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Design Talks returned for its fourth edition. We went again to Russia to know the design philosophy and knowledge of the Oleg Klodt Architecture & Design Bureau. Based in Moscow Oleg Klodt burau is a member of British & International Design Society. We we’re delighted to have the chance to talk about design with Oleg Klodt and Anna Agapova.
1) Can you tell us how and why you went into the interior design industry?
Oleg Klodt: Actually, it was almost a coincidence that I became an interior designer as well as an architect. The subject of design fascinated me when I was a student, and after graduating from the Moscow Architectural Institute I leapt straight into my career – without even thinking about any other kind of professional direction at all. Originally architecture interested me the most, but the economic climate in Russia during the early 2000s prompted me to venture into interior design.
Anna Agapova: I studied Urbanisation at Moscow State University, and then went on to acquire further qualifications in the field of lighting… which developed into an interest in urban electrification. In time my experience in the lighting industry became a route into designing interiors, initially working on commercial projects such as offices and beauty salons. Eventually I was hired at Oleg Klodt Architectural Bureau and gradually my role evolved into inventing spatial concepts as I was very taken with Parisian and Provençal styles – an interest I shared with Oleg.
Oleg Klodt: That’s right! Our first project together, in fact, was an apartment at Bor’by Square – designed in a Parisian style that was also suited to the atmosphere of historic Moscow.
2) How would you describe your style? Do you have a specific style?
Oleg Klodt: Interior design preferences have been changing at an astonishing pace, which has led to an unexpected trend. In the past, spaces were created with distinct historical styles like Neoclassical, Art Deco, etc… and were distinguished by vast quantities of accessories and highly decorative styles. Functionality wasn’t as important as appearance. In contrast, today’s modern interiors are dominated by minimalism. Over the past few years, an increasing number of our clients have asked us to take a more contemporary approach, shunning classical designs in favour of décor influenced by the Sixties and Seventies – although a degree of traditional flair is maintained. It’s all become a mash-up.
We aim to design stylistically different interiors inspired by each client’s vision and lifestyle. Even so, despite their individuality, our projects retain elements of our house style – slightly restrained, with a sense of nobility and good taste.
Anna Agapova: We create innovative, contemporary interiors using the latest technologies for the finishes, details, and textures. When speaking about style, it would be hard to pigeonhole our work as being anything too specific. Everything is reinvented and evolving. But who can say how, with hindsight, the future will define the design trends of today?
3) What part of your work as an interior designer do you enjoy most?
Oleg Klodt: Well, y’know – I like all of it! My work as a designer is multifaceted, and I enjoy bringing all those different elements together successfully.
Anna Agapova: I really enjoy planning and creating spaces and can quickly visualise how an interior will look – long before we’ve even begun planning it on paper. I imagine the spaces and how they will appear at different times of day. For example, in the evening – how will the rooms look when different members of the family get home? How will they look at the weekend when everyone’s having lunch together? They’re like scenes from a film. Plus, once our digital team translates the CADs and specs into 3D visualisations, it’s wonderful to see how the interiors will finally look.
4) Where do you seek your inspiration?
Oleg Klodt: My design inspiration is drawn directly from what I see, for example, architectural structures. London is a great stimulus for me – the city’s architecture and design adapts to contemporary life in a very particular way. I adopt the same approach when adjusting interior concepts to a client’s personality, the existing space, and the spirit of modernity.
Anna Agapova: My travels to different wonderful places around the world have been really inspirational. I particularly like Italy – especially Renaissance art in Tuscany and Umbria. I also love the astonishing natural landscapes of Britain – particularly Cornwall, the shores of the Scottish Highlands, and the Isle of Skye.
5) Are there particular international events that you give special attention to, when gathering information about the latest innovations?
Anna Agapova: Well definitely – we always make a point of visiting London Design Week and Decorex every year. The items we find at Decorex can’t be found anywhere else, and very often they form the basis of our projects.
Maison & Objet in Paris is a show we’ll generally visit every 2-3 years, by comparison with Decorex. There are a great many new and fascinating Spanish, Portuguese and Italian interior brands on show, and the show covers a broader geographic base in that sense. Of course, it’s always worthwhile looking at the latest in French interior ideas too.
