave our tree alone to do what trees do:  to shade us, give haven to the squirrels and a nesting home for the birds.   People who visit often remark on the tree's beauty and we always agree, exclaiming our deep and profound appreciation for all that our beautiful water oak has added to our lives and our home. 



Better days:  last summer - lots of dark green leaves.


So, imagine, our horror at discovering that despite all our good intentions, we were killing our beloved tree.   When I posted the picture of it  last April, I wrote "it's just now getting it's leaves back after winter" - but in truth, the water oak never goes completely bald and by April, the tree should already have had all its new leaves, dark green and shiny.   A few days ago,  I really opened my eyes to the situation and realized, it's almost June, where are all the new leaves?  Why are these leaves so tiny and so light colored?   A rush of dread bubbled up as my mind raced  - something is seriously wrong here and I placed a frantic call to the tree care man who assured me he would come by the next morning to take a look.


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Stressed out tree - reduced canopy with smaller leaves.


The next morning, Ted, the tree man, proclaimed that yes, the tree was definitely stressed out, so stressed out that the leaf canopy was not what is should be.    Most distressing of all was his news that we had caused it.   You see, last year we added outdoor lights to the house and did some basic upkeep landscaping.  Not much grass ever grew underneath the oak, so we decided to add a large flowerbed under the tree.   We had it professionally installed by a landscaper.  But the design perfectionist in me was never happy aesthetically with the flowerbed, and I had our yard man fix it up, move plants around, add more plants, add mulch, raise the bed, you know - just make it better.   But instead, the yard man, not having a degree in Landscape Design or Forestry  from Texas A&M raised the bed too high.  About a foot too high to be exact.  A tree needs its root collar to be exposed to breathe -  who knew?  Otherwise it suffocates and goes into stress and dies.  Hopefully, we may be able to save it at this point, "as long as mushrooms don't start growing on the trunk," the tree man said.   Huh????     Today a crew of those pesky illegal aliens showed up to take away all the gorgeous hydrangeas and ferns and begonias.  What they left me with was a huge circle of dirt in the middle of my yard, and little holes all over, deep in the ground for "aeration."  


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The tree men starting their dirty work - I moved the ferns to the back yard. 


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Eeek - what I'm left with, an empty flowerbed and lots of holes in the ground.


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The tree man pulls back the remaining layer of earth around the root collar to show how thick and dense the compacted dirt had become, actually suffocating the tree.  You can  see a line around the base where the soil came up to - almost over a foot too high.


And so,  tonight, I'm left with  the barren bed and an almost bare tree.    It's all as ugly as can be, but hopefully, along with a regimen of medicine, our tree will start breathing again and will flourish.  Hopefully.  Otherwise, we're in the market for a either a new tree or a new home.   Learn from our mistake:   don't build up soil around the base of any tree.   The soil should be level or even below level around the root collar.    We were told we could plant ivy on the barren circle, as long as we don't add any soil.  We'll see.  We're going to give it time to just breathe.    Do we think just removing the dirt will cure the stress?   At this point, it's hard to believe - we're just going to have to wait it out.



If the tree does die, we're moving.  It will be too hard to live here without it.  We'll be in the market for a house like this, somewhere in the south of France.   It's best to always look on the bright side, I've been told.

Empel Collections



Ron Van Empel is the debonair owner of Empel Collections, a custom lighting fixture company based out of the Netherlands.  After a long career as an interior designer, Ron found himself drawn to making custom lamps and decided to turn a hobby into a full-time endeavor.  I'm pleased to present an interview with the man who is just as happy in a pair of American cowboy boots, driving a vintage Lincoln as he is in his native country, the home of tulips and clogs! 




Classic bouillotte lamp from Empel Collections.


1.  First things first - I always wonder this of people who own successful businesses - how old are you?


2.  Where did you grow up and tell me a little about your childhood, your parents, your schooling?

I was born in The Hague (where the government is seated). Had a pretty normal childhood. One older sister and a younger brother. Parents got divorced. As a child I was already very occupied by the interior and lighting of my parents houses. The mood and atmosphere of a room had an affect on me ( it could make me happy or feel depressed.)  I would not want to go to peoples homes where it was 'uncozy.'   I would even be putting a dimmer on the lights in our Christmas tree!!  I must have developed a talent to pick up on what does make a room feel good. Later, I learned all about proportions, a factor so very important in anything of good design.

Read many interior magazines at an early age. Experimented alot on my parents home and my own room.   Flew thru school. Went to the University of Leiden. After that I had to go in the army (last years of mandatory listing....bummer for me!!)

