QUESTIONS with NATALIA MIYAR
London, Miami and beyond.
Architecture, history and art.
Glamour, character and comfort.
Natalia Miyar expands on her approach to architecture, design and the experiences that shape it.
You have an academic grounding to your creativity – what did you study?
I studied History of Art and Architecture at Brown University, Rhode Island and was hoping to become a professor of Art History. But then my love of architecture and interiors took over, and I completed a professional master’s degree in Architecture at the University of Miami. It was a lot of studying; almost eight years all in. Art still plays a huge part in my work. I saw Klimt’s Portrait of Fritza Riedler in Vienna and fell in love with how tactile it is. It’s not just richly patterned but the density of paint and layering is incredibly appealing on an emotional level. That painting has since become the central reference for the design of our own London studio.
How does the atelier approach the art of architecture?
The best architecture is both contextual and aspirational. Context informs the style, the palette of materials used, and the construction methodology. While the aspirational element lives in how it embodies a client’s wishes and their vision for living life in the most beautiful and comfortable way.
How do your architectural skills translate into interior design?
We offer a holistic approach to design, so much of the work we do is interior architecture. Essentially, we craft the space from layout to finishes, balancing the art and science of designing an interior space. If a space is beautifully dressed, but it doesn’t work, it isn’t a beautiful space. Substance and style need to work together – there shouldn’t be a compromise between one and the other. Essentially, we craft the space first. If the space is wrong, no one will care if the cushions are beautiful.
Where do you look for, and find, inspiration?
I find inspiration in nature, natural materials, travel and fashion. I’m very inspired by the level of craftsmanship and the unexpected play between materials in couture.
You work all over the world. Are your designs geographically contextual?
I believe people like to wake up in a room that makes sense wherever they are in the world. It’s important that materials and fabrics complement, and ideally come from their environment. I wouldn’t recommend a velvet sofa on a beachfront home in Miami, for example – it feels counterintuitive. You can still be innovative within that principal. The approach is universal, but the result is unique.
How do your life experiences live in your work?
The contrasting natural landscapes of the places I’ve known resonate very strongly with me. My early years were spent in Mexico where I was exposed to incredible earth and stone tones, sienna, ochre and black. We then moved to Miami and, suddenly, my visual world expanded to comprise the bright blue shades of sea and sky, the bold, lush green of tropical plants and the pale gold of sand – a palette very similar to that of Cuba, my family’s home country. When I moved to England, the countryside greens, urban greys and authentic style influenced me in another way. There’s an effortlessness to design in the UK, which brings great contrast to the audacity and boldness found in American design. Working between the two cultures is fun. For me, they perfectly inform each other.
What should a client look for in an interior designer?
Someone you can easily connect with and whose work represents what you like. If you have that covered, you can craft a space that’s truly you. It’s an intimate process, and there’s no space more intimate than home.
How do you foster trust within your client relationships?
My ideas are a response to the lives of my clients; I listen, to understand their vision for their home, their tastes and their needs. The first meeting is vital; it’s an opportunity to find out about their family, their daily routine, their favourite hotels, restaurants, holiday destinations and what they do for fun. It is much more interesting for me when I’m working with my client’s input – that’s how I can help make their home the most authentic expression of their lifestyle.
What are the fundamental qualities of a home?
A balance of practicality and beauty. People often equate comfort with an old chintz sofa, but I believe that interiors should feel sexy as well as cosy. I don’t think the two are mutually exclusive. I also believe that it’s important for the spatial sequence – for the journey from one space to another – to feel harmoniously varied. This ensures that home continues to hold its owner’s interest over time. A home is also a place to showcase your personal narrative. It could be art, pieces collected on travels or a beautiful heirloom. Whatever it is, it should reflect and reinforce the owner’s personality.
What does glamour mean, in the context of interior design?
A glamorous interior is easy, tactile, immersive and desirable. It is like feeling comfortable and confident whether you are wearing a cocktail dress or jeans. For me it is about effortless luxury.