Milan is another of our once-in-two-or-three-years visits. It’s a huge exhibition, but what interests us there is what the top Italian producers are exhibiting – like giorgetti chicotti. The Italian market is getting more up-to-date slowly, which makes the exhibition more worthwhile.
We go to Belgium mostly to take a walk around Bruges… well, no, I’m joking there! We’ve visited the Kortrijk trade show a couple of times. Frankly we rarely use much Belgian material in our projects, because of the dissonance between their design and our own style. Even so, it’s a unique kind of exhibition, and sometimes we find a few items which play well within our more eclectic interiors.
This year we also make a Chinese visit to the exhibition in Guangzhou. We’re planning to get to Verona this year too.
6) Which design brands do you like most of all?
Anna Agapova: How much time do you have? I could list my favourite brands all day! The uniqueness of our work hinges on our knowledge of a vast number of different top brands, and that we work with a very wide range of companies.
Julian Chichester‘s work excites me a lot – the items he produces always slot very neatly into the style of our interiors. There are also American brands which we like, such as Holly Hunt – a group of American designers who produce furniture and lighting. The most recent discovery I’ve made has been the Powell & Bonnel brand. Other brands I’ve become interested in recently include Ochre, Amy Somerville, Meissen, Soane Britain, CoxLondon, Stuart Scott, Justin Van Breda. Lindsey Adelman’s lighting designs just send me wild! It’s not only the design itself (although it’s amazing) – I’ve seen lighting like this before. It’s more the way that the items have been constructed – something completely unique. The quality of metal and glass production is at the top of its game. Of course, every year I yearn for the latest goodies from brands like The Urban Electric Company. Of course, BRABBU is on the list as well.
Oleg Klodt: I admire the high quality of furniture produced by Davidson – the lacquer finishes on their composite tables are just superb. We often use furniture made by Baker. And despite my predilection against Italian brands, we use Giorgetti furniture too.
7) Which colours, materials and techniques do you prefer in furniture design?
Oleg Klodt: I wouldn’t say I have particular colour preferences. I am interested in the combination of materials. I like to combine wood with metal. Modern technology allows us to choose many different metals in a wide palette of colours. We used to use only nickel and satin. Today we can use gold, brass and copper, and in all their shades – and silver. Where we are involved in loft-style projects, we use a lot of black metal, and black steel in different styles.
Anna Agapova: I’d like to mention wood too. Previously the number of different woods we used was rather limited – primarily oak and American walnut. Today we use a much broader selection, including sycamore, poplar, jatoba, olive, polisander, eucalyptus, maple… The combination of sycamore or afromozia with brass is really great.
8) Is there anything particular amongst your current work that really excites you, that you’d like to tell us about? Any of your latest projects?
Oleg Klodt: We’re working on several large private residences at the moment, including one where we are rebuilding the architecture, facades and interiors of its vast, 2500 sqm footprint. Another sizeable project which I’m enjoying is for a client for whom we only just finished designing their downtown apartment. Since we already know what to expect from each other, we can dare to be a bit bolder than usual.
Anna Agapova: We’re also in the middle of designing an English-style family residence with a warm and cosy hominess. Then we have another client who has asked us for a complete makeover of their house, including all the décor – everything through to the towels and pillowcases. It’s great when a client has that level of trust in us as designers because it leads to a truly holistic result. Another project involves some tricky architectural challenges. The structure has a bunch of different materials including complicated metal fixtures, and even the kitchen cabinetry façades will be metallic. We’ve found a special manufacturer in France who can cast all of these fixtures, which means we can use them extensively throughout the project.
9) How do you see the way Russian design and the Russian market are going?
Oleg Klodt: I’d say that the interior design business in Russia is going forwards at full throttle, and developing extremely well. We aren’t copying what’s going on in the USA or Europe, but instead we are creating something unique of our own – the world looks at Russian designers differently now. For example, the book published by Beta Plus dedicated only to the work of Russian designers, in which our projects were included, is one example of that new trend. The attitude has changed completely.
Anna