Design to Entertain – Istanbul
“A Turkish Delight” by Luigi Irauzqui
On the shores of Istanbul’s Bosphorous stands a grand waterside palace, a First degree Historical Monument that is ringing with the sound of laughter. The tinkle of rare crystal floats across the blue river from the European to the Asian side, ringing in the start of a week of festivities in the stately home of Ebru Mengenecioglu.
Harper’s Bazaar Interiors has been invited into the fold by famed Los Angeles Interiors Guru Luigi Irauzqui during one of Istanbul’s busiest and most creative periods. The Mercedes Benz Fashion Week is in full swing, alongside the international interior design Fair and exhibition, merging talent from across the world. Being at the centre of it all is nothing unusual for 42-year-old interior designer Ebru, whose aesthetic vision is among the most sought-after in the city. She has invited a group of the brightest creatives to a salon of sorts, a meeting of minds and ideas, comprising New York-based celebrity florist Anthony Todd, Turkish fashion icon Atil Kutoglu, Jewellery designers Dilara Karabay and Arzu Atabarut, event planner and flower designer Hande Abut and PR queen Mine Kalpakciouglu, among others, Luigi included.
“The purpose of the party was to create an international Workplace for designers,” enthuses Ebru, as Turkish waiters bustle about in the kitchen, preparing afternoon tea on traditional Simit trays. “I wanted to bring together an eclectic group of people in Istanbul, a city exploding in design, culture, art and fashion.”
Having Ebru’s Yali, or waterside palace as the setting, was magical perfection. Built in 1753 and designed in the neoclassical style, it was once used to host important trade deals between the Ottoman Empire and Japan. Now it is a functional family home, reflecting the warm authenticity and elegance of Ebru herself. Close friend and collaborator Luigi Irauzqui worked his expertise within the palatial proportions of the home to re-imagine it for the party. “I brought in large pieces of art, furniture and decorative elements to make the spaces even more inviting,” he tells Harper’s Bazaar.
Inspired by his love of mixing contemporary with classic and applying generous colour and texture, Luigi began to set the stage for a stellar celebration. “I saw the opportunity to introduce one unifying primal colour throughout the house, with a special emphasis on a beautiful, rich, Ottoman red that captured my imagination on one of my previous trips to Istanbul.”
Special attention to detail went into creating the decadent dining room table with Ebru’s best tableware. Each room was given its own palette, a thread of colour that ran from the dresses, through to the glasses and the lighting, while unique Ottoman furniture was brought in to draw out the heritage of the home.
Ebru, the definitive hostess, whipped up the hospitality with her usual flair. “I love to entertain, and each time invite friends to my house i enjoy preparing different types of foods – creating a distinctive atmosphere for them.” Assembling all the elements with the care of a curator, Ebru designed the menu, prepared special drinks, chose the music and even arranged the flowers herself, despite having two master florists on the guest list.“i even enjoyed doing the grocery shopping for the event, shopping for exotic spices and dried fruits,” she says.
The summer party demanded fresh, seasonal ingredients; this time for traditional Turkish dishes that were prepared at home. “Here in Turkey we learn at a very young age how to entertain at home in a very traditional manner: elaborate meals that take days of preparation and planning and include family, extended family and many friends – the more the better,” Ebru tells us. “Our society is one in which elders are revered so our parties usually include older people who entertain us well into the hours with anecdotes and stories of Turkish days gone by. Food is very important not only in Turkish culture but especially in my home. Through our Ottoman heritage we enjoy a mixture of Central Asian, Middle Eastern and Balkan cuisines. international guests love to experience our typical Turkish recipes but I try to mix it up with European cuisine to give them a variety of choices.”
To wow her select group, Ebru took a daring step forward and made more extravagant, eclectic choices, going all-out with the decor and atmosphere. “Turkish hospitality is a way of life, it means opening your door to guests at any time of the day or night and making them feel they are in their own home.”
After enjoying welcome drinks in the beautiful pool area overhanging with lush foliage, the guests gather for ‘formal’ cocktails in the living room. The dresses are high- octane glamour, perfectly befitting the grand proportions of the space. As one of the biggest homes on the Bosphorous, it was originally designed in two halves; one to be occupied by gentleman, the other for the Harem. now Ebru’s husband’s parents live in the gentleman’s side, and she, her husband Murat and son Ugur, live in the other. Everywhere from the living space to the study is Ebru’s art collection: rare paintings from major Turkish, French, German and Serbian artists, 18th and 19th Century Bleu-Blanc China, Celadon and pottery from the Ming and Hung Dynasties as well as first edition books. The guests, many of them regular visitors to Ebru’s home, still comment on the most beautiful image of all, the view from the living room windows – the house famously boasts one of the best views of the Bosphorous – and appears itself to float upon the water.
in high spirits, the party filters through into the immaculate dining room for a lavish Turkish dinner. the boys pinch the waiters’ fez’s and pose for a picture. A succession of delicious, fragrant dishes is passed around and the talk veers from interior design projects to the week’s events. Ebru entertains several times every month, from large events like this to smaller intimate gatherings, but one thing remains the same, her joie de vivre – and her guests seems to possess it too.
Late in the evening, when the guests finally leave, she and Luigi retire to the pool to dissect the evening’s events. “We had great fun, great food and music, with good friends from abroad exchanging experiences,” Ebru says, tired but happy about bringing together such a creative group of friends and colleagues together, she and her ‘big brother’ Luigi swap anecdotes about the night, sharing an intimate moment, laughing, and planning their next big get-together.
“To create an indelible impression on our guests and have them come away with a memorable experience makes it all worthwhile, and to see the laughter in their faces and how they enjoyed the moment was a pleasure in itself,” says Luigi, as he lyricizes about Turkish style. “In turkey, people just love to entertain. living and experiencing their hospitality and tradition first hand was an absolute eye-opener! The city has inspired me to infuse techniques and styles in my own interior design. Staying on the steep hills at Ebru’s home, with unforgettable views across the magnificent waterways, you can’t help but be engulfed in its design and architecture. I am officially infatuated with this city, but it wouldn’t be the same without Ebru.”
Together they reminisce about their beautiful friendship, before Luigi, the last of her guests, trails up to his room and leaves Ebru to while away the final hours of the day in her library, researching ideas and inspiration for her next big event.