An Edwardian home in London decorated in shades of blue
For interior designer Krystyna Martin-Dominguez, inky shades work as a moody backdrop for her antiques and vintage pieces, picked up in Poland and beyond. Photographs Penny Wincer
The letter K, in various forms and fonts, appears throughout Krystyna Martin-Dominguez’s home. An elegant serif version salvaged from a shop sign hangs in the kitchen, while another, made by her father, adds a rustic touch to the living room. ‘I’ve picked them up here and there, but I never buy for the sake of it. I have to love the things I find – they have a sentimental value,’ she says.
The oversized Ks make more sense when you discover that her husband is called Kristian and their children are Konstantin and Klara, but the appeal for Krystyna is more than merely personal. ‘Typographically, it’s a dynamic letter – it looks as if it’s about to stride off!’ she adds with a smile.
Just as Krystyna only buys an oversized letter K if it captures her imagination, the antique and vintage furniture in her Edwardian home in south London has also been subject to the same careful consideration. ‘I prefer to wait for the right thing to come along and I only buy pieces I have space for,’ she explains.
This measured approach ties in with Krystyna’s aversion to ‘fast furniture’: the mass-produced flat-pack equivalent of fast fashion. ‘I hate the idea of a throwaway culture,’ says Krystyna. Brought up on an air force base in Poland, recycling was a way of life rather than a hobby. ‘Growing up in a communist country, throwing anything away felt like a crime. Everything was reused, or passed on to someone else. And what we didn’t have, we’d make.’
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Krystyna’s parents even built their own home and, being the eldest child, she often helped her father. ‘It made me very practical. I’ll always have a go at making something we need, whether it’s a curtain or a light.’ This can-do attitude came into its own when she and Kristian bought their home. The Edwardian property had only had two owners since it was built and was entirely unmodernised. Krystyna’s BA in Spatial and Interior Design gained at Chelsea College of Arts and her love of British architecture also informed her approach.
‘I was interested in how an Edwardian house could be adapted for modern family life,’ she says. ‘Many of us love the character of older houses, but their architecture is arranged for the way people lived then.’ This means privacy and closed doors rather than flow and openness.
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Krystyna’s solution was to rework the ground floor by adding a kitchen-diner extension and creating a square arch between the two halves of the living room. ‘The footprint of the house is quite wide, so the proportions of the extension feel in keeping with the architecture. It just gives it a squarer feel,’ she adds.
The house was also entirely rewired and replumbed and walls were insulated and replastered. The staircase was refurbished and authentic timber sash windows were reinstalled. Krystyna is a firm believer in taking a house back to its bones to ensure the basic structure is sound. ‘I would never just decorate. I like to know that my family and my clients are living in healthy, damp-free homes,’ she says.
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When it came to the decorating and furnishing stage, Krystyna took the opportunity to indulge in a bit of repurposing. ‘I like giving old objects new functions,’ she explains. ‘So a Victorian clock case became a bathroom cabinet and we use an antique marble-topped dresser as a pot cupboard in the kitchen.’ A Roman blind in Klara’s room was made from a tablecloth embroidered by Krystyna’s grandmother when she was 16.
‘Vintage fabrics and furniture come with a story, but most of all it comes with amazing craftsmanship. These pieces will outlive us,’ she adds. What’s more, by using antiques, Krystyna has put together a look that’s individual. ‘I enjoy knowing that I won’t walk into a neighbour’s house and see exactly the same chair, light and rug,’ she smiles.
On trips to visit family in Poland, Krystyna is always on the lookout for interesting pieces. In the dining area, a mirrored 1960s cabinet was a gift from her mother and, in the living room, a marble-topped brass side table came from a Polish antiques shop. ‘The quality of the marble is incredible and it’s a very practical surface,’ she says. Then there’s a handsome carved table that her father helped her to restore, which shines out against the deep blue of the living room walls.
It’s no coincidence that many of the rooms are decorated in shades of blue. ‘For as long as I can remember, I have always loved the colour,’ she says. ‘As a child, I would have dressed in blue every day.’ From an interior design perspective, the hue has a calming effect and, Krystyna believes, suits the era of their home. ‘In Edwardian times, along with green, blue was a popular choice for decorating.’
From the dark navy in the living room to a duck egg in the main bedroom, blue also works well with the antique dark wood furniture that Krystyna has found, restored and polished up. ‘With blue, you can put different shades together and it always works,’ she says. ‘It feels harmonious, which is what we all want in a home.’
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