For Love, Art & Lights

issam_home_oct2014_001 (7)Issam Bajalia’s home reflects his inner vision. 

Written by Brett Levine

Photography by Graham Yelton


Four years ago, Salon U founder and owner Issam Bajalia first shared his home with B-Metro readers. At that time he had just rebuilt after a devastating fire. “I think in many ways I started with my home as a blank canvas,” he says. “After the fire I redesigned with a few key elements that I truly enjoyed, but over the course of the past four years, my home has become much more décor- and art-oriented. What you see now,” he continues, “is not so much a remodel—there were no structural changes—as it was a redesign.”

Bajalia’s design confidence is the result of both an intuitive understanding of color and pattern and of strong friendships over many years. “One of my greatest influences is Barri Thompson, owner of Atmosphere. She is a phenomenal designer and decorator and she has been inspirational in the development of my aesthetic,” he shares.

A lover of midcentury modern furniture, Bajalia has had some wonderful finds over the years. “I have a few great pieces by Milo Baughman, including the sofa in the living room,” he says. “I found it at the ABC Homes location of Las Venus in New York. It was on its way out the door for a photo shoot at a local hotel. I went ahead and bought it anyway because I imagined if it made it to the hotel it probably wouldn’t come back!” The sofa is a simple reflection of Bajalia’s understanding of how a single piece can anchor a room, whether it is on the floor, on the wall, or on the ceiling.

So, despite his love of the monumental, or of that key piece, it is his emphasis on what most people consider the incidentals that makes his interiors so fascinating. As he explains, “I actually think that rugs, art, and lighting are three of the most important elements in making a home, and for me, they take as much time and care to select as the other furnishings. Then,” he continues, “I particularly love the idea that these are all things you can easily move from room to room, so you can easily give the impression that you’ve redone your home without doing anything more expensive than maybe buying a few gallons of paint.”

Having a love of accessories helps with this approach. Bajalia’s new decor allows him to highlight his extraordinary collection of Terzani lighting, which includes an Etoile in the dining room and a Magdalena—an elegantly cut, round steel fixture—in the stairwell. The lighting serves to highlight one of his other loves, wallpapers by Anna French and Roche Bobois. “The wallpaper in the dining room has tiny crystals on the surface, which catch the light, so it shimmers,” he says. This same approach to wallcoverings occurs in the master bath. “Wallpaper is just another way that I could add depth, dimension, and color,” he says.

“I think carefully about everything that comes into my home, which is probably why it feels like this project has taken so long,” he explains with a laugh. “I choose everything individually, piece by piece, and I try to think about how it will fit in with the overall scheme. As a person who is sight-impaired”—Bajalia has only limited vision—“I often find that I like pieces that are large, that make bold statements, or that have vibrant colors.” One of his loves is original art, and Bajalia focuses on works by local and regional artists. “I particularly love the works of Mark Singer, who is a painter who lives just outside Hunstville,” he says. “He paints with a palette knife, and I love the depth and the textures of his surfaces. What I like even more is that I feel that his works are complex but accessible. When people visit they often find associations without having to have explanations, so they are constantly creating their own connections with the works themselves.” Other pieces in his collection include a George Rodrigue blue dog, as well as a delicate collection of studio ceramics.

issam_home_oct2014_017 (1)Bajalia is most excited by the opportunity to take risks. One need only look up to see this. “I’ve often felt that ceilings are overlooked,” he explains. “I thought to myself that I am so fascinated by beautiful lighting, but there it is set against a sheetrock ceiling. Why not do something more interesting, more engaging? I don’t like to play it safe. You don’t have to do your ceilings like your walls.”

Bajalia sees his décor as a momentary pause in a constantly changing experience. “It has taken almost four years, but I feel like I’ve finally reached the point where I am truly allowing the artistic component of the house to come to life,” he says. “Everything in my home is a reflection of me, and I want everything to remind me to be happy and to give me joyous thoughts and feelings.”

If a house is simply somewhere we live, but a home is what we make it, Issam Bajalia has made a beautiful home, and he continues to make one every single day.

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