What Matters to Aamir Khandwala

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Debbie Millman has an ongoing project at PRINT titled “What Matters.” This is an effort to understand the interior life of artists, designers, and creative thinkers. This facet of the project is a request of each invited respondent to answer ten identical questions and submit a nonprofessional photograph.


Aamir Khandwala is the principal of his eponymous interior design firm in New York. Commitment to harmony, timelessness, & individuality are the hallmarks of his practice.

What is the thing you like doing most in the world?

I admittedly love settling into my office every morning and diving into my work more than anything else. But aside from that, I would say travel. Traveling is more than just visiting places and snapping pics— it exposes you to different ways of being and seeing, inspires new ideas, and opens you up to other perspectives. Pre-pandemic, I would travel internationally several times per year for work and pleasure. The next big trip is to visit family in Pakistan and squeezing in three days on the return in one my favorite cities— Istanbul.

What is the first memory you have of being creative?

When I was around six years old, I would spend hours building homes with my Lego sets. The environment in our family home was rarely peaceful. So I would retreat to the quiet of my room to create my own imaginary homes full of tranquility and color. I am fortunate to be able to do now what I’ve always wanted to as a child, and to share a home with my partner that is a constant source of peace and inspiration.

What is your biggest regret?

I try not to dwell on regrets, but one of my biggest ones is that I had never been interested in sports. I was a skinny and awkward teenager in an all-boys school where everyone was obsessed with cricket! I do believe participating in team sports from a young age can build character and help one navigate through life.

How have you gotten over heartbreak?

By falling in love again…

What makes you cry?

Basically anything when I’m on a long haul flight— even watching a Bond movie can make me cry at 36,000 feet.

How long does the pride and joy of accomplishing something last for you?

When I accomplish something, I can feel quite blissed out for a day, and then I’m back to my routine and schedule. We have a magnetic inspiration wall in our kitchen and one of my favorite postcards affixed to it has a quote by Van Gogh: “Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.” So I get a micro dose of satisfaction each time I scratch something off my daily list and move closer to meeting a bigger goal. I have been practicing Urdu calligraphy for nearly (three) years and my current goal (and obsession) is to have my solo show of calligraphies in May 2023.

Do you believe in an afterlife, and if so, what does that look like to you?

Who knows if there is an afterlife? But I imagine it would be a lush Islamic garden with geometric pathways, the scent of jasmine, flowing fountains, music… and lots of wine!

What do you hate most about yourself?

To be honest, I can be a bit short-tempered once in a while— especially when I’m hungry. Hence, I always carry snacks with me to avoid the onset of a hangry temper tantrum.

What do you love most about yourself?

I would say a sense of discipline and compassion are my strongest traits. I also make a mean martini.

What is your absolute favorite meal?

I live for the daily breakfasts I have with my partner Atif Toor. We allow at least an hour every morning to cook up eggs with various side dishes, brew coffee, sit down, have our breakfast at a somewhat leisurely pace and start our day. It’s the meal that sets the tone for the rest of my day.