Not far from Milan’s Piazza Risorgimento is a home suffused with memories, beloved objects, and colorful accents. The unifying principle? A decidedly eclectic sense of British style. “We had been looking for three years to find a home in Milan, where we had moved when I enrolled at Marangoni [a fashion institute in the city] in 2003,” says Mauro Guerini, who, along with his husband, Jürgen Hilow Iwaszura, owns the hair salon Sara Hilow in the city’s San Babila neighborhood. “We loved it [in Milan], but at a certain point, we decided that we needed a house that we felt was truly ours.”
So the search began. And yet, it proved to be a tricky one. “We couldn’t find anything appealing on the market, and I’ll admit, I can be pretty indecisive,” Mauro adds. “In Milan, however, you have to make an offer immediately, there’s no time to hesitate.”
The apartment, with its original features from the early 20th-century in almost pristine condition, has not been significantly altered by later restorations or additions. With its generous rooms suffused with sunlight, the flooring and other original details made for an ideal choice. But Mauro was not convinced.
“After our first visit, my husband and I had a big argument!” Jürgen says. “He said, ‘This is it, we have to make an offer.’ I listened to what he was saying and I realized he was right. And so this became our home.” The furniture, almost all of which are antiques unearthed in flea markets and antique shops, was patiently acquired at auctions and throughout 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 astounding variety of them throughout the house; their locations are always changing: “We’ve 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,” Mauro explains.
Another striking feature of the apartment is its many fabrics, inspired by the typical décor of English country houses from the late Victorian and Edwardian eras. “Jürgen and I both love that signature English style, and over the years we have visited many of the country’s great estates,” Mauro says. “So much of the inspiration comes from there. We didn’t want a typical Italian house, where the walls are white and there’s little color.”
The couple’s embrace of maximalism includes the apartment’s many varied textures—wood, ceramics, linen, velvet. The tasteful miscellany provides a rich depth. The natural light that fills the home, located on the second floor with windows on three sides, encourages the almost endless game of layering different elements. “This home is the collection of our life; there are many inspirations, traces from the past, memories, and objects we inherited. It’s a bit like a diary of our lives but it’s also a beautiful home—very warm and welcoming. It’s our nest.”
Even the bathrooms reflect the couple’s passion for all things British. “The fixtures have this clean, vintage feel. It was crucial for us to have a tub, and since we didn’t have that much space, we wanted a deep one. We created a niche around it to create depth. It’s an idea we picked up, if I’m not mistaken, on a trip to Marrakech,” says Mauro. “For the second smaller bath, we used Cole & Son’s Savuti pattern, named after one of South Africa’s most beloved national parks. It’s a wonderful garden to remind us of the country.”
Notably, the couple’s eclectic sense of style extends to less conventional areas of the home. “We didn’t want a kitchen that looked like, well, a typical kitchen,” Mauro explains. “That’s why we had cabinetry installed up to the ceiling. It’s not a classic Italian kitchen, in other words, but another room where you happen to cook. We then added a Carrara marble countertop and Smeg appliances, with their exquisite retro look,” he adds.
Ultimately, the room reflects the couple’s love of the color blue, which is sprinkled throughout the apartment. “It’s a color you find everywhere. It is masculine, feminine, warm, elegant,” he says. Perhaps not surprisingly, the couple also collects Meissen pottery, with its signature blue-and-white designs.