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How Natalia Miyar blends glamour with comfort in her dazzling interiors

Architect and interior designer Natalia Miyar speaks to Effect Magazine about her contextual approach to creativity and her residential and hotel projects in London, Ibiza, Miami and beyond.

“My job is like a conductor of sorts,” says Natalia Miyar. “I just weave together beautiful parts of things.” The designer is describing the practical aspects of her profession, but if you’ve stepped inside any of her mesmerising villas, hotels or penthouses, you’ll know the musical analogy is apt. Miyar pulls off the virtuoso feat of creating interiors that feel both classic and ground-breaking – high in detailed artistry but never frenetic. She’s a master of layering and pattern, blending urban cool and tropical élan. Each project bears her signature, yet each is different, rooted in a clear sense of place. What’s her secret?

For Miyar, it’s all about the context. “Design has to be contextual,” she says. “And the context is geographic, it’s historical, it’s architectural, it’s about the client. The unique context of each project is what drives all the choices that I make in the design process.”

By harnessing the distinct circumstances of each project, Miyar lands them in the sweet spot where they bear all the hallmarks of her design acumen while fitting seamlessly into their environment.

“That connection to place is so important,” she says, “because when you are contextual in your design, you automatically have something that’s individual. That’s a big thing for me.”

A good example is the 12,000-square-foot apartment Miyar designed in London’s Battersea Power Station, where the Art Deco furniture pays homage to the historic building’s origins, and the constructivist murals on the penthouse walls echo the stone friezes that adorned the power station in its heyday. “I’ve never been interested in having a house style per se,” she explains. “I’ve always wanted to have each project have its own voice. And the voice comes from the context.”

An Ibiza villa by interior designer Natalia Miyar in Effect Magazine
In her Rustic Ibizan Villa project, interior designer Natalia Miyar harnessed exterior features to create a continuum with the property’s interiors

In achieving this, the designer has established a highly sought-after brand. Miyar joined the top echelon of genuinely global operators some time ago, and with current projects in Mexico, Colorado, London and Palm Beach, she’s rarely far from an airport these days.

Connection to place is so important – when you are contextual in your design, you automatically have something that’s individual. That’s a big thing for me.

Natalia Miyar, interior designer and architect

It all began in an architectural studio in Miami. A Mexican-born Cuban, Miyar studied architecture at university and was a practicing architect in Miami for several years. The move from architecture to interiors came with a move to London, and roles at Candy London and Helen Green – two blue-chip companies with major global projects that exposed Miyar to both the possibilities of interior architectural design and to the fundamentals of running a successful design business, culminating in the launch in 2016 of Natalia Miyar Atelier.

And while interiors are where she has chosen to make her mark, she still thinks of herself as an architect by profession.

“I think architecture is the best foundation for a career in interiors,” she explains. “The design of any room starts with the layout and the spatial sequence; and with the views and the proportions of the space.” And while she’s the first to say that there are many routes into interior design, she does notice a difference in approach. “People from more of an interiors background tend to be mainly focused on the furniture itself, but I’m like: ‘Design the room – start with the room!’”

This architectural rigour is evident in all Miyar’s projects. In her Rustic Villa project in Ibiza, the pool, terracing and distant sea view form a continuum with the internal layout of the room. In Diagonal London Apartment, the stone monoliths of the cityscape are indivisible from the rectangular curtain blocks and seating.

Alongside this architectural eye is a talent for curating contemporary and vintage art and design; and Miyar describes her sourcing process as intuitive: “When I’m buying art or vintage pieces, I’m not going to hem and haw for hours about a decision – I know in a split second if I think something is going to work or not.”

Vivid wallpaper at London hotel The Twenty Two by interior designer Natalia Miyar in Effect Magazine
Natalia Miyar designed all of the dazzling interiors at London boutique hotel The Twenty Two

She expands on this: “I always go back to the unifying thread, which is the context. Vintage pieces that have a cultural connection to my clients, or materials that are local to the place I’m designing – that’s a given from the beginning. But after that, it’s a very intuitive process.”

Sometimes, the context is evident; other times, those cultural connections need to be teased out: “I ask a lot of questions. I really want to get to know my clients, the brief, the aspiration, the hope. For example, I often ask my clients to tell me what their favourite hotel is – because good hotels have an elevated level of design. I show them a lot of imagery to get their reaction to it. And I completely check my ego.

What if one of these clients referenced Miyar’s own spectacular London hotel project – The Twenty Two? “Then I’d get that they love layering, they love sumptuousness. They love furniture that’s comfortable but is intricately crafted.”

The Twenty Two is a masterclass in colour, patterning, and in creating an environment that is energising, exciting, but also classic and elevating. And that wallpaper…

“We had a lot of fun with the wallpaper,” she says. “Wallpaper is a very important part of my work. I love it. I think it just takes any space up a notch.” She adds: “You can be more adventurous with hotels because it’s a space that people don’t have to live in forever. You can have red velvet bed because you’re not worried that you might get sick of it in a year.”

Natalia Miyar’s own house in Miami is a thing of wonder. Statues of giraffes and monkeys rub shoulders with vintage chandeliers, sofas upholstered in gold, Spanish Revival arches, tropical bentwood armchairs and bathrooms of the coolest, most sequestered jade. Is this a reflection of her Latin heritage, or of Miami itself?

The living room at Palmarito – Natalia Miyar's own Miami home in Effect Magazine
The living room at Palmarito – Natalia Miyar’s own Miami home

“It’s a bit of both. It’s my style – but for the architecture of that house, which is a historic, listed house from 1926. I put together a design that celebrated the best of that type of architecture, but that also felt of today. The colours are appropriate to Miami.

When I’m buying art or vintage pieces, I’m not going to hem and haw for hours about a decision – I know in a split second if I think something is going to work or not.

Natalia Miyar

I never buy flowers in Miami because I just go out and cut palm leaves or bring in orchids from the garden. That house is all about connecting with the garden and with the outdoors. And that’s what life in Miami is – we live outside.”

If her career is cruising at altitude, Miyar herself is warmly down-to-earth; and while she’s a passionate advocate for her profession, she’s clear-eyed about the reality of it. It is, she says, 10% creativity and 90% management: “I can have an idea, but the execution is what matters.”

She laughs apologetically, knowing this sounds a little uncompromising; but doubles down: “If all you care about is the creative, go be a painter, be a sculptor. Because, to put a beautiful room together, the execution is what matters. If I just have a picture of the most beautiful sofa with the most beautiful fabric, but I don’t know how to make it happen, what’s the point? Because in design, God is in the detail.”

Read more: Interior Designers I Interiors |  Design | Vintage | Design Hotels | London | Miami