Two become one: this art dealer turned two drab flats into one vibrant home

Art dealer Jennifer Guerrini-Maraldi sent for the men with sledgehammers to turn two Battersea flats into her home and gallery.
Walking into the fourth-floor apartment of Jennifer and Filippo Guerrini-Maraldi in Battersea is a powerful experience. Dead ahead is a bright blue and scarlet painting by Weaver Jack above an Empire chest of drawers — one of Filippo’s family heirlooms — topped by two huge Robin Best ceramic vases.

The enclosed hallway, centred round a sort of internal box of private and service spaces, provides large areas of wall to display vibrant Aboriginal artworks. Then comes a rather more intimate space, lit by a skylight and containing ghostly white, black and ochre bark sculptures by Nawurapu Wununmurra and Malaluba Gumana.
From there, visitors emerge into a giant glass box. The flat, which the couple bought seven years ago, is at the top of a small block with views across London taking in Wembley Arch, the Houses of Parliament, the Shard, the Walkie Talkie and glimpses of the Thames. The vista is a patchwork of eclectic Victorian roofs and Sixties blocks.
The windows surround three sides of the flat and open on to a narrow terrace, covered in AstroTurf. Tucked in one corner is a barbecue. “We cook on it all year, including in the snow,” says Jennifer, an Australian with a lifelong love of barbecues. The calm, light and large living space of the apartment gives you a feeling of being outside, and the back walls are hung with yet more strong, colourful art works.
“We originally had a five-storey Chelsea home, but I needed space to hang my pictures,” explains Jennifer. “I saw an ad for penthouses — two on the same floor. I knew we had to have them, but not as they were. I spent six months supervising the original builders ripping out the developers’ horrid brown stuff and making one apartment.
“I chose all the materials, the grey wooden floor, grey blinds, barely grey walls matched with white ceilings to give more height, and the floor-to-ceiling doors that give a sense of grandeur, increase the height of the not-that-tall rooms and allow me to move large paintings without difficulty.”
Moving the artworks is important as Jennifer, in her fifties, runs her gallery JGM Art, specialising in Aboriginal Art, from home. Fortunately, her husband is keen on her art choices.
Jennifer started her first gallery in Australia aged 23, before coming to the UK and working for Browns where she met lots of future clients. She did some property development with her first husband and then with Filippo, an art insurance broker who grew up in America with an Italian father and a French mother. Remodelling the Battersea flat was a project Jennifer relished. 
The two bedrooms are also grey and white, with artwork in muted tones and flashes of colour from the couple’s clothes in the ordered dressing space.
The large, artificially lit bathrooms reflect their personal interests. For Filippo, a fanatical skier and member of White’s ski team and the St Moritz Tobogganing Club, which owns the Cresta Run, Jennifer created a trophy room.
“I didn’t want his many trophies around as bits of clutter, so I created a place in the men’s loo.” Filippo interjects: “It’s called Bulls**t Corner.”
Jennifer’s bathroom is where she has her collection of keepsakes, including a silver heart box from Filippo and a picture frame they bought in Paris. “It’s the place for photos, things that are dear to me, not to anyone else. I see them very often at close quarters. I keep my parents’ photo inside the white cupboard where we store the coffee machine, so I see it every time I open the door.”
The kitchen is a wall of white cupboards and an island of Schiffini fittings. “The dishwasher and the oven have portholes because Schiffini originally made fittings for the Italian navy,” Jennifer explains.
Filippo is allowed several more personal effects, including family heirlooms of two American Civil War swords, displayed on a Pace table in the lounge space, with a huge cream Poliform sofa and Philipp Plein “Bauhausy” stool. Next to this is a vase of seven antlers bagged by Jennifer on shooting and fishing trips.
On the table are two white and gold ceramic plates whose graphic sweeps are echoed in the Luke Irwin rug, and pick up the patterns in nearby artwork. Huge paintings, including a Regina Pilawuk Wilson pink fish net, line the walls.
JGM Art was started almost by accident. On a visit to Sydney the couple left a bid at Christie’s for a large, colourful painting. “I knew nothing about Aboriginal art, but we were successful and when Sugar Bag by Freddie Timms — who I had never heard of — arrived in London, I couldn’t believe how much I loved it.”
Jennifer returned to Australia and started finding out about Aboriginal work. “Now I tour the real Outback. I feel so connected to it. I must have been Aboriginal in a previous life. I love seeing people produce art in remote communities.”
She works with the Indigenous Art Code of Practice, via community art galleries. Pieces, mostly maps, range from £1,000, up to £100,000 and include Sally Gabori’s pink and turquoise mini mapped landscapes that reflect her tropical world, and works by Wununmurra in natural ochres.
“Aboriginal artists are custodians of a different aspect of the earth — they have intellectual copyright for a pattern which has symbolic meaning,” says Jennifer. “They have a spirituality that is uplifting.” 
  • JGM Art: 07860 325 326 (

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