In a building like an old, quiet, majestic house, you are in real shelter - not a sound will seep through the thick brick walls. A home protects the personal space of its residents. The keys of a perfect home - safeness, privacy, warmth and cosiness. Old Russian buildings can offer these priceless things. The new ones, alas, only half. Views of the Kremlin or the church, unusually high ceilings, giant windows - only in buildings built in 1930-1960. That’s why these old, historically beautiful stately buildings have captured the love of Russians of all ages. Fortunately, central Russia has many of them.
For almost 60 years - generation after generation - a large apartment in one of such canonical houses belongs to the ballet family of the Bolshoi Theatre. When passing through this house, the outside world just melts away - anyone who enters it becomes immersed in local smells, special lights and dynamics. They brew coffee in the kitchen, tie curtains away to let the morning sun warm the oak flooring, and change season flowers in vases. The house lives slowly and continuously, as if it was breathing. Homes with such a rich history are characterised by an incredible amount of detail that cannot be explored in just a day. There’s a huge mirror with gilding from Cairo, a funny stool with cracked skin, and slender rows of books (Soviet Encyclopedia - the sacred pride of Russian homes) that rise both vertically and horizontally. The only reminders of 2017 are the view outside the window and the computer.
"In a Russian home, the floor is rarely not from pure noble wood - wide boards of oak or ash with knots, perfect imperfections. The floor gives off heat, mentally and physically. Fortunately, wooden floors are typical in old and new apartments."
Walking into somebody’s home in outdoor shoes is inappropriate. It can be regarded as an extreme degree of disrespect, partly perhaps because of the care given to wooden floors. It’s rare for homes to exist without musical instruments such as guitars, pianos and violins. Even less often, without an enchanting quantity of books. Books are stored for decades, inherited and carefully guarded against moisture and dust.
Residents of central Russia travel quite a lot, many of their interior decor items have travelled through at least a couple of countries - even across the Atlantic - before finding their places in Russian homes. Over time, the younger generation abandons the idea of buying an apartment so they can move at any time. It gives more freedom and flexibility. So, their apartments have become laconic, often without proud rows of books that rise to the ceilings or even a wardrobe. Young people reject all that’s massive, that cannot be moved easily and cutting into their freedom. But at same time, the attention to details has grown - people begin to choose furniture according to the principle of absolutely matching or nothing at all.
Unsurprisingly, Russian homes are beginning to look more Scandinavian. Everything in a home now, even teapots and chairs, are new and unique, partly because they are handmade in a single copy. No more catalogue home-shopping and giant furniture stores. Due to this sort of interest, over the past five years, the demand for furniture and handmade dishes in Russia has grown a hundredfold. This pursuit of freedom has also led to the decrease in restrictions in rented homes. In the United States or European countries such as France or Italy, creating a “home” within the walls is not allowed. While in Russia, you can paint the walls, hang shelves and change windows. You are allowed to bring your colours and senses to make your “home”.
We have the right for creative change in the space we live in - the opportunity to make every corner of our house the way we see it. Now, even the fact of not owning an apartment does not limit that freedom of creativity - it all starts with creating your own unique home.
Photos & Words by Maria Orlova