Photo: Miguel Flores-Vianna.
For those of us whose eyes linger at the entryways and windows of grand homes and apartment buildings while abroad, the work of Miguel Flores-Vianna grants the voyeur’s pleasure of glimpsing a very private side of the world’s cities and towns. The Argentinian-born, London-based photographer travels between Europe and America chronicling the work of noted interior designers for publications like Cabana and Architectural Digest, in the process gleaning a unique insight into the places he visits. “To see a city like this is priceless, because ultimately what the tourists get is accessible, but to be able to get into someone’s house, someone who lives in a completely different place, in a completely different way to the one you’re used to, to me, that is the treasure,” he explains.

Miguel’s celebrated book Haute Bohemians captures the idiosyncratic and eccentric residences of global creatives, collectors, and aristocrats, while championing his belief that a home can reveal much more about a person than their sense of style. It was a visit to the West Village home of photographer Francois Halard, early in his previous career as a magazine editor in New York, that this particular notion first struck. “It was a house that made me tingle,” he recalls. “I realized the reason why is because the house is him—an extension of the way he is. That’s what I have always strived to photograph: to try to show the house as an extension of whoever lives there rather than just a place or a bunch of stuff.”

When not on assignment, reading is the catalyst for Miguel’s travels. Often a single sentence sows the desire to visit a destination, his imagination building a dream of the place and its people from there. Right now, Persia and Uzbekistan are high on the list, as well as the countryside of Japan for the fleeting vision of a hotaru matsuri (firefly festival). One constant in his itinerary is the Greek island of Hydra, which he visits every August for quiet, afternoon hikes, and fresh-grilled fish.

What does your ideal day look like on Hydra?This year we have started frequenting a very small taverna in Kamini named To Pefkaki. Our Greek friends told us it is the most home-cooked-like meal one could have on the island and with a beautiful view of the Saronic Gulf. After our first visit I realized that it was all very true and much better even. It is family-owned, with the wife cooking while the husband and sons take care of the serving. The fish is always fresh and grilled and the vegetable dishes plentiful. I usually order my food and go for a swim on a small bay surrounded by some rock promontories directly below the restaurant. I am back ten minutes later to the served food. People say I am crazy but in the afternoons I love to hike under the hottest sun. My favorite hike is to the Profitis Ilias Monastery, the largest and most important on the island with commanding views of the sea and the Peloponnese.

Hydra, Greece. Photo: Miguel Flores-Vianna.
Your favorite swimming spot?Most of the time I go to Avlaki Beach. It is a ten-minute walk from the harbor and, surprisingly, there aren’t many people there. It is a charming cove you access through a steep and never-ending staircase that winds its way through a pine forest. I am there until just before sundown when I start my way back home. But first, I stop for a Campari soda at Techne, a restaurant with a terrace that commands the best views of the sunset on the island and the waitresses and waiters are cool young Athenians.
A local dish that shouldn’t be missed?We eat every night at Xeri Elia, a wonderful taverna which has been in business since the 1840s. On summer nights all the tables are outside on the square in front of it, under a centenary mulberry tree. I must add that in Hydra there are only three motor vehicles: an ambulance, a fire truck and a garbage collector, that is it! So eating on a square under a mulberry tree feels like eating in someone’s garden. Of course, we always tend to have the fresh catch of the day, usually just grilled, and at the end of each meal the sweetest karpouzi [watermelon]. I love the largesse of the Greeks, their incredible generosity and joie de vivre, and that is what I witness night after night at Xeri Elia. It is probably my favorite restaurant in the world.
Do you collect anything on your travels?I do. Sometimes seeing something in a house will inspire me to try to get something similar. At the beginning of last year, I was in Tangiers in a home and I saw an eighteenth-century print of these men walking on the mouth of a volcano, and I became absolutely obsessed by it. I spent the first half of last year looking for something similar, without any luck. And then last August, I was with my partner in Athens, and we went inside an old bookstore and I looked at some prints. The owner realized I was interested in them, brought out a huge folder and started showing me. All of a sudden I saw this print of eighteenth-century men with torches, exploring a cave, and I said, “Oh my god, that’s amazing.” So I ended up getting it.
After living all over the world, how do you create a sense of home in each new place?I always move with my things, so all those layers get put together again in a different room. Then I make small roots that make me feel anchored. For example, now that I live in London, I go to see my favorite bookshop, John Sandoe—it is really cozy and its owners always know every book you are looking for. And I have my favorite restaurant, Daquise, where I go at least once a week. It’s a Polish restaurant that has been operating since the 1940s when it mostly served to the Polish emigre community, but is now a classic in my South Kensington neighborhood.