See how this Russian designer fused history and humor above St. Petersburg


When Maria Grudina first saw Russian House, a 395 apartment complex in the center of St. Petersburg, she was enchanted. Designed to suggest an old Russian palace, with elaborate stones and fairytale turrets, the residence is one of the city’s most discussed new buildings. Grudina and interior designer Tim veresnovski visited an apartment on the top floor. “It was the princess tower that every girl dreams of since childhood,” explains Grudina, co-founder of a health center that has three young daughters.

As most of the apartments in the complex moved quickly, the agent explained that this particular unit had been a tough sell: potential buyers were intimidated by the 26-foot ceilings in the tower room. Some had considered dividing it into two floors. But Grudina and Veresnovsky agreed that the tower looked exceptional. As the apartment was too small for her family, even as a pied-à-terre, Grudina, whose main residence is outside the city, envisioned it as a creative space where she could not only welcome her guests but organize. literary events and other gatherings — a place to stimulate the imagination.

The bespoke oak table in the dining room is surrounded by vintage Italian chairs and topped with a bowl by Svetlana Levadnaja and a vase by Guaxs. The oak mirror is personalized and the chandelier is by Alexander Kanygin.

Mikhail Loskutov

Veresnovsky had previously designed several spaces for Grudina, including rooms at her high-tech anti-aging spa on the Gulf of Finland. “Russian interior design tends to be very conservative,” Grudina explains. “I love Tim’s courage, the way he takes his clients out of their comfort zone. If you can be brave with him, you get great results that are unusual for Russia. He has a real international vision.

A native of St. Petersburg whose first artistic passion was photography, Veresnovsky has no formal training in design. He considered studying at a Russian art and design school, but quickly discovered that these institutions lacked what he calls “the spirit of the contemporary.” He studied design history on his own and traveled abroad often, cultivating his sensitivity. Photography had already refined its sense of color, composition and detail. “I want interiors to be contemporary, terse, but at the same time, I always include a historical approach,” he says.

The vintage Melchiorre Bega console in the hallway is topped with a vase by Tatiana Solodovnikova. The chair is vintage and the wall covering is from Casamance. The brass pendant is by Alexander Kanygin, and the artwork (law) is by Inga Bregman.

Mikhail Loskutov

A talent for combining the modern and the historic made Veresnovsky a perfect choice for working in a building like Russian House. “Tim has such a subtle understanding of the building and its historical context,” Grudina says. “Some designers forget the peculiarities of the frame, but everything it does seems to come organically.”

Because the complex had just been built, Veresnovsky started with an almost blank slate, as well as his client’s carte blanche. (The only request was for the house to have plenty of light.) “When I started out, the apartment was just a concrete box,” says Veresnovsky, “like Batman’s cave, a place where it is fly away at night and save the world. ” Given the location and the nature of the building’s architecture, he knew he wanted to play with the history of Russian design while incorporating global elements that matched Grudina’s interest in cutting-edge medical advances. and modern culture.

In the kitchen, the wall covering, the cabinets and the chair in eucalyptus veneer are personalized. The range is from Ikea.

Mikhail Loskutov

The apartment’s front door opens into a vestibule with a bold checkerboard floor in natural black and white marble, the kind often seen in Russian palaces; this style was also favored by Russian designers of the 19th century, who learned it from the French and Italians. The ladies repeat themselves at different scales in a console and above it an oil painting by contemporary Russian artist Anna Arktika. “I like the rhythm, the sense of movement,” says Veresnovsky. Two-tone staccato patterns return to the striped alcove kitchen and a gray and white marble bathroom.

“We know the history of Russia, but we all grew up with Disney cartoons.”

Realizing the need for light, Veresnovsky extended the living room windows with white stucco arches that evoke traditional Russian architectural techniques. The flourish moldings are reminiscent of the ornate 18th-century Italian-style palaces that fill the center of St. Petersburg crossed by the canal. A bespoke lamp hanging in the center of the room is reminiscent of circular chandeliers in Orthodox churches, but its crisp white is the antithesis of a church’s dark incense-burner interiors. The crosses cut into the panels of the lamp also serve as plus signs, a nod to Grudina’s medical positivism. Above the fireplace, a black and white work of art depicting Mickey Mouse riffs on orthodox icons and brings a touch of ironic pop internationalism. “We know the history of Russia, but we all grew up with Disney cartoons,” says Veresnovsky.

guest room
The bespoke bed, bedside tables and guest bedroom walls are upholstered in faux leather fabric framed in beech wood; the stool is from a flea market, the pendants are personalized and the chandelier is from Stilnovo.

Mikhail Loskutov

Above a 1960s Italian desk in the guest bedroom, a William Morris tapestry evokes the most easily recognizable aspect of Soviet home interiors: the wall rug. Wall tapestries have long been appreciated in Russia for their beauty and insulating power. In Soviet times, handmade versions gave way to inexpensive rugs that were associated with plastic lacquer furniture sets made by the Soviet equivalent of Ikea. A French tapestry records this story while restoring the humble tapestry to its former glory, a touch more to the subtle spirit of Veresnovsky.

master bedroom
In the master bedroom, a pair of vintage Romeo Rega chairs flank a side table from Zara Home; the artwork is by Anna Afonina and the wall covering is from Casamance.

Mikhail Loskutov

In the master bedroom, a contemporary Russian painting (of the kind that would have been banned in the USSR) depicts a half-naked woman in the arms of a beast, another fairytale reference. What Veresnovsky created for Grudina is something magical. And on entering the completed apartment for the first time, she danced happily alone in its high tower.

november 2021 cover elle decor

This story originally appeared in the November 2021 issue of ELLE DECOR. SUBSCRIBE

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