Tucked away on a quiet street just off Sloane Square, the offices of Helen Green Design exude a sense of intense focus and lively camaraderie. Mirroring London’s population, the staff is a global mix, hailing from Canada, Hong Kong, Czechoslovakia, Stockholm, England and Los Angeles. The head of the office is Natalia Miyar, a second generation Cuban-American who in less than a decade has become one of London’s most sought after interior and architectural designers.
At any time, the 39-year-old Miyar oversees 10 to 15 projects for a high-powered group of international clients: CEOs, dip- lomats, financiers, hedge fund managers and entrepreneurs from the Middle East, the U.S., Canada, Russia and increasingly China. “They push you to look outwardly,” she says. “They travel constantly and have homes around the world, from New York to Italy to South Africa and Barbados.”
One client commissioned a total makeover of a penthouse, and another a 20,000-foot extension for his home in the English countryside. A project with a developer involved the renovation of a neoclassical townhouse designed by renowned eighteenth-century architect John Nash, part of the mews house commissioned by Prince Regent, later England’s George IV, and named after his consort.
With an eye for detail and an emphasis on fine materials and bespoke furnishings, Miyar, whose world travels are the foundation of her design, deftly translates her clients’ desires into elegant spaces. “I’m not a faddy designer. Our clients are sophisticated and understated, and I make a home for them, nothing new and unexpected. It has to be a space where one can feel comfortable in jeans or in formal.” She calls it “livable luxury.”
The versatile designer inherited her love of architecture and art from her parents. When Miyar was seven, the family left Mexico for Miami. Here she was excited by the city’s art deco and streamlined design.“[Traveling] was the greatest gift,” she recalls. “They took me to see beautiful spaces all over the world. In Mexico City I saw fabulous colonial architecture, Baroque styles reinterpreted in a contextual way.”
Architecture was her passion, and after receiving a degree in art history from Brown, Miyar headed back south to the Univesity of Miami (UM) to study architecture; her thesis on historic preservation in Havana gave her a vivid and personal knowledge of her parents’ homeland.
“I’ve been so fortunate in female mentors,” Miyar says. Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, then the UM dean of architecture, took an ac- tive interestin the young designer and hired her. After working for Miami-based archi- tecture practices including Trelles Architects on projects in the Caribbean, the U.S. and Europe, Miyar set her sights on London, with its heady combination of traditional and contemporary architecture—a magnet for talented designers.
Later, Miyar was mentored by Helen Green, founder of Helen Green Design (HGD). Green guided her in the intricacies of the business—how to translate clients’ desires, ways to meet schedules and budgets, where to seek out the best craftsmen—so that when Miyar became design director after Green’s death from cancer, she had the confidence and knowledge to expand the firm. “Helen was great to me,” she reflects. “When she hired me, I just followed her and learned.”