This Kyiv Home Was a “Life-Affirming Step, a Kind of Mantra That Everything Will Be Fine”
A blue entry sets the stage for calm.
Published May 24, 2023 1:10 AM
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“Creating a beautiful home for yourself is a very life-affirming step, a kind of mantra that everything will be fine. I believe it works,” says Yana Molodykh, the interior designer and founder of Ukraine-based firm Yanamol. During 2022, as Molodykh and everyone around her adapted to their new reality—war—all of her projects ground to a halt and no new work came in. Now, a year and a half after the Russian invasion, she’s starting to resume projects and even has fresh clients rolling in. “Life goes on, and no one can kill hope,” she says.
One of those clients was a retired couple in search of a place in Kyiv where they could spend their weekends and be closer to their children and friends. The Podil neighborhood called to them: The area reminded them of Kherson, the seaside down in the southern part of the country where they both grew up. Like Kherson, Podil offers access to the water (specifically the Dnipro embankment) and was once the center for craftsmen—another draw given the couple’s son and his wife run a furniture company, Buro150. They found an apartment on the top floor of a new building near the historic cinema and then tasked Molodykh with renovating the 538-square-foot space.
“Initially, it was a total mess,” recalls Molodykh. The first time she stepped inside, she was greeted by zinc-profiled flooring and, overhead, bits of mineral wool with black film smooshed between the steel beams. She covered the unsightly channels with rough plaster and partially hid some of the metal columns and beams behind shelves made out of solid ash and oak veneer—a combination that “creates the illusion of scattered light in the room,” she explains. These additions also provided much-needed soundproofing: The building is located above a subway tunnel that lies not that deep underground.
As she walks us through the home, Molodykh shares what it looks like to move forward and seek joy in every corner:
My top tip for anyone living with low or quirky ceilings:
Refuse cornices. If you cannot imagine your room without them, pick one that (at maximum) goes to the ceiling. Also, you can use 8-inch molding on the walls, along the perimeter of the ceiling, and paint the part above the molding the same color as the ceiling. Or just put the wood on the ceiling, as I did in this project.
The coolest piece I discovered during this project:
The ceramic sconces by Kononenko in the bathroom. The clay they are made from was originally from the Sloviansk town that is now in the area of hostilities, so you cannot order such a light anymore.
The thing I had to sell the homeowner on:
The armchairs by Fritz Hansen—but it wasn’t me who “sold” them; the clients’ children were my partners in crime. They talked their parents into purchasing the chairs. It was important not to burden the space with massive objects. Instead I wanted to create a light, airy atmosphere under the roof.
How I chose the perfect wall paint:
The walls are painted with Argile paint from the Earth Colors collection. As a child, I helped my grandmother whiten the walls of her house in Polissia with clay diluted with water. [This treatment] is the same warm shade of white.
Why I gave the foyer a hit of color:
I always use this solution to visually separate the entrance zone and create a buffer space between the outside and the inside. The colors of the door and tiles are my tribute to the hues and patterns of constructivism. Also, it is my feature: I really love blue doors, and you can see them in many of my interiors; only the shades are different.
The detail the homeowner sold me on:
They wanted me to squeeze a bath, a shower, a boiler, and a washing machine into a small bathroom. And I managed to accomplish it.
The accent I’ll definitely use again in a future project:
I like the wood ceiling with beams; it creates a unique mood of an old room under the roof.
The decision that felt like the biggest risk:
Designing the smallest bedroom [I ever have]. It’s only 73 square feet. It has everything for a comfortable stay: a bed raised on a podium, a wardrobe behind a column in a niche, shelves and drawers near the bed. The massive beam on the ceiling was encompassed into a plasterboard box to visually lighten it and avoid the feeling of a heavy metal structure overhead.