Not far from Milan’s Piazza Risorgimento is a home steeped in memories, beloved objects and colorful accents. The unifying principle? A decidedly eclectic sense of British style. “We had been looking for a house in Milan for three years, where we had moved when I registered with Marangoni [a fashion institute in the city] in 2003,” explains Mauro Guerini, who, together with her husband, Jürgen Hilow Iwaszura, owns the Sara Hilow hairdressing salon in the San Babila district. “We liked it [in Milan]but at some point we decided we needed a home that really belonged to us.
So the search began. And yet, it turned out to be tricky. “We haven’t found anything attractive on the market, and I have to admit that I can be quite undecided,” adds Mauro. “At Milan, however, you have to make an offer immediately, there is no time to hesitate.”
The apartment, with its original early 20th century features in near pristine condition, has not been significantly altered by later restorations or additions. With its generous rooms flooded with light, the floors and other original details make it an ideal choice. But Mauro was not convinced.
“After our first visit, my husband and I had a big fight!” says Jurgen. “He said, ‘That’s it, we have to make an offer. I listened to what he was saying and realized he was right. And it became our home. The furniture, almost all antiques unearthed in flea markets and antique shops, was patiently acquired at auction and during the couple’s travels. Many pieces came from the owners’ previous homes and several were inherited from Jürgen’s family in South Africa.
One of the couple’s many collecting passions is oil portraits from the 1800s. There is an astonishing variety of these throughout the house; their locations are constantly changing: “We have been collecting paintings for years, buying them at flea markets, auctions and galleries. I don’t know when it started but we are both obsessed with oil portraits. . . . It’s amazing how moving a portrait from one room to another also changes the energy,” says Mauro.
Another striking feature of the apartment is its many fabrics, inspired by the typical decor of English country houses from the late Victorian and Edwardian eras. “Jürgen and I both love this distinctive English style and over the years we have visited many great estates in the country,” says Mauro. “A lot of the inspiration comes from there. We didn’t want a typical Italian house, where the walls are white and there is little color.
The couple’s embrace of maximalism includes the apartment’s many varied textures – wood, ceramic, linen, velvet. The tasteful blend offers rich depth. The natural light that fills the house, located on the second floor with windows on three sides, encourages the almost endless play of layering different elements. “This house is the collection of our life; there are many inspirations, traces of the past, memories and objects that we have inherited. It’s a bit like the diary of our lives, but it’s also a beautiful house, very warm and welcoming. It is our nest.
Even the bathrooms reflect the couple’s passion for all things British. “The light fixtures have this clean, vintage feel. It was crucial for us to have a tub, and since we didn’t have a lot of space, we wanted a deep tub. We created a niche around it to create depth. It’s an idea that we picked up, if I’m not mistaken, during a trip to Marrakech,” says Mauro. “For the second smaller bath, we used the Savuti pattern from Cole & Son , named after one of South Africa’s most beloved national parks, is a wonderful garden that reminds us of the country.
Notably, the couple’s sense of eclectic style extends to less conventional areas of the home. “We didn’t want a kitchen that looked like, well, a typical kitchen,” says Mauro. “That’s why we had cabinets installed up to the ceiling. It’s not a classic Italian kitchen, in other words, but another room where you cook. We then added a Carrara marble countertop and Smeg appliances, with an exquisite retro look,” he adds.
Ultimately, the room reflects the couple’s love for the color blue, which is dotted throughout the apartment. “It’s a color you find everywhere. It’s masculine, feminine, warm, elegant,” he says. Unsurprisingly, the couple also collect pottery from Meissen, with its signature blue and white patterns.