The Resident meets Marta Nowicka, founder of the Marta Nowicka & Co design studio and once course leader of interior architecture at London Metropolitan University. Here, Marta tell us how she turned this listed, less-than-spacious Maida Vale property into a creative, functional family home
How did you come to be in your line of work?
I founded Marta Nowicka & Co in 2003, which is an award-winning interior architectural, concept-led studio creating design solutions for commercial and residential spaces. With over 25 years of experience in design, I’ve worked with a number of high profile clients, including Young British Artist Gavin Turk.
Talk us through the types of projects that you do?
I’ve never liked to be pigeonholed – so MN&Co work on leisure, workspaces and residential projects. Recent projects include a former St Johns Ambulance headquarters. I’ve also worked on Calvin Street – a live-work space for two Young British Artists in Shoreditch, spread across four floors and inspired by the open-plan minimalist interiors of Donald Judd’s 101 Spring Street studio and residence in New York, and the refurbishment of VFX Soho studio, Cherry Cherry, creating ‘The Longest Bar in Noho’.
How did you come to be working on this particular project in Maida Vale?
Debi Ani, owner of luxury brand consultancy Oro Design, bought this gem located in the heart of Maida Vale in the 80s. Her then marriage to film director Henrique Goldman of Mango Films and the maturing of their son Caio, who is now eight years old, placed their 80 sq m apartment under a large amount of spatial strain! Ani was reluctant to move from her ‘princess house’, so wanted us to create space from no space, transforming it into a family home, which promises everything.
What was the biggest aspect of the project?
We flipped the layout of the ground floor apartment around and put the bedrooms and bathrooms in the front of the apartment and the living space at the back, linking the living space to the communal gardens and balcony. This involved major demolition of structural walls, partitions and external walls to create internal space and new window openings.
The planners would not allow mezzanines in the double-height spaces, so we made use of the original high ceilings by creating a vertical piece of furniture in each bedroom
The planners would not allow mezzanines in the double-height spaces due to planning limitations of listed buildings, so we made use of the original high ceilings by creating a vertical piece of furniture in each bedroom – building two fret cut floor-to-ceiling forms.
In the master bedroom, the sleeping space is located upstairs surrounded by a beautifully intricate, patterned wood carving design, and flush cupboards for storage space are placed underneath. The same design applies to Caio’s bedroom mezzanine, forming a playful, cozy den behind the surrounding wardrobes and the play area upstairs.
What was the property like before?
The ground floor apartment had the living/ kitchen area at the front in a double height space and the bedroom, bathroom, study, wardrobes and shower room in a warren of small rooms off a corridor at the back. It was dark and confined due to the corridors and lack of windows.
Can you talk us through the process and the project a little?
Ani first suggested that she would like to totally remodel her flat – so I popped over to chat it through with her. While we were talking, I had my sketch book on the table and started planning the space. Immediately, it was obvious to me to flip the space around – so have the living area at the rear, adjacent to the huge gardens so that they could open full height doors and their son could run in and out while the parents keep one eye on him.
What was one of the most rewarding and challenging parts of the project?
By removing several walls and making new large windows and doors, we liberated so much space that the flat grew in scale within the existing boundary, which was really great. The building process was long though, as we had to remove the main supporting wall of the five-storey house. We had several partition walls to obtain and many issues, neighbour disputes and a complex build.
Finally, what is it about the architecture in this part of London that you love so much?
My design inspirations come from various sources whether it is art, cities or sculpture. I find inspiration in everything; from factory rooftops, Bernard Leach to derelict buildings. The fusion of art and the urban city is very prevalent in the MN&Co ethos and can be seen in this part of London too.