July 2010

The Mayor of Melrose

Paul
Young

Ben Soleimani, Mansour Modern, los angelesEric Ogden

Ben Soleimani of Mansour Modern has his keen eye set on more than just carpet

Sophistication and sensitivity aren’t traits generally associated with developers, but Ben Soleimani might be an exception. For the better part of the past 10 years, he has been helping to transform the five-block stretch of Melrose Avenue between La Cienega and San Vicente into one of L.A.’s most stylish hamlets.

“This is my home,” says the soft-spoken 38-year-old developer, designer and dealer. “No matter where I go, no matter how long I’m away, I always come back here, because this is the place that makes me happy.”

The Persian-born, London-raised Soleimani has been returning here since 1991, when he built a showroom for his family’s rug business, Mansour, which boasts a Royal Warrant from the Prince of Wales. He followed that in 2006 with his own offshoot, Mansour Modern, which pushed the four-generation company into the competitive field of contemporary design and solidified Soleimani’s rep as a restless innovator.

He was an early proponent of sustainable techniques, such as the recycling of fibers, while his own designs hold their own alongside such esteemed cohorts as Michael Smith, Victoria Hagan and Kerry Joyce.

But if you ask Soleimani what makes him most proud, he’ll likely point down the street and talk about the “vision” he had 17 years ago. Through a family-owned real-estate company, he took over several buildings—“not to raise rents” but to bring in the kind of design stars needed to make that stretch of the city a true destination.

So far he counts Alberta Ferretti, Waterworks, Kitson and Soolip as tenants, but his plan is to add high-end fashion houses, contemporary art galleries and restaurants. “Imagine a cross between the 7th [arrondissement] in Paris and Sloane Street in London,” says Soleimani, who spends his spare time competing in polo matches around the world, including the Pacific Coast Open at the Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club. “I believe what we need to create here is something very sophisticated—but also unique, young and positive.”