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Leaving the opaque morning haze of Los Angles, we pursue the sun as it rises and drive ourselves high up into the
Hollywood Hills, where on a sunny hilltop dry plantings of salvias, lavender and aloes impart the lush cool feeling of a shade garden. Here, behind a tall stuccoed wall, Mick Aarestrup greets us at the private escape he and his wife designer Paula Batali have created at their 1930s hideaway house. The Mediterranean-style building appears at first to be all white-painted glamour with deep aquamarine blue trim. Mick throws open the doors to let us in and we are embraced by rooms where painted antiques of simple lines, natural materials and fine art all combine into a soothing space of deep personal expression.
Similar to their home, Mick and Paula seem to be the perfect exciting fusion of South American sophistication meeting Nordic soul. The couple’s shared passion and ease with art and design reveals itself in their confident mix of decor. Elements, as disparate as a 1720s leather upholstered chair and an Anne Foresman painting, when put together in the intimate, domestic scale of the bungalow are totally energized. “It is best,” says Mick, “to have a mixture of pieces, not all the same period. Just like we’re all different from one another so are the homes we embody and the objects we fill them with. Everybody demands a certain amount of space, and plays very well with some and not so well with others.
By mixing periods then, every piece gets their own voice.” Both Swedish and South American designers seem to have mastered the power of mingling past and present as a very powerful means to evoke not just great beauty but also associations and sentiment.
Paula concurs that there is more similarity between Brazilian and Swedish design than one would initially suspect. “I am from Rio de Janeiro and consider myself very fortunate to come from a place where creativity and the design process is spontaneous, naïve and very much inspired by nature and materials. I believe that in this aspect, both countries have a similar approach to design. Brazilian furniture and interiors have a fluidity and an airy quality to them, and because of that, I was able to immediately relate to Swedish design.”
In terms of living with antiques in modern settings, this is something she is entirely used to from her upbringing. A happy memory for Paula is of her father collecting antiques. “My family always seemed perplexed with my father’s obsessioncollecting really old and odd-looking stuff! Brazil is a new country! The antiques I was exposed to were mainly Portuguese Baroque; it was everywhere around my parents’ apartment.