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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Interiors: Art Nouveau With an Australian Touch

Mira Hogue lives in one of the most unusual and beautiful houses in Moscow. As wife of Ambassador Cavan Hogue, her home is the Australian Embassy, a lime-colored monument to art nouveau architecture built in 1903. She feels privileged to live there, she says, especially because of the house's history.

"There are two stories about who it was built for," Hogue says, sipping tea in the embassy's reception room, which has the loftiest ceiling this side of Notre Dame. "One says that it was built for a merchant's daughter, but there is also a legend that the house was actually for the mistress of a sugar baron. But then every mansion has a story like that."

Hogue, 55, has been in Moscow for about three years. Before coming to Russia, she and her husband had been posted to such temperate capitals as Rome, Mexico City and her native Manila, so it is no surprise that Hogue describes herself as a summer person. And the embassy, she says, is perfect in summer. It stays cool and bright -- and mosquito-free: The Hogues have bought the latest mosquito-fighting equipment from Stockmann, so they can sleep with the windows open.

The art nouveau touches make the place unique. In the hall, swirling wooden sunflowers support the bannister of the main staircase, and Hogue's favorite detail is the constellation of light bulbs that protrude from flower-shaped moldings on the guest room's ceiling.

"The residence is not designed to accommodate many people," she says. "But there is a hidden area called The Tower, so we can have a few guests." The Tower is a spiral staircase with 50 steps that leads to two small bedrooms on the upper floors of the embassy.

Fond as she is of the house, Hogue has spent a lot of time on the road with her husband in the former Soviet Union. Last week they returned from Vladivostok. When she travels, Hogue does not only stop in museums and monasteries. She seeks out underprivileged people.

"It is important for me to meet old people, single mothers and the handicapped." says Hogue, who is a social worker by profession. "I need to learn about them. It is my career."