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Gallery: At home with natural history

Johannesburg - Mia Widlake has always “made stuff”. From her days studying fashion design, when fabricating garments was par for the course, to her current range of madly covetable ceramics and quirky-cool textiles, she’s always been very hands-on.

So, although she’d describe herself first and foremost as a stylist, she’s also a designer, a creator, an artist.

Old furniture mixes with custom-made objects in the living room, the neutral palette accentuated by graphic pattern and natural textures. Picture: Karl Rogers, House and Garden magazineMia with her two children, Oliver and Stella. Their bedrooms are the only bright rooms in the house. Picture: Karl Rogers, House and Garden magazineGlass-fronted blue-grey cabinets in the kitchen display Mia's crockery. Picture: Karl Rogers, House and Garden magazineHer 'Butler' light is clamped onto bookshelves which are packed with inspirational books and stationery. Picture: Karl Rogers, House and Garden magazineSoothing shades of grey and charcoal make up a layered effect in the master suite. Picture: Karl Rogers, House and Garden magazineMia Widlake in the studio space in her home, where she works and her husband
and children paint. Picture: Karl Rogers, House and Garden magazineIn the dining space, shoe moulds decorate a wall. Picture: Karl Rogers, House and Garden magazineA faceted skull from Ceramic Matters. Picture: Karl Rogers, House and Garden magazineMia's office pinboard holds ideas and her children's drawings. Picture: Karl Rogers, House and Garden magazineThe August issue of Conde Nast's House and Garden magazine is on sale now.

“In the beginning, it came from a place of necessity – to get the pieces I wanted, I had to make them,” she explains of the genesis of her Studio No 19 label. “I lived in the US for a while and there’s so much to buy there that when I came back, I found I was struggling to find exactly what I was looking for,” she explains.

So, when she desperately wanted a particular type of round mirror, she designed it. Soon enough friends were asking her to make pieces for them and it became apparent that there was a definite and considerable market for her unique custom designs.

She concentrated initially on a range of printed cushion covers and tea towels. The often avant-garde, occasionally whimsical illustrations merge in a sort of urban romanticism, “nouveau gothic”, if you will. A little bit hard-core, a little bit quaint, but very cool.

Her designs are adorned with anything from skulls to feathers, skeletons and sea life.

Recently she branched into geometric ceramics, and now, more recently, bigger pieces such as bespoke furniture or hand-crafted lamps.

All are completely customisable – if a client wants a shorter lamp or a bigger table, she’ll make it to order.

This highly personal approach is apparent in her Joburg home, which she shares with her husband, advertising creative director Rui, and their two children, Oliver and Stella.

As a calling card for her stylistic prowess, you won’t find better than this Parkmore house. A relaxed mix of old and antique and custom-made gives it a lived-in feel with a very specific style.

Some of the pieces Mia’s had forever – like a pair of chairs in the living room that she got when she was 16. Others have been found or bought – the newer pieces a slick, minimal contrast to the time-worn.

Monochrome is Mia’s signature, something she exercises so skilfully with layered patterns and textures that you don’t miss the colour.

The children’s bedrooms are the only bright rooms in the house, says Mia. “I tried with my daughter – I was determined that she was going to dress in only a chic combination of grey and white. That didn’t work. She absolutely loves pink and I can’t deny her what she loves.”

CONTACT: Studio No 19 @ www.miawidlake.com

This article appears in the August issue of Condé Nast’s House & Garden magazine, on sale now.

Text: Julia Freemantle

Production: Dean van Aswegen

Pictures: Karl Rogers

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