Marta Nowicka, London-based interior designer, claims she loves them all as if they were a family. And since the idea of breaking away from her creations is too painful, she opted for a softer solution: renting them out for short and long lets.
And so DOM stay & live was created – a point of reference for those seeking a unique living experience in Great Britain, but not only.
The homes shaped by Marta Nowicka have a signature style and each has its own story to tell: what she defines “the property’s narrative”.
A Londoner with parents of Polish origin, she has an unbounded passion for old buildings: abandoned ambulance stations, unused warehouses, former offices and garages. It does not matter how badly off they are, with a sort of magic, which is repeated in the same yet different manner, she manages to transform them into extraordinary homes, offering them a second chance. An example is The Gouse, formerly a garage in the now trendy neighbourhood: Dalston. Now it is a lovely three-floor house, published on the most prestigious magazines.
It is impossible to resist the charm of her homes, whose essential linearity does not prevent them from welcoming residents and making them comfortable.
Her homes are highly demanded nowadays. Alongside is Voytek, her partner and a professional photographer. His pictures are able to mirror the visual potency of Marta’s works. “We started a creative collaboration that enables us to celebrate the coming together of our respective talents and passions”, she explains, simply.
We met them in a beautiful 18th century palazzo in Azzate, near Milan, the project on which they are currently working.
Sometimes the best stories start by serendipity. Was it the same with the start of DOM stay & live?
It was back in 2005 and I started converting old commercial properties into homes. At one point, I realised I’d created an important business, but a name and an identity were still missing.
I got the inspiration after a trip to Warsaw. Voytek and I were staying at the wonderful Autor Rooms and I was won over by the personality the architects had been able to convey. And so i selected the name DOM, which means home in Polish. Over the years, DOM stay & live has added more homes of friends and fellow designers to its portfolio, all of which are carefully selected.
One of your most known creations is The Gouse, a combination of garage and house. You transformed a small space into an extraordinary 3-floor home, without affecting the house’s impact on the street, and exploiting solutions that combined design with the building’s own DNA. How did you manage to envisage the final result?
The Gouse was a great challenge. The initial size of the garage was 4.5 by 9 metres: a really tiny place, concealed like a children’s den among tress and bushes. There was a need for space which was achieved by digging an enormous basement.
I then worked on the lighting, by adding glazing into the flat roof it bathes the basement with light. Equally important were the outside spaces on the balcony and the huge windows looking onto the gardens.By extending the garden wall and hiding the doors in the wall, the house integrated seamlessly into the surrounding road, and the cedar wood tiles covering the first floor resemble the tree bark you would expect to find in a garden.
After all, my creations always mirror the specifics of their origin.
How much does contemporary art inspire your architecture?
Contemporary art is a great source of inspiration for me: in particular landscape artists such as Robert Smithson, Richard Wilson and James Turrell, together with modernists such as Barbara Hepworth.
How do you select the places to be converted?
I have a passion for crumbling commercial property and obsolete buildings. When I see an old warehouse or abandoned offices needing total redesign, I literally fall in love. The fact that there is so much potential to be expressed, that it is possible to take a building from the past and transform it into a home is a fascinating challenge – you salvage property, create new homes where there weren’t any, preserve the environment, but at the same time you are creating something modern.
What is the ideal combination for harmonising spaces, lines and materials?
The fusion of shapes and elements is very important in my design: I like maximising space, using clean-cut lines, enhancing functionality and enjoying the unexpected, such as the smell of the cedar wood tiles at The Gouse (when you open the doors, there is a marked scent of wood). Some of these ideas come from childhood memories, I try to recreate a mood or to capture a feeling that is deeply rooted in the subconscious and that I need to express in some form.
What turns a house into a home?
Home is where you feel good, a place where you feel you belong and where you can relax. Proportions are crucial, the size and ergonomics of the place must be perfect. The kitchen, in my opinion, is the heart and focus of each home. Once you’ve therefore found the spatial definition of the kitchen and chosen the floor on which to place it, the rest follows. I like clean-cut lines, but try to add warmth and a touch of seduction with contrasting textures, and by mixing materials, shapes and alternating old and new.
How much do you think a home can influence the mood of its residents?
A lot: a place can make you feel and infinite range of sensations, both positive and negative. Our surrounding is a little bit the key to how we feel when we respond to its solicitations. Homes are very personal, and it is therefore important to know what we really like.
Is there one of your creations to which you are particularly attached? Why?
I am very attached to all of the homes I have designed and I have lived in many of them. I am fond of the former ambulance stations in St John, Rye, East Sussex. From an architectural viewpoint it is really rigorous, with a huge living room focused around a wood stove. The panelled walls and smaller bedrooms make this house really welcoming and comfortable. And there is a timeless view over the historic walls and buildings.