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Haute Inerior : Design: Fari's insistence on perfection frustrates some, but has won him a devoted clientele.

October 27, 1990|MAUREEN O'HAREN | Maureen O'Haren is a regular contributor to Home Design

Half a dozen 22-foot king palms had just been planted in front of the Big Canyon home of Clifford Heinz when Fari changes his mind.

"They weren't right," said the Iranian-born interior designer, who, like his famous brother Bijan, goes by his first name only. "They weren't perfect. Yes, the crane was there, money was pouring out and it's my money."

But Fari decided queen palms would better complement the house, and so out went the kings. They became another casualty in the 39-year-old designer's feverish pursuit of what he calls "this look."

Another example: Once, while a client admired the mirrors just installed on a living room wall 45 feet wide and two stories high, the craftsman began taking the mirrored panes down. Fari's orders.

"The seams weren't right," Fari explained offhandedly. "Installation."

His insistence of perfection sometimes frustrates his business partner and wife, Melinda Pakzad, but it has earned Fari International Inc. a devoted clientele among Orange County's elite.

"Clifford Heinz saw me tearing all those big palms out and he said, 'Fari, why do you do it?' " Fari recalled. "I said, 'It's not perfect.' He said, 'I just tell you one thing: Don't change. Don't ever change.' "

Fari has no intention of changing.

For 15 years he has worked to build his business, beginning with a furniture and accessory shop in Laguna Beach, where he began cultivating a following, in part by telling prospective clients not to buy the chairs or door-pulls he sold because they "weren't right."

"We really wanted to make a reputation more than make a sale," Fari said. "We were convinced that if you really do good, money will come."

Gradually, the clients he'd advised not to buy came back to buy--and have their homes redesigned so those door-pulls would look right. Fari took on interior design jobs, then minor remodelings and major renovations.

He wasn't content with small windows or low ceilings or confining walls. So he knocked out walls and put in large bay windows, added sculptural ceilings, put in paneling and new stair railings.

"You've spent $3 million or $4 million for an outdated house right on the ocean," Fari explained. "Two dingy little windows. So you open up (the wall) to that ocean, put the bed on the other side (of the room) so you can see the ocean while you're lying in the bed. Why did you buy this house to start with?"

His ability to transform rooms into opulent and refreshing environments led to complete reconstructions, and finally full design, construction, furnishing and landscaping of multimillion-dollar estates. He takes the project from the empty-lot stage to fine china on the dining room table. He now has a full-time staff of eight, including architects, project managers and a staff contractor who work on home-building jobs.

Over the past five years, Fari International has built six or seven homes, one Fari said was the highest-priced home sold in Orange County. His clients include Heinz, grandson of ketchup magnate H.J. Heinz and a retired industrialist and Richard Rodnick, president of the Geneva Cos., who has commissioned Fari for a third project.

Though Fari won't reveal the firm's revenues, a full home project can cost up to $5 million. Interior design for an entire home can cost up to $1.8 million.

And Fari knows that every dollar is for "this look," the rich style he creates painstakingly by calculating the effects of a hammered gold ceiling over a black lacquer table and the compatibility of granite slab floors and rift oak paneling.

"It's difficult for someone to understand what's gone into it," said Melinda, his 30-year-old wife. "Every single element that you see (in a room)--be it the color or a wall texture or the shape of a pillow or the corner of a table--has been thought out. A decision has been made.

"Fari is so demanding," Melinda added, toying with a teacup. "He agonizes over ever single detail. If this is a teacup he's trying to decide on for a house, he could sit here and analyze it for two hours."

While his brother Bijan, the flamboyant fashion designer, caters to the nouveau riche from his boutiques on Rodeo Drive in Los Angeles and Fifth Avenue in New York City, Fari works relatively inconspicuously in homes in exclusive local neighborhoods, such as Big Canyon, Harbor Isle, Linda Isle and Irvine Cove.

Fari and Melinda, who live in Corona del Mar with their 6-year-old daughter, are selective about for whom they work. They can afford to be; last year, Fari International had a four- to six-month waiting list.

"And we don't advertise anywhere," Fari said. "It's all word of mouth."

The look Fari's clients seek is best illustrated by the photographs hanging in his Costa Mesa showroom. No matter which house a photo depicts, the same classic lines and modern surfaces dominate, surrounded by the soft sparkle of silk and the glow of the lights that peek from corners and moldings and soffits.

Fari labels it classic contemporary.

"We're mixing the old with the new," he said.

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