Interior Tales

23 May 2021


Meet Soraya: An expert observationalist who loves to layer colors and patterns. Her lively and spontaneous nature is one of the things that draws us to her most. As a multilingual, travel aficionado, Soraya ventures through life with an openness and adaptability that let’s her embrace new experiences and opportunities. Inspired by everything from Audrey Hepburn to the Nanny, Soraya knows how to take in the repertoire of others and re-invent them in ways we have never seen before. Wander with us into the colorful life of @sorayabakhtiar and leave feeling inspired to explore creativity and the freedom of self discovery.

What’s your name? Horoscope sign?

My name is Soraya Bakhtiar. I’m half Egyptian and half Iranian. I was born in Geneva and lived there for most of my life until six years ago when I moved to London to study Fashion Journalism and earn a master's degree.

I was born under the LEO sign, but if you really wanna dig deeper I’m a sagittarius rising and Capricorn Moon and have a lot of planets in virgo. Lots of fire and earth. Perhaps this explains my nomadic soul and why it’s so important for me to wander yet at the same time stay grounded. I love astrology. I took classes last year (I had a fantastic teacher) and it really helped me understand myself, as well as the people around me.

Where do you live?

I’ve never been able to have a straight answer to this question, because I’ve always been between cities. Before Covid, I was living in London for 6 years, but a year ago I moved back to Geneva. Now I split my time between Geneva and Jeddah, which has become my second home.

Where does your focus lie career wise?

My career started in journalism, then moved to blogging, then social media and on the side I’ve taken on creative design projects and collaborations. I also consult for some of the brands I really believe in. Last year I launched a fragrance line, which was a big leap of faith. Something I’ve been working on for years and it’s been such a fun yet challenging adventure to create something from scratch. So if you will, I already have a foot in the fashion industry, another one in the perfume industry (I’m running out of legs). But most of all my focus is to keep having fun in what I do. For as long as I can remember that’s what I’ve wanted. That and I find it extremely important to be myself and stay true to my values. Not settle for anything else.

What are you currently working on?

I’m working on AZALEO, my fragrance line. We’re working really hard, despite the global situation to open up in new markets, as there is a high demand. It has been less than a year since we launched, but we are gaining traction fast. The other thing I’m working on is myself. I feel like it's necessary to check in with yourself from time to time. And right now, more than ever, feels like the right time to do so. There’s also a lot of other projects in the pipeline and some fun collaborations. Can’t reveal too much right now.

What’s your process for when you feel creatively stuck?

I literally put the task I’m working on, on hold, in a drawer and lock it. I try to forget about it and distract myself with other projects. In my experience, it’s always when you forget about what you’re working on, that something sparks. It’s normal to be creatively stuck. Just know it’s ok, and let it go momentarily, it always comes back. The trick is not to think too much.

Who was your biggest muse growing up?

Style wise Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn, I love the elegance of Audrey Hepburn. I watched all her movies. I wish I was born in her era sometimes. I also recently rewatched the Nanny, and seeing her fine outfits throughout the 90’s was an absolute dream. On a less superficial level, Maya Angelou, Gabrielle Bernstein, Brenee Brown, and Jay Shetty are some modern thinkers I really look up to.

If you could have any other career what would it be and why?

I actually often think about this because there’s so many things I’d want to do and a lifetime seems too short sometimes. I would have also loved to be a teacher and work with children or to be an author and write a beautiful novel or memoir. I also sometimes feel like I would have loved to be a yoga instructor teaching somewhere exotic like Bali, living a true island life. Or I’ve even dreamed of being an actress, but then I laugh because I am the worst public speaker. Hahaha.

Activities or Hobbies?

I’m someone that has a lot of mini hobbies. My main hobbies are traveling, exercising, reading and writing. But my mini hobbies are astrology, beading, knitting, pottery and baking. I’m also fascinated by languages. I’d love to add a 5th language to my repertoire. I’m obsessed with the Native American culture, I feel a strong connection to it. I definitely have an adventurous soul and run with it. I love fragrances (obviously) and getting lost in my thoughts. Lately I find myself slowing down and really taking things in. Like taking a long bath with my favorite tv show on, having a good conversation with a friend or sharing a meal with someone I love. OoOoo I also love watching the sunset. Covid really made me reconnect with the little things that I use to take for granted and I am happy to keep evolving.

What is your favorite hotel? What's it's aesthetic?

Although I’ve never been, I’m very into the Calile hotel in Australia, it’s a very modern art deco hotel with soft tones and not too over the top. I also love the design of the Cuixmala hotel in Mexico, lots of circular shapes, bright and colorful. A clever use of primary colours. Definitely on my bucket list.

How would you describe your interior taste?

Eclectic with a bit of art deco. Jonathan Adler meets Sarah Lavoine. I like the bohemian vibe of a space. Makes me feel like I’m on holiday. I also believe a home needs to be inviting. My husband and I love to have people over, he cooks and I host (and eat) and we always have a lovely time. It’s hard for me to describe exactly what my type of ideal space is, but I can tell you what I don’t like.. For example, I don’t like minimalist spaces or spaces that are hyper modern. I find these spaces to be very cold and soulless. I need a space to be bright, colorful and full of life.

What is your interior styling motto?

My style is a bit eclectic so I love to mix prints, color and textures. Also, layering, layering is always a must. To Me, more is more. I like homes that feel like they’re lived in. Not just instagram pretty and minimalist.

Share your styling tips for living spaces:

I think having a blank canvas really helps. It’s important to analyse throughout the day where the sunlight hits. For example, which corner is darker and therefore needs a lamp. I think styling a living space is all about being an expert observer. I personally love spaces that are colourful. Which is also the way I like to dress. It simply makes me happy.

In my home in Geneva, my living room walls are all teal blue. Very Carrie Bradshaw from Sex & The City but with a lot of mixed colours too. A friend recently said to me: “it’s like your clothes exploded in your living room”. Yet my foundation is actually very simple. I do love a chair with a print, or a brightly colored rug. Some accessories and art pieces placed here and there. I believe a space needs to evolve and change, depending on the mood. It’s actually quite fun to do that, evolve and change a space. Especially nowadays where home is where we spend the most of our time. I find it’s important to feel at home in your own space, and have it reflect who you truly are.

Favourite item from Once Upon a Chair?

It’s really hard to just name one, everything is so meticulously handpicked. But if I had to choose, I love the recent Rattan Chairs that just came in. I also love the selection of artwork. I actually just recently purchased one for my home in Jeddah.
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Favorite quote or words you live by?

There’s no rainbow without sunshine and rain.

What’s something people don’t know about you?

I’m a very private and introverted person despite what people may assume.

What would you tell your 8 year old self, knowing what you know today?

I often think about this question, I always wished I could go back in time and speak to myself then, or talk myself out of certain choices. But then I tell myself you live and you learn. Actually, I’d like to tell myself not to worry about the future, that we have no control whatsoever. I’d tell my 8 year old self to trust God’s plan and to embark on the journey. Some detours will happen but they always end up leading to the right way.


Photography by Reem Kara
Interviewed by Serena Maris