Shiza Shahid was feeling a little homesick — so she picked up a frying pan.
Although this entrepreneur doesn't share the kind of origin story you might expect from someone who co-founded a cookware line —Shahid goes as far as to say she once dreaded the very thought of cooking.
"I decided to learn how to cook after moving to the United States," the Pakistani-born activist, entrepreneur and co-founder of Our Place matter-of-factly begins. "I missed my mother’s cooking and the flavors of my culture. I also wanted to eat healthier — and feel more connected to the food systems that I was participating in — buying from and supporting local farmers. The only way to fully do that was to actually learn how to cook."
Fast forward several years and many recipes later, and Shahid is now firmly rooted in the business of food. The founder and former CEO of the Malala Fund relocated to the U.S in her early twenties to study, and in 2019, decided it was time to pivot once again. Shahid, along with her husband and fellow Our Place co-founder Amir Tehrani set out to bring "multiethnic flair" back into the increasingly vanilla American kitchen.
In a bid to diversify and essentially downsize — nobody needs 12 spatulas, eight different non-stick pans, or six random egg cups, after all — the entrepreneurial pair released a 12-piece, fuss-free collection of cookware. The rest was history.
Rendered in everything from terracotta to smoked glass, and inspired by Shahid's own heritage, the duo partnered with local artisans to create uniquely different and diverse collections — the most recent is a partnership with Chinese-American illustrator and Brooklyn-based creative, Sarula Bao, to commemorate the Lunar New Year. Our Place speaks to the millennial gourmand in a way that many of its competitors have tried but fallen flat. Yet what makes this direct-to-consumer brand standout is the fact that its narrative is Shahid's very own. As an immigrant, the co-founder quickly figured out that forging friendships in her new homeland and coming together over a meal served as an opportunity to both connect and stay connected to the flavors of home.
Nowadays, Shahid is a long way from Islamabad, Pakistan — 7,695 miles, to be exact. The entrepreneur, along with husband Tehrani, reside in one of Los Angeles' leafiest zip codes — occupying a sprawling five-bedroom, Moorish-inspired home in Brentwood, a neighborhood wedged between Westwood and Santa Monica in West L.A.
"Our home is only a street away from where we used to live," Shahid points out. "My husband and I loved the coziness and the character of the Spanish-style home. We knew it was our place from the moment that we saw it."
Step inside and it's not hard a sell. Vaulted ceilings are flanked by earthy, timber trusses that draw the gaze immediately up. Shahid decorates surrounding spaces with jewel-toned tiles and washes of azure blue paint, a nod to her beginnings. It's a calming, curated space that brings you back down to earth, all swathed in raw Restoration Hardware linen and muted Anthropologie blues. Plaster archways and curved wood burners receive an elevated edit when paired alongside intricate gold sconces, sourced from bazaars and medinas in Morocco.
"We kept the Spanish charm of the home but brought in Moroccan influences, and parts of our own Pakistani and Persian heritages," explains Shahid, of her approach to styling and eclectic decor. "To me, our home is open-yet-cozy, nostalgic-yet-original, culturally-rooted yet an evolution of different traditions. It is our histories and our futures, memories, and aspirations — all rolled into one."
Bedrooms bask in a distinctly Hollywood glow, while glossy hardwood floors glisten in the sunshine. Shahid weaves a number of North African and Pakistani influences together — through color and print — reminiscent of what you might expect to find in an ornate riad somewhere in Marrakesh. Each bedroom boasts its own unique look and feel while cohesively tying Shahid's desired aesthetic together.
"I recommend pops of pattern — layered over a neutral palette," the entrepreneur advises. "I love colors and patterns that remind me of my home, so it was important to me to incorporate some of this into my space. We carefully integrated patterned pillows, rugs, and layered throws over mostly neutral furniture, to keep the pattern from feeling distracting."
In the kitchen — admittedly one of the founder's favorite spaces — Shahid opts for a wall-spanning, ornate blue tile, a classic pendant light, denim blue cabinetry, and a central kitchen island. The signature Our Place Always Pan — in a peach-toned terracotta — sits on top of the stove, conveniently within reach.
"I love that the kitchen faces the dining area and the living room, so you always feel connected while you’re in there," explains Shahid. "The kitchen is always the heart of a home, but even more so for two cookware entrepreneurs."
When it came to dressing up the space, the couple enlisted the help of Los Angeles-based designer and Motif Interiors founder Chanel Levya, to bring warmth and personality to their sprawling five-bedroom home.
"Chanel convinced us to make some bold, irreversible moves," notes Shahid, of the interior design process. "We painted many of the wooden beams on our ceilings white. While we were initially nervous about tampering with the structure of the house, Chanel was right. It made the whole room look that much more open and bright."
Shahid and Tehrani carefully avoided any major structural changes, revamping their 3,300-square-foot home through transformative paint colors and floor coverings instead, design decisions that have paid dividends, particularly in the moody blue master bath.
"We were inspired by Moroccan design," admits Shahid, of the bathroom aesthetic. "While it was difficult to find the perfect shade — after three trips to the paint store — we finally found it. Sometimes, a bold pop of color is the best decision."
Eventually, the couple settled on St. Barts by Sherwin-Williams, a cool blue that best showcases the macrame chandelier overhead and the original tub. After a long, hard day — and a restorative soak — you'd be forgiven for forgetting you're no more than 55 minutes from Hollywood Boulevard, something Shahid's pretty proud to have achieved.
"I love buying things with a story, so I often shop as I travel," the founder admits. "I love finding other mission-driven brands and makers to support — especially brands with female founders. A lot of the items in my home are new, but a lot are also vintage. Great design is about making your home cozy and comfortable, while also making it beautiful and unique," Shahid continues. "Every space should be optimized for how you live, while also being tasteful and cohesive."
As the sun sets on a perfectly L.A. day in a far-from-conventional L.A. home, the light trickles out to the multi-purpose courtyard and patio, a space dressed in blue and orange tiles and complete with a traditional fireplace, wet bar, pizza oven and searing hot plate. It's perhaps the perfect blend of the two worlds, Shahid's two worlds. The ease of entertaining outdoors — year round — in Southern California, and the ritualistic pastime of bringing family — and new friends — together over food.
"I believe home-cooking is at the heart of culture and connection," Shahid smiles. "Because when all else fades, we still cook the foods our grandmothers taught us to cook. Home-cooking is the place where culture — and where love — is most authentically expressed."