As a member of one of the most elegant fashion dynasties in the world – her mother is the fashion designer Carolina Herrera – Carolina Herrera de Baez has refinement running through her veins. Born to aristocratic Venezuelan parents, Carolina Jnr and her sister Patricia lived a charmed early life, moving from their native Venezuela as young teenagers to live in New York at the height of its Studio 54 glamour. Both her parents and the places she has lived in have informed her varied, sophisticated taste in interiors and clothes, but it was Spain that was to claim her heart.
While making a documentary about bullfighters (in addition to her role as consultant to the Carolina Herrera brand and creative director of the fragrances, she is also a film-maker), she met the now-retire toreador Miguel Báez. They were engaged in 2002 and began work on Los Guateles, the 3,500-acre estancia in the Extremadura region of western Spain that Miguel had recently bought and which his then-fiancée set about helping to transform. ‘I am obsessed with reupholstering,’ says Herrera de Baez. ‘And I’m a big stripe person, so I love to take a beautiful piece of antique furniture, such as a Louis XVI-revival chair that’s seen better days, and bring it back to life with some ticking fabric from Ian Mankin.
One of her signature styles is to cover the room in fabric.‘Paper it first to see what it looks like and then decorate the walls in fabric – it can have such a wonderful effect,’ she says. For the master bedroom in Los Guateles, Carolina upholstered the walls and created curtains in Le Coq toile by Pierre Frey, while in the study there is Suzani-print linen on the walls. Much of the furniture is from Robert Kime or Anthropologie, and all over the house there are watercolours by the artist Konstantin Kakanias (a close friend) and paintings by Liu Ding.
When Carolina and Miguel got married in 2004, they had a chapel built in the gardens for the occasion. Its ceiling was decorated by Kakanias, so that as the guests filed in for the ceremony, they looked up to a magical skyscape of flowers, stars, butterflies and angels that danced above their heads. These days, Miguel breeds bulls and horses, and their three children, Olimpia, eight, Miguel, seven, Atalanta, five, and five dogs run around the estate enjoying the freedom it offers.
The Extremadura region has an unforgiving climate, harsh in winter and extremely hot in summer, so the family keep their flat in Madrid (a two-and-a-half-hour drive away), but spend every weekend and most holidays at Los Guateles. All of them have fallen in love with the epic beauty of the landscape: the wildflowers that adorn the meadows in spring; the pool, shaded by canary-palms with its view of the manmade lake, the low mountains and the beautiful, seemingly endless valleys that surround this magical house.
Words: Sara Parker Bowles. This article first appeared in Harper's Bazaar Interiors