WHAT IS HOME? This question was tormenting me for such a long time. In the light of moving to a new country, I was preoccupied with it so strongly that I devoted my research papers to this subject in grad school, and even wanted to apply for a PhD program to continue researching the phenomenology of home.
Then suddenly, at one point, I have come to a simple and clear realization: home is where I pour tea into my best-loved cup in the mornings; where I light a favorite candle, enjoying its aroma; where I read a book, tucked in a cozy plaid; where I bake a pear tart for my dear friends. When eventually I got dressed to go to a coffee-shop, but decided to stay and write down notes about my home, while cozying up in my rocking chair, looking at the lake and first snowflakes, and warming my feet on the hot radiator.
I am not a homeowner. I lease the apartment where I currently reside. I found it by an accident only several months ago. One of those days, a very timid thought about changing my dwelling crawled into my mind (I really hate moving). Just for the research purposes, I began looking at rental properties from time to time. And honestly, I was pretty happy to find them absolutely unattractive.
But then, in one of the random evenings, I saw it!
It was perfect in all the ways: located in the vintage brown-brick building; high ceilings; French doors; a bathroom with a window in it; built-in fireplace and cupboards remained there from the early 20th century; crawling ivy on the huge windows facing the lake; and a lot, a lot of light, that was permeating through the whole space.
When I was creating my home from the chosen space, there were two important aspects to take into consideration. First, I didn’t want any accidental objects in my place. I wanted each, even the smallest thing, to be special, accurately chosen, or maybe found adventitiously, but “darling”, with its own history, something that continues my esthetic “I”. Secondly, I was guided by the idea of what is important for me and brings me joy and pleasure. My special joy is to inspire people around me. Therefore, I wanted to create home that was welcoming for everyone; where my faraway friends from all over the world can stay while traveling; where we all can gather for a dinner at a big table or just sit on sofa in front of a fire-place; where we can listen to the records, exchange ideas, brainstorm our joint projects, create.
IN TERMS OF AESTHETICS, I adore three eras: the decadence of the 1920s, the modernism of the 60s, and minimalism of the 90s. While creating the interior for my home, I tried to balance those eras’ tangible representations and create a harmony between practicality and beauty, industrial brutality and romantic softness.
My home is full of various vintage and antique things I found at flea markets, estate sales, antique shops and thrift-stores.
Going hunting to those places is one of my hobbies. I am always confident that I will be able to find stuff drawn by my imagination, sometimes even better than I imagined. And without big damage to my credit cards and personal finances. Joy caused by the hunting adrenaline is a separate subject.
THE MAJORITY OF MY FURNITURE WAS ALSO PURCHASED IN THRIFT STORES. Through my experience I noticed that it is much easier for me to find something I really like in those kinds of shops. My first furniture piece was a dining table. Initially, I planned to build it myself. I wanted to make it long to seat more people around it. My dream table was industrial-rustic one, made of black gas pipes and raw wood blocks. And it is not that difficult to build. I know it for sure as several years ago, inspired by a beautiful but crazy expensive bookshelf from Restoration Hardware, I decided to build it myself. However, my industrial table wasn’t fated to come true. During one of my thrift huntings, I found an amazing butcher-block table from one of the oldest woodworking companies in the country. Great find that cost me just a few dollars plus some time to wash it with a brush and assembling. But there is more to come. After I purchased the table and came next day to pick it up with my friends, we spotted a sofa of my dream in a hidden corner – tufted and perfectly gray. I picked it up the next day, with another friend with a bigger car, moving it to our new home on the car roof under the pouring rain. That is how two main guest-welcoming objects came into the life of my home. All the rest are details. Which I really like to play with and put together into one harmonious composition.
I am a believer that home interior should be alive and coexist with its dwellers. One of my friends, who together with her husband created the most beautiful house I have ever seen, told me: “IN-terior of a house is like the IN-ner world of a human, an it should develop and grow constantly.”
I purposefully have not varnished wooden surfaces of my tables – I don’t want to protect them from everyday damages. I prefer to see those coffee-spots, knife cuts, paint traces, etc. on the wood, – those marks that bear the history and remind that objects in the house are not museum pieces but living and breathing participants of our joint life. Those marks are the language of the everyday living, and furniture pieces are like media that tell us a story.
Favorite materials: all natural (wood, metal, brick, cement)
Favorite colors: white, all shades of gray. These colors for me are the minimalistic canvas that constantly inspires me to create. I also love green spots of my plants. Since childhood, I was in love with tropical plants, and big green leaves are obligatory. My plants are very happy near the big windows with southeast light. I love to watch them shine penetrated by the sunbeams in the morning. In Chicago, where first greenery may appear only in May, plants have therapeutic value as well.
Favorite home decorations: Browsing through antique shops, I will surely purchase old apothecary glasses or various boxes and suitcases. Beakers and test tubes are always good for cut flowers, and suitcases are very convenient to hide out-of-season footwear or papers.
Favorite finds: Once, after a trip to London, I decided to create my own collection of English porcelain teacups. Once, I got a cup and a saucer that were made in 1783 by the Royal Worcester Company and were even signed by the owner of the factory. Chicago Art Institute has the same one in its collection.
I love things that bear history. The table for my record player is a traditional secretarial stand from the 1940s. We found it with a friend during our photo walk near a beautiful historic building, a former art center, which is currently abandoned and is waiting for repurposing budget. An old mirror was purchased at Estate Sale. I was attracted to its thin elegant frame and the darkened glass.
A milk can from Restoration Hardware, which I use as a planter, reminds me of my childhood summers I spent at my grandma’ and times when I ran away to the neighboring pastures and glanced at the cows with their calves in a complete awe for hours.
AUTHOR & STYLING – Nina Hazhala
PHOTOS – Angelika Poletaeva & Elina Ava
DIRECTOR – Julia Latkins