A Ukrainian Apartment Takes Notes from Wabi-Sabi

Sergey Makhno Architects have designed an apartment in Kyiv, Ukraine as a space for “imperfect beauty” to thrive. The Ukrainian Wabi Sabi. 5.0 apartment is designed to be a separate nest for a young couple within a bigger family compound. The architects studied the principles of wabi-sabi but were unable to come up with one consistent, articulate idea.

“By the way, not a single Japanese can accurately explain the essence of this concept — it’s in their blood. Another version — they wouldn’t want to as every family has its own understanding, which is kept in secret far from the other families,” the architects wrote.

Their main understanding of wabi-sabi was this: to live a simple, conscious life, in harmony with oneself, with all other harmonies coming in gradually.

Things are concealed in the apartment – the living room conceals a kitchen, the bedroom conceals a wardrobe, the bathroom is concealed behind glass. The architects explained that wabi-sabi entails letting go of “all the shelves with dozens of statuettes, even if one of them is a gift from your granny or your first love.”

They offered this idea as antidote to their hidden storage areas and drive to conceal objects and items: “And if you really like that granny’s ceramic cat – it should be honored to be placed in the center of the room, not among dozens of statuettes alike. Because wabi-sabi is about the things that really matter to you.”

The walls in the living room are clay while the ceiling is made of clay and wood. Of the four walls, one wall is made up of a 6-meter window to allow a view of a landscape that cycles with life and time, blooming and dying with the passing of the seasons. “Japanese wabi-sabi way of life is a peaceful joy to accept the full life circle,” the architects said.

The main element in the living room is an ample sofa and dining table. A dark blue steel legged table holds up a heavy wood slab with bruises healed with polymer resin. This table is lit with ceramic storm clouds dangling above, designed by Sergey Makhno. The coffee tables are fashioned from old willow stumps.

The ash wood floor is warmed with the family’s grandmother’s own carpets. The ceramic vase was designed by Sergey Makhno and Slavko Odarchenko and inspired by Japanese artist Shiro Tsujimura, one of the most prominent ceramic artists in Japan.

The kitchen is hidden by the tinted oak on the wall – the same tinted oak hides a wardrobe in the bedroom.

On the other hand, the bathroom is not hidden by oak but framed by a glass wall. This gives it a chance to be fully integrated with the space and enjoy the same air circulation, instead of being relegated to a dark, windowless corner as bathrooms often are. The entire space circulates with brightness and gives space for imperfect beauty to take root.

Photos by Serhii Kadulin.

Keshia grew up in Singapore and moved to the U.S. to attend Dartmouth College. When she was living abroad after graduation, a chance enrollment at the Architectural Association Visiting School led to her becoming enamored with door schedules and architectural écriture. She's particularly interested in design for aging, rural architecture, and Asian design heritage.