At home with MiiO Store's Nina Battley
Behind a sunny yellow door in Newcastle's Tighes Hill, MiiO Store founder Nina Battley warmly welcomes us into her space. The homewares and design shopfront flows through to the extension out the back that Nina and her partner call home. This unique celebration of art and colour seems like it was custom-made for this spot, and well, it kind of was!
"This was all just a car park," Nina says of the space beyond her kitchen. But with Nina's vision, it's become something so much more. Her home, an open, gallery-style layout that connects seamlessly to the shop at the front, shares many of MiiO's traits. Nina's love of colour, sculptural elements and design are evident in every corner of both spaces, and that's no accident. "When we first arrived in Newcastle eleven years ago, we were looking for either a warehouse or a place where we could do something other than just live." Nina was a painter, so a gallery was an obvious choice. But, she says, "I'm equally passionate about interior design and homewares as I am about art, and after seeing how many art galleries were everywhere in Newcastle, I decided to do this." 'This' is MiiO Store — an exquisitely curated collection of pieces sourced from all around the world.
The shopfront is small, but light-soaked and airy. It feels intimate, like a treasure trove of colour and details to explore. "When we first moved here, this was our lounge room," Nina explains the space where MiiO now operates. The couple frosted the large front window for privacy and set about creating their extension, converting most of the car park into an open-plan living space that spills out into a lush urban oasis complete with trailing greenery draping down from overhead. "We've been spending a bit of time getting plants up high," Nina tells us. "We haven't got a lot of garden here, so our aim is just to slather the top with plants from High Swan Dive. We're slowly working out what works and what survives."
When it comes to making both MiiO and her home, Nina says, "I wanted to do something unique and different. I think I've hit the nail on the head!" (We agree!)
an artist's eye
Inside her home, Nina brings an artist's sensibility to her design choices. High ceilings create an expanse of white walls, "purely because I was a painter too, and worked in an art gallery for a long time, so I honour all the pieces that I collect." Some of the paintings are Nina's own, other pieces collected from her years of travel and exploration. But it's not just the paintings that get the gallery treatment. "Everything's like an artwork, and there are stories behind everything," Nina explains. In the garden, she shows us a metal planter, saying, "That's actually the concrete mixer that mixed the concrete that built the extension of this house." And those white walls are no coincidence. "I like bright colours," she says, "but I'm a white wall girl. I like everything to speak. I like the walls to disappear and allow the colours to stand out."
"Everything's like an artwork, and there are stories behind everything."
curating a vision
Despite the diversity of all the artefacts found both in the house and on MiiO's shelves, Nina's vision is completely cohesive. "My aesthetic is abstract, modern and colourful," she says when we ask her to describe it. "What's really important is that whatever I source complements each other. I'm very attracted to the mid-century modern era, but it's also really important to me that whatever you buy in the store, if you don't have a house that looks like the mid-century modern type, it's still going to work. You're not following a trend as such — you can keep these things forever, and they'll always keep up with things changing and moving, a bit like fashion. That's worked in my house. I've got a lot of MiiO in my house, but I've got things from my life before MiiO, and all those things fit together."
"My aesthetic is abstract, modern and colourful."
Change, for Nina at least, is inevitable. "I change this house around all the time. I get bored — Mum's always joked that I would move the loo if it weren't plumbed in! I'm not a measurer at all. Completely the opposite! I change things around thinking, 'Oh, that might look nice there,' and before you know it, the whole place is being changed around. I go through a lot of magazines, and you get so many ideas from that." Nina points out an enormous carved Indonesian door in the garden. "I saw it in a magazine painted shiny, bright red. And I thought, 'Yes, actually, I can see that!' They're the things that get you excited, and then you start putting your own additions to it." But one thing that doesn't change is Nina's favourite space in the house: the open-plan living and dining room. The gallery-style space allows her to express her creativity, as she rearranges according to her mood.
Mustard + MiiO
There are MiiO pieces scattered throughout Nina's home, from the Lightly leather book belt binding a stack of colourful hardbacks to the Vitra Rotary Tray holding fruit. And, of course, plenty of lockers! "My Twinny in Mustard is my favourite," Nina says, "but I really love the Blush and the Olive. They're my three favourite colours." In the shop, a Midi in Poppy looks right at home. There's a Skinny in the kitchen, where Nina has painted the floor a bright, Poppy red, and she tells us she's planning to add a Twinny next to it. "I just need to decide on a colour!"
work from home
"MiiO pieces always end up in here. But it works out well because we have a lot of dinner parties, and people see stuff in situ and say, 'Wow, where did you get that?' And I say, 'Well, we can just go for a walk into the shop if you like!'
Speaking of which, are there any challenges involved in living and working under one roof? "I've done it for a long time," Nina explains. "It's great because I can just put 'ring the bell' on the door and go and cook a soup or do my ironing! I quite like that. Before opening MiiO, I worked crazy hours, and I just thought, if I can do something that I really love and have less of that stress — that's what I'd like. I get up, walk the dog and make breaky, and then I waddle in there and open the doors at ten o'clock." There are a few minor downsides, she concedes. "One thing that does happen having the shop attached is that I tend to work a lot more. I always think, 'Oh, I'll do that on Sunday when I'm closed.' I offer to do things after hours if people can't make it in between ten and four. But I love that flexibility, so it works out really well."
the right materials
So what are the elements that Nina looks for when creating a space? "I love raw things — concrete, wood, textures." In the living room alone, she points out the wooden floorboards interacting with a grey Besser block wall, a white brick wall and concrete. "And I definitely like light. Big windows and high ceilings!"
"I've been brought up in art studios," Nina explains of her creative eye. "My mum's a painter, my mum's husband is a painter. I studied Fine Arts, so I'm just attracted to beautiful things." At MiiO and at home, she's surrounded by them.
"I love raw things — concrete, wood, textures."
So perhaps it's no surprise that when we ask where we'd find Nina on a Sunday morning, she says right here — "in my bed with a cup of coffee! We go walking with our dog, but I like to have coffee at home and read the paper."
When home looks this good, who wouldn't?