Design-conscious retailers Dixie Mirowski and Ralf Farthing combine style and function in Edinburgh apartment
VISITING Dixie Mirowski and Ralf Farthing at their home in Edinburgh’s William Street, you might never guess that each room in this smart one-bedroom flat had originally had a different use when the couple moved in four years ago. As it is, this layout feels right, as if each space is where it should be.
What is now the living room was originally a bedroom, while today’s sleek, black kitchen was previously a bathroom. Today’s bedroom was a living room, with a small kitchen off it, and the latter has been combined with a former toilet, located off the hallway, to create a shower room.
Such visualisation is second nature to Dixie and Ralf, who have recently opened their new business, Catalog Ltd, in St Stephen Place in Edinburgh’s Stockbridge area. Having previously worked together in Inhouse in Edinburgh – the shop (now closed) became a Mecca over the years for those looking for contemporary furniture and lighting – it made sense for the couple to build on that experience when launching their own retail outlet and interior design business working on projects for clients.
“There’s a slight difference in direction in that we’ve brought in Scandinavian products as well as furniture and lighting from Italy and Spain, and we’ve ‘lightened’ our product range, making it more appealing to a younger generation of buyers,” Ralf explains. The furniture collection includes ranges from the likes of Cassina, Jesse and Kristalia with lighting from Foscarini and Santa & Cole, along with textiles and accessories. As Dixie says: “After four years working with Inhouse, you get used to that quality and you can’t go back.”
The couple met in the Middle East when Dixie was working for an architect in Bahrain while Ralf was teaching. On returning to the UK in 2007 the couple initially rented a flat in Edinburgh while looking for a place to buy. They wanted a project and quickly realised that altering the use of the existing rooms here would greatly improve the way the spaces functioned.
Having previously worked as a carpenter and furniture maker, Ralf had the practical skills required and the couple lived here throughout the alterations, camped out in the living room. They readily acknowledge having diverse tastes. “We joke about eventually building a house with two different sides to it,” Dixie says. “Ralf is much more minimalistic than I am.”
“We balance each other,” Ralf reflects. “Dixie will push it to how ‘frilly’ she can have it, and I’ll push it to how masculine I can have it, and we meet in the middle.”
This interior displays that balance as the clean lines of the contemporary furniture and lighting are offset by more decorative elements, many of which Dixie has picked up on trips to the Far East, such as the black wedding cabinet in the living room or the artworks above the bed.
Naturally enough there are pieces available through Catalog, including the DLM side tables by HAY in the living room and the Nub chair, designed by Patricia Urquiola, in the bedroom, or HAY’s Mega Dot quilt on the bed.
There are also some special pieces, like the classic Hans Wegner Wishbone chair, which Dixie bought as a birthday present for Ralf a few years back, or the sculpture by Eoghan Bridge, which was a wedding present, while the painting above the original range in the couple’s bedroom was a commission from artist Peter Nelson.
With a small living space it was important that each room flowed into the next, and the couple have achieved this with a restrained palette including Farrow & Ball’s Skimming Stone on the walls, with Sudbury Yellow picking up the colours from the Moroccan prints in the hallway, and Elephant’s Breath complementing the tobacco-hued tiles in the shower room.
“In each of the rooms there are elements of black and of warm oak, so it all ties together,” Ralf says.
Dixie added punches of colour into this neutral backdrop, including green accents in the living room and pink in the bedroom, while rugs from Bahrain add pattern and colour to the dark-stained floorboards. The green continues into the kitchen where the vibrant hue offsets the glossy black cabinetry.
While the bedroom and living room display the couple’s honed eye for great furniture and accessories, the kitchen and shower room illustrate their ability to think round potentially tricky spaces.
When creating the shower room, the couple wanted the feel of a wet room, and achieved this by installing a single glass panel to define the shower area along with a slimline shower tray, while mirrored storage reflects and magnifies the space.
In the kitchen every inch has been considered. The units were extended upwards to utilise the ceiling height, while the timber worktop and slate backsplash (the latter made by Ralf using two large-profile slate tiles from The Original Tile Company) add an organic edge.
This is the space that the couple are most pleased with. “You can study small kitchens and buy books about small kitchens, but those aren’t really small,” Dixie says. “This is a combination of function and style, and it works well.”
No doubt as Catalog grows and develops, so the couple’s home will also evolve as they find themselves tempted by new pieces and new designers. As occupational hazards go, this isn’t a bad one to have.
Catalog Ltd, 2-4 St Stephen Place, Edinburgh, EH3 5AJ (0131-225 2888, www.cataloginteriors.com)
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