Why This Design Destination Might Be the Next Scandinavia
10 need-to-know designers that are changing the game.
Updated Sep 29, 2021 7:14 AM
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Scandinavia has long dominated the conversation of design overseas, but a wave of new players in the industry is out to change that. Between IKEA’s powerful celebration of African design and the rise of Latinx, it’s becoming clear that there’s a rapidly growing appetite for new voices in interiors, product design, and architecture that spans the world over. One of many nations making its global identity known is Ukraine.
As their Western European counterparts were basking in the spotlight, emerging visionaries and established studios in the capital city of Kiev and beyond were quietly enjoying an explosion of creativity. Now those same creatives are leaving their stamp on contemporary design. While some designers like Victoria Yakusha are out to revive traditional and endangered craft techniques, others like Nottdesign have their eyes set determinedly on the future.
Whether focused on the past or present, the 10 need-to-know Ukrainian designers ahead have put their country on the map. Here’s who we’ll be watching closely this year.
We first discovered Kiev-based interior designer Lera Brumina through Breadway Bakery—a fast-casual cafe in Odessa that was seemingly inspired by the master of whimsy himself: Wes Anderson. With a knack for small spaces, the young creative’s edited eye also lends itself to clean and modern urban dwellings in need of a fresh direction.
Founded by Alexander Ivasiv and Yuliya Tkachenko, Ater Architects’ standout project wasn’t a private residence or small eatery but rather a children’s outpatient clinic. Easily one of the coolest doctor’s offices we’ve ever seen, Doctor U achieves maximum happiness through punchy hits of coral and terrazzo. Unexpected color pairings are one of many tricks the pair keep up their sleeves.
LIS Design Studio
Roman Shpelyk’s thoughtful use of materials like laminated plywood and attention to contrast through color-blocking enrich a room with intoxicating energy. A master of cool tones (think muddy mauves and forest greens) and soothing neutrals, the Lviv-based designer’s projects center around color since he founded LIS Design Studio in 2015.
“Art to live in” is a fitting way to describe Kiev-based architecture studio Sergey Makhno’s transportive structures and interiors. Having seemingly perfected the art of atmosphere, you’ll find a hint of drama—be it oversize lighting, a floor-to-ceiling vertical garden, or a glass-enclosed bathroom—in every project.
When architecture and product design studio Nott Design debuted its Lost House—a simple, single-story structure that can sink below ground—it changed everything we knew about what a home could be. But disappearing abodes aren’t the only noteworthy achievement on its resume. Nott Design continues to explore the possibilities of technology in the home with interactive table lamps and desk accessories.
Balbek Bureau is by no means new to the design game. The architecture and interior design firm has been around for 11 years, dabbling in everything from hotels and residential to retail and corporate. Always leaving room for work and play, Balbek Bureau incorporated nap pods, a soundproof music room, and bean-bag style seats in Grammarly’s Kiev office.
Oksana Levchenya’s graphic hand-woven rugs and tapestries draw on traditional Ukranian carpet-weaving techniques dating back to the 16th century. Boasting names like “A Ladder to Heaven” and “Optimistic Urbanism,” her textiles defy ordinary shapes and pattern combinations. Levchenya is one of a handful of Ukrainian designers who are pioneering and preserving age-old traditions through weaving.
Founded in 2017 by industrial designer Kateryna Sokolova and designer-cum-entrepreneur Arkady Vartanov, NOOM has quickly grown over the past two years to encompass a sculptural range of home accessories, lighting, and decor. Fueled by a fascination with intersecting planes, its signature approach to form is a treat for the senses.
Interior design firm Zooi offers a telling peek into the future of minimalism. Without every compromising the function of a room—be it hidden kitchen storage or modular sectionals—the spaces it creates prove there’s always room for play.
Following the 2014 revolution, designer and architect Victoria Yakusha set out on a new path to revive traditional craft practices with her Faina collection in an effort to share the vernacular of Ukrainian design with the world. Infused with soul, her pieces regularly make their rounds at international design fairs in Copenhagen, Milan, and Bologna.
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