This impressive duplex penthouse designed by Kyiv-based architect Sergey Makhno for his own family located in Kiev, and perfectly combines Japanese aesthetics with the tradition of his country. The house impresses people with its roof terrace, an open-plan living, kitchen and dining area, and numerous pieces of furniture designed specifically for the apartment by Makhno. 

To encourage a calm and meditative mood a palette of dark colors and rough textures have been used. “Wabi-Sabi aesthetics is the core of a design concept,” explains the architect. The interior shows respect for the old elements. The designer said he has always been looking for Wabi-Sabi, making Wabi-Sabi things, filling the Wabi-Sabi spirit in his interior designs but actually, he didn’t know the right word Wabi-Sabi. 

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Design Philosophy

The design of the 187 sqm apartment was based on a Japanese Wabi-Sabi concept, a theory based on Buddhist lessons that value natural objects and techniques but are brief and incomplete. The clay finishing technique used on all walls is the same as old Ukrainian houses, while the rustic technique is used on rough wooden beams and doorways. 

The Japanese philosophy Wabi Sabi has been around since the 15th century, portrays something more than a design trend that is in and out so often. “Wabi” stands for “rustic cleanness” or “subtle beauty” in Japanese, while “Sabi” represents “enjoying the deficient”. Sergey Makhno explains as he became aware of Wabi-Sabi, so the better he began to know himself when he describes how this theory was inspired by the house he designed.

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It can easily be recognized the masterpiece is an experiment of adding a cognitive approach to the overall design, based on the theory of the four elements, in which Makhno used the clay on the walls representing the earth, different artworks symbolizes fire and water, whilst air is standing out with the space between objects and rooms.

Makhno has been able to mix the elegant way, in addition to the chosen tonalities, textures, materials, and organic forms. The Wabi-Sabi philosophy can easily be seen in the decorative touches and the natural and simple materials, Makhno has integrated into the house.

Materials and Construction

Wood, which is an indispensable material in Wabi-Sabi. The signboards, in cafes and restaurants, are perfectly magnified by wooden entrance groups. They make both usual people, as well as experienced designers, turn their heads – I know it from my personal experience. It is almost impossible to walk on by that redwood improved with carvings.

Bonsai trees and a small roof garden add to the apartment’s authentic character like a touch of Japanese, combined with traditional woven carpets pointing to Ukrainian craft and culture. Oak beams were installed in the open-plan living room which originates from the appearance of a traditional Japanese home. Other old picks include a 17th-century table in the master bedroom, ancient lava stones, and various rescued wooden ornaments and objects. 

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In the master bedroom, a gridded Crittal-style glass wall divides the bedroom from the bathroom with a lowered bath and garden views. Makhno has cared to merge features that reference the four elements; walls made of clay represent earth, an art installation titled Burn of Reality by Roman Mikhaylov is fire, a painting by Vasiliy symbolizes water, while the apartment’s open-plan layout represents air.

“The walls were finished with natural clay in an authentic technique, used in old Ukrainian dwellings,” explains the architect. The attractive harshness was completed with the textures of wooden elements and smooth marble surfaces.

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The main element in the living room is a generous sofa and dining table. The dark blue steel legs hold up a heavy wood slab with wounds recovered with polymer resin. A ceramic storm cloud designed by Makhno is hanging above to lighten the table. The coffee tables are modeled from old willow stumps. The family’s grandmother’s own carpets were grounded on an ash wood floor. The kitchen is obscured with the tinted oak on the wall – the same tinted oak hides a wardrobe in the bedroom. 

On the other hand, a glass wall is hiding the bathroom which gives the chance of fully combined with space and benefits the same air circulation, rather than being assigned to a dark, windowless corner like most bathrooms are. The whole space circulates with brightness and gives room for a deficient beauty to settle. The iron staircase stands out in an open space with its steps covered with wood, transparent glass railing, and a wooden trunk as handrails, where the visual streams give notability to the place.

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Sergey Makhno introduces the furniture so that he has personally created himself, such as ceramic pendants with a textured finish. Personalized tables using smooth wood and iron for a synchronized style, and polished marble with organic shapes for a more genuine style. 

Stylish works of art that generate textures and color tanks to the technique used shows the great visual strength of the architect. All these can be seen combined with traditional elements, such as the texture of the natural clay walls. The roughness of the walls together with the old glows hanged from the ceiling, accommodate an inviting engagement of lights and shadows as in the old Japanese houses.

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Sustainability 

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Sergey Makhno, the designer of the Wabi Sabi Apartment, says ‘‘This apartment shows natural irregularity and calmness, love for natural materials and shapes’’. Makhno’s metal lampshades hang in the dining area and one of the bedrooms is more like sculptures than functional objects. 

Like a contemporary element integrating to the whole earth and natural interior; their own imperfections also establish the ancient philosophy of wabi-sabi finding a new form in contemporary design, making us respect the beauty of handcrafted objects made out of natural materials.

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Regardless of the quite natural and rustic atmosphere, the apartment is equipped with hi-tech amenities that guarantee a prosperous life. It looks like a bungalow made of wood, clay, linen, and all-natural.

You can always see a handmade light in every Sergey Makhno Architects’ project which is important to him. Wabi-Sabi explores simplicity and harmony with nature. From this perspective, to lighten the place simple unprocessed materials were used, and the main highlight in the interior was put on textures.

The design of interior gardens gives the space a touch of freshness and a Zen feeling. The flow of natural light through the window, and with the natural reflections, provides the novelty of the space. We can not fail to emphasize the feeling of being pulled in by the magic of the natural environment reflected from the beautiful vertical garden located on the wall of the staircase that followed up to the upper floor.

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Besides, natural wood trunks are placed in the frames and supported on millstones. These pieces are framed at the entrances to the bedrooms, which symbolizes huge respect and gives prestige to these private areas. 

Wabi Sabi’s philosophy actually approaches as a response to various styles that depend on overgenerous portraying of interior design – styles which are concentrated on heavy decoration and detailing, and the usage of unique, and often environment-friendly materials. 

Wabi-Sabi principles are unrivaled guidance to introducing these principles in people’s lives, and sometimes bringing them first to your home is the best way to start, and then try to modify and convert your habits and life attitude. 

Eylul Evyapan
Author

Eylul Evyapan, studies architecture that was her childhood dream. She is passionate about illustration, resilient design, future solutions and new challenges in architecture. Writing has been her favorite hobby and she wants to combine her passion for architecture and writing to make people think about various subjects.

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