Byline: Dinah Hall
SIX years ago a painting changed the life of Jennifer GuerriniMaraldi. She and her husband Filippo had entered bids for a number of works on sale of contemporary art at a Christie's auction in Sydney before boarding a plane back to London.
It transpired that they were the top bidders for a large abstract piece by an artist called Freddie Timms, but it was only when the work arrived in London that Jennifer realised they had bought something that touched her in an almost visceral way.
"I felt affected by it in a strange way; it was haunting," she recalls. "And, the thing is, it had the same effect on other people who came to the house.' Jennifer is Australian, she moved to London in 1979, but at first she didn't realise the painting was Aboriginal.
Although she ran a contemporary art gallery in Melbourne in the Seventies, she missed out completely on the modern Aboriginal art movement, which gained momentum about 20 years ago, when Aboriginal communities were given art-liaison officers and introduced to acrylic paints.
On the strength of her fascination with the Timms painting, Jennifer took another trip to Australia to learn more about modern Aboriginal art, and decided to start selling it in London.
The five-floor house in Chelsea in which she and Filippo lived at the time was not suitable for showing art, so they started looking on the other side of the river at modern apartments that could double as a home and gallery.
Spurning the more obviously iconic blocks that shimmer above the south side of the Thames promising an architectural Utopia, they opted for two penthouse flats in a newly built "plain Jane" of a building that offered a great deal more space and natural light for their money.
THE flats had almost been completed by the developers but not to Jennifer's and Filippo's taste, so as well as knocking down the dividing wall between the two flats, they ripped out the finishes, and had kitchens and bathrooms designed to their specification.
One of the most important changes was to replace the standard doors with floor-to-ceiling ones, which was done partly to facilitate the movement of paintings, but also had a huge impact on the proportions of the flat, adding a sense of grandeur.
The layout works beautifully, seamlessly integrating work and home. The entrance hall-cum-gallery is a space of blinding white light, the walls filled with the colours of the Australian landscape. The outside walls of two central "pods", housing storage and bathrooms, provide extra hanging space for art, and natural light pours through a skylight.
The bedrooms, bathrooms and Jennifer's office are either side of the hall, while straight ahead is the large, lateral space of the kitchen and living area. By joining the two flats together Jennifer has ended up with more than just a room with a view; through the large expanses of glazing she can see the Houses of Parliament, the "Gherkin" and London Eye from one side of the flat, and the Wembley arch from the other.
The more immediate view is an urban patchwork of Victorian buildings and Sixties tower blocks -- beautiful in their own graphic way, particularly when lit up at night.
"The marvellous thing about the flat is that every room has a door to the terrace," says Jennifer. "Being Australian, it's important to me to be able to get outside. We do a lot of cooking on the barbecue out there. …