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Azure Magazine November December 2022 Cover: The Residential Interiors Issue

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Entrance and living room of the Koti Apartment in Kyiv

When Olga Sladkova and Roman Drahan set out to redesign their flat in Kyiv, they wanted their home to reflect their values. The IT specialists moonlight at sustainable start-ups (think metal straws and recycled-wood toothbrushes), volunteer and attend environmental protests. Through an article in The Village Ukraine, the two discovered local studio Hi Atelier — which had recently revamped the media outlet’s offices with vintage furnishings and recycled materials — and knew they had landed in the right place.

Entrance to the Koti Apartment in Kyiv
Wall panels and decorative beams, both made of solid ash, convey the feeling of “a walk in nature.”

With just 55 square metres to work with, the studio was tasked with designing a simple, uncluttered space with abundant natural light. It was a challenge that founder and chief architect Ihor Havrylenko was well suited for; he is accustomed to working with small spaces. The resulting interior merges a minimalist, Scandinavian-inspired aesthetic with elements of Ukrainian heritage.

Kitchen at the Koti Apartment in Kyiv
The minimalist kitchen features a stained ash island and a countertop composed of wooden boards found in Roman Drahan’s grandfather’s home. Behind it, an accent wall is clad in speckled FMG porcelain stoneware.

For the clients, who envisioned their home as a relaxing retreat, Hi Atelier eschewed vibrant hues in favour of a subdued palette inspired by steppes, or nature reserves. Warm white walls create visual unity throughout, while varied wood tones evoke the forest vibe the couple was after. Wanting to mimic the comfort and character of a wooden house, the architect added decorative wood beams, which are atypical of high-rise typologies, to create a distinctly residential feel.

Living room at the Koti apartment in Kyiv
The pared-back living room contains only the essentials — including a hanging wooden shelf for a record player. A traditional Hutsul rug inherited from Drahan’s grandfather adds a pop of colour to the otherwise spartan space.

Past the wood-panelled entrance foyer, the modest space consists of a bedroom and office area, a kitchen, a kids’ room, a living area and two bathrooms. In keeping with Sladkova and Drahan’s eco-conscious ethos, the design was pared down to the necessities. To that end, the compact kitchen, set against a speckled tile wall, reflects the lifestyle of the clients, who rarely cook at home. The pair, who often work out of local coffee shops, also wanted a home office. Hi Atelier delivered with a flax-coloured curtain that cordons off a distinct space within the bedroom.

Office with flax-coloured curtain, antique desk and chair
Textiles in all rooms, including the curtain that divides the bedroom and office space, were made to order from natural cotton. The desk, a family heirloom handed down to Drahan, has been meticulously restored.

Given the clients’ love of family and authentic Ukrainian design, most furnishings and decor were inherited from Drahan’s grandfather (including a carefully restored desk) and refurbished by craftspeople sourced by Hi Atelier. The firm filled the gaps with pieces from vintage shops. “It is easier to list things that we bought or made to order than those that we restored,” Havrylenko jokes. The benefits of upcycling were twofold, as it also offered a more sustainable solution than specifying furnishings brand new.

Bedroom at the Koti apartment in Kyiv
Bathroom with wood vanity

Completed in 2021, the apartment has a calm coziness that stands in stark contrast to the war now raging outside its walls. Sladkova and Drahan, who were working in the U.S. when the war broke out, watched in fear as entire neighbourhoods were destroyed. The flat has (at the time of writing) miraculously remained unscathed, dodging Russian shells that hit a neighbouring house. “Our project was really lucky,” says Havrylenko. Indeed, the couple’s home preserves their family history — and the Ukrainian heritage their invaders seek to erase. For now, the apartment sits empty except for occasional visits, patiently awaiting its owners’ homecoming.

In Kyiv, A Humble Apartment Celebrates Ukranian Heritage

Hi Atelier crafts a sustainable urban sanctuary replete with heirloom furnishings for a young couple in Kyiv.

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