Homes & Gardens

Home & Gardens Home & Gardens

Miriam Dominguez Guerra has forgotten the keys to her front door, but despite the fact that she's left them behind in Milan, it is not a problem. She simply telephones her builder, Bobby Jennings, who brings round a spare set in five minutes flat. Miriam is the kind of woman who transforms men into knights in shining armor. She first came to London 13 years ago and, after working in a dress shop and then in property, she became involved in interior design, working mainly for international bankers. And the maisonette in South Kensington she shares with her Italian husband Riccardo, and baby son Dylan demonstrates the sophistication of those who've travelled widely. From the generous upper floors of a listed Victorian building Miriam has created an apartment of contemporary grandeur. Walls were knocked down and rooms rearranged to provide an airy, gallery-like space for displaying the couple's collection of art and artifacts. The flat combines natural materials and neutral colors with great practicality and the occasional grand gesture. " I like simple things but with character; I don't like minimalism. It's too unforgiving," she says. The inspiration for her design derives from Spain, from the 19th-century Barcelona-based architect Antonio Gaudi and the work of Cesar Manrique, an architect who worked widely in her native Canary Islands. In her London flat, Miriam has worked with a subtle range of textures, from smooth limestone and polished wood, to rough-textured concrete. In contrast to this restrained palette is her husband's collection of vibrant 1960s Italian paintings. " I use paintings to splash the walls with color and give the apartment life" she says. For Miriam, the beautifully constructed shell should always serve as a base for something more characterful. " I adore travelling and if I see something I love, even if I don't know what to do with it, I buy it - I'll always find a use for it in the end." The elaborately carved Moroccan doors that separate the main bedroom from its en suite bathroom, for example, were in storage for two years before being used. Clever design is evident throughout the flat. In the main bathroom, for example, there are two drawers to divide machine-wash, hand-wash and dry-clean-only clothing and her door-to-ceiling B&B Italian wardrobes in the dressing room have pull-down rails to make every inch of space accessible. The furniture that Miriam designs is equally carefully considered, combining elegant forms with well-thought-out function. Her journeyman's piece is a cabinet in leather and cherrywood, with was made as a gift for her husband. As the centerpiece of the dressing room, the cabinet provided storage later on. Miriam is passionate about design and likes to work with those who feel the same, such as her builder, Bobby Jennings. "I want to work with people who truly love what they do" she says. Clearly this brings some delightful results. / Words by Lisa Freedman