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Design Star Hendifar on Sketching, Finding Calm, and His Favorite Cartier Watch

The 41-year-old Los Angeles native began creating his own lighting in 2010 and now sells decor beloved by A-list celebs.

Gabriel Hendifar photographed for Robb Report Weston Wells

The artistic director of Apparatus didn’t intend to start an influential and widely admired interior-design practice when he began creating his own lighting in 2010. At the time, the now 41-year-old Los Angeles native says, “it was about making things to live with.”

After studying costume and scenic design at UCLA, Hendifar spent 10 years creating women’s wear and taking occasional interiors projects on the side. That combination might explain why the products he has penned for Apparatus—which he cofounded in 2012—have proven popular with stars such as Joseph Altuzarra, Rose Byrne, and Liev Schreiber, whose homes have all been illuminated by his fixtures. Along the way, he has also established outposts in L.A. and N.Y.C., and in May he’ll open a London gallery.

But whether his products are installed in Nolita or Notting Hill, Hendifar’s starting point never wavers. “What I hope to achieve all the time is . . . an object where you feel that there is some sense of human connection,” he says. “I’m always trying to associate meaning with the objects I surround myself with.”

What’s the first thing you do when you wake up? 

I make myself an espresso, and then I try to look out the window at the sky. I find that looking out of the window makes me feel like I have opened myself for the day. 

Gabriel Hendifar photographed for Robb Report
Hendifar in his office Weston Wells

What apps do you use the most? 

It’s the camera app, without question. I’m obsessed with recording things so I remember them, but I try not to do it in a way that takes me out of feeling present in the moment. But obviously Instagram, like everyone else, and Caviar for ordering dinner.

What do you do that’s still analog? 

I sketch on paper. I’ve tried to digitize that process, but it’s not something that’s native to me, so I’m still sketching on the back of a napkin or a piece of paper. 

What’s something you’ve recently done for the first time? 

I had a rendezvous with a lover in a foreign city. I was actually meant to be in London, and I had the thought that I would really like to experience a magical weekend in Paris. And when else am I going to have the opportunity to be there with a native Frenchman? 

How do you find calm? 

Calm for me is about being able to shift my perspective and zoom out. Those things often come most gracefully when I’m spending time by myself. 

Apparatus Standby incense burner
Apparatus’s Standby incense burner diffusing a scent by Cinnamon Projects. Weston Wells

What do you crave most at the end of the day? 

It’s [being alone]. It’s that time for reflection. And that’s not to say that I don’t love spending time with people and having dinner and all those things. But even after that, I do crave a moment, before I go to sleep, where I can reconnect with myself. 

What’s your favorite cocktail? 

I don’t have a taste for alcohol, but I do smoke. So my version of a cocktail is I roll my own joints, which are a combination of geranium and rooibos with, like, a tiny bit of cannabis. 

What’s the most recent thing you’ve added to your collection? 

A really beautiful little floral brooch. I believe it’s a dahlia. And it’s 1960s, French, kind of in the style of Schlumberger. I got it on that trip to Paris, and I’ve been wearing it almost every day since. 

Who is your dealer, and what do they source for you? 

My therapist is my dealer. I’m kind of hooked on emotional interrogation and on being able to seek and integrate self-awareness and knowledge. It’s my favorite hour of the week. 

What’s your workout routine, and how often do you do it? 

I lift pretty regularly—four times a week, sometimes three, sometimes five. I’ve been with my trainer for four years, and for me it’s kind of a design project: learning what my limitations are and learning about the capabilities I’d like to develop. 

How much do you trust your gut instinct? 

I trust it completely. The older I get, the more I understand that it’s my intuition that has led me to all of the tiny little choices that I’ve made along the way to get me to this place, and I’m really fucking happy to be where I am. 

Gabriel Hendifar polaroid of grandmother
A Polaroid of his late grandmother Weston Wells

If you could learn a new skill, what would it be? 

I would love to tap-dance. I just think it’s so cool. 

Where do you get your clothes? 

I love a trip to Prada. I love a trip to the Row. Those are kind of my go-tos. I was a big fan of Barneys when it was here. 

Drive or be driven? 

If I’m in the city, I prefer to be driven. Anywhere else—on holiday, driving through Ibiza, driving through Italy—definitely drive. 

What car are you most attached to? 

The first car that I drove was a Mercedes 300E from 1983, which I inherited from a cousin. I adore Mercedes of that generation. 

Are you wearing a watch? How many are in your collection? 

I only have two watches. I just recently purchased this gold Rolex Day-Date. I wore and still wear a two-tone Cartier Santos, which is my favorite watch, because my grandfather had one. 

Gabriel Hendifar watches and brooch
A floral brooch with the designer’s new Rolex Day-Date and Cartier Santos Weston Wells

What’s your favorite hotel in the world? 

I mean, I have to say, Hotel Costes [in Paris] is fucking magical. I don’t know that there’s any experience like it. 

What’s worth paying for? 

Expertise. Without question. 

What’s the last movie you paid to see? 

I saw Everything Everywhere All at Once in the theater, and I cried through the second half of that film. 

What was your last box set or Netflix binge? 

The original Dynasty. It’s this kind of ridiculous fantasy that is so frivolous and kind of feels really queer to me. I can kind of just imagine the writers’ room being like, “Oh, my God—watch this. This is what she’s going to say next.” 

What sort of music makes you happy? 

When I’m dancing, it’s disco, house, something with a vocal. But I am completely obsessed with Yuja Wang, and I recently got to see her perform the Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 2. It was an absolutely life-changing experience. 

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