Turkish designer Zeynep Fadillioglu’s interiors reveal a passion for storytelling, for making anyone entering her hotel, restaurant, villa or mosque—yes, in 2009, she became the first woman to design a mosque—want to know the history behind the intricate details and dramatic juxtapositions. Born and raised in Istanbul, she earned degrees in computer science and art history in London before setting up her design company, ZF Design
, in 1995. Fadillioglu’s work spans continents, but is rooted in her love for and appreciation of the artistry of ancient Turkish civilizations—with a modern twist. She is also about to debut a furniture collection.Interior Design: You’ve designed several of Istanbul’s most famous nightspots, including Ulus 29, and five years ago you were the first woman to design a mosque, Istanbul’s strikingly contemporary Sakirin Mosque. Those are two polar opposites. What process goes into designing for entertainment purposes versus religious purposes?
Zeynep Fadillioglu: My designs always serve the client’s requests and needs. Each is bespoke; designed with respect to the environment and to the architecture of the building. Designing a public space is always a challenge: As with residential projects, you are designing to a single client’s tastes and thinking of their priorities while combining aesthetics with functionality. In restaurant design, you need to fulfill the owner’s or manager's specifications and wishes while thinking of the comfort and expectations of hundreds of customers. It is a challenge because you have to be cost conscious and yet creative. When designing a mosque, the religious regulations define the frame of the design. Then within this frame, I try to fulfill my client’s wishes whilst being conscious of the needs of the religious population. After all, the building has to provide a serene atmosphere to the worshipper.ID: As someone at the forefront of modern Turkish design, how do you define your signature style?
ZF: In my designs, I am combining East and West—mixing traditional and contemporary. My designs reflect a modern understanding of our roots and I am telling my story through colors, textures, textiles, and artistic items. While being very conscious of today, I am also very interested in history; whether it is Ottoman, Islamic Seljuk, Anatolian civilizations or Byzantine roots. Together, they lead up to a design with a timeless look—a universal appeal with a local feel. You can follow the traces of the past in the modern look.ID: You are known for mixing traditional cultural symbolism and antique Ottoman textiles into contemporary spaces, such as the Marti Istanbul Hotel. What is the key to making such bold and elaborate historic details harmonize with clean lines and muted colors?
ZF: It is quite hard to explain the way to do this. I am harmonizing historic details with colors and/or forms and mixing these with my feelings.ID: Some of your residential and hotel interiors are sleek and modern, while others are quite plush and traditional, and still others are a combination of both. How do you work with the client to create the right mix of old and new?
ZF: Every design that comes out of my office is unique and is a blend of the client’s priorities and my perspective. ID: What significant design trends do you see emerging in Turkey and across Europe?
ZF: Use of contemporary art is becoming more and more significant. I see design evolving around art.ID: You are debuting a new furniture collection, the Zeynep Fadillioglu Furniture Line—tell us about it.
ZF: I am really excited about my upcoming furniture line. It represents everything that my office stands for: creativity, functionality, spirit, quality, richness, respect to your roots, and modernism with a contemporary approach and a timeless look. The line mainly consists of tables, side tables and seating units; accessories and lighting elements are in process. When you buy a piece of the Zeynep Fadillioglu Furniture Line, you will carry the ZF Design look into your home or office.ID: Aside from Istanbul and other cities in Turkey, where has been your favorite place to work—and why?
ZF: I have worked almost all around the world from the States to the U.K, from Holland to France, Abu Dhabi to Qatar, Kuwait and India. Because I am inspired by everything I see, hear and feel, every place I have worked so far has enriched my designs. I can say that I enjoyed every moment of it.ID: What and/or who has most inspired your design aesthetic?
ZF: I am inspired by everything I see—it can be a fabric, a painting, nature, a view, an accessory and even a detail or a form.ID: What upcoming projects are you most excited about and why?
ZF: I will be designing an Istanbul-based jewelry shop, which excites me a lot. I am currently working on private villas in Oman, Jordan and Saudi Arabia and may be submitting window design to an international brand.ID: What would you most like the world to better understand about Turkey’s history and culture through your design?
ZF: The extremely rich history of this part of the world and the mosaic of cultures, [which are] interwoven.
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