I worked two summer seasons as a counselor in American summer camps in the States.   At an early age I read books on and was interested in:

Albert Hadley

Billy Baldwin....Very very good.

Dorothy Draper......Big influence in her time and now. Love her work. Real pioneer. Different in alot of ways.

Elsie de Wolf......

Also I would never miss any issue of Architectural Digest. Now I also devour VERANDA.  I have a big pile of books on American Architecture and interior design.



Sconce from the New Elegance Collection:  This is a new design that Empel is very excited about.  Isn't it gorgeous?


3.  How did you get into the lighting/lamp business? 

I very decidedly choose a career in interior design. When working for a high end design firm, I designed my first lamp for one of my clients' projects. A visiting representative at our office (of all kinds of products) saw my lamp and wanted to have it in his portfolio and sell it for me. "Sure" I said, with no big commercial plans in mind. Clients would be asking for other versions and colors/finishes.   That is how a small collection started to grow bigger and bigger.  I would always be trying to make lamps  more luxurious, not just the visual part but also the lampholders and cords/switches, etc.  Soon I was making the collection and many custom pieces world wide to the 'discerning client,' consulting and making lamps for the most prestigious clients/projects. I also designed a lamp for Brunschwig & Fils.

At this point, the lamp business was still combined with the full time job.  Only 7 years ago, I quit my full time job.....the collection grew even further and there was finally time for research, to explore the possibilities of all the designs I had sketched in a little book.



Rock crystal lamp for the New Elegance Collection.


4.  How is your business doing these days?  Are you satisfied with things?

I think because I am a relatively small company, I will always have enough business. The personal attention and the fact that everything can be custom made, keeps my clients wanting more.  Every year my business is on the up.  I am very happy where  I stand now with my company and the wonderful clients I have. Every project is exciting, but I also love to help clients who are looking for one perfect lamp.



Custom made bouillotte lamp with painted tole shade:  shades can be painted any color, of course!


5.  What do you see for the future of Empel?  Where do you want to take your business?

Well, for the near future/this year,  I cannot wait to move into the new showroom and workroom. I cannot wait to receive clients in that new space. The new showroom for me is a relative big step (and expensive) so I think I will be very happy there for the next couple of years. We'll see what the future brings. But definitely stay small, so quality and attention to detail will be high!!!

When dreaming........because I have many American designers and clients, I wish I could have my own showroom in the States. Wish I could spend 50% of time in the States and the rest here in Europe.

Ron, we wish that too!



The very handsome Mr. van Empel.  I promised him I wouldn't show the pictures  he sent me of him in his playclothes, or in his American cowboy boots!  I even have a picture of him with a tea-cozy on his head!  Those, I will bribe him with.



The house and showroom are located at the same place.  Here, is Ron's wonderful garden room.  I love the clock!



The other side of the garden room, looking out towards the swimming pool and onto the Empel Collections showroom.  When clients come to Empel Collections, they first sit down to tea and cakes with Ron - he wants the atmosphere to be casual and not high pressure.  After small talk, he then takes his clients to the showroom - where he designs the custom lighting fixtures to his client's specifications.  This low-key approach to selling is very dignified.  Hard to imagine this happening in the states!



Hanging bouillotte lamp with rich green shade.



Bouillotte lamp with pink shade!  Besides custom colored shades, the client can also pick out the finials and the type of silk wrapped cord. 



Bronze soldiers waiting to be made into lamps.



And another one waiting - won't this make the most gorgeous lamp?  Send me the picture when you're done, Ron!



This is my favorite lamp in the collection - except it has sold!!!



From the New Elegance Collection:   A crystal lamp with a square shade.  Note how the finial matches the crystal.



Another crystal lamp from the Yellowstone collection.



My favorite!  I love these dusty blue shades with the crystal bases.



Amsterdam:  The Museum of Bags and Purses (now that's SOME museum!) Empel Collections designed the lamps and sconces.



I love this combination of terra cotta and sage green.


Ceiling lamp, LA CHASSE. Shade + finial. Close up.

New design:  hanging fixture.


Chandelier, BEL AIR. Shown with shades. Photo 3 Lights on.

The Bel-Air chandelier with shades.



A more traditional chandelier, extra large.


Chandelier, Monaco.

And finally, the beautiful Monaco chandelier with large rock crystal.


Be sure to visit Empel Collections website for more pictures.  And to read  The Peak of Chic's blog on Empel Collections, go here.   Ron van Empel plans to be in the United States later this year.  If you would like to meet with him person, email him at to arrange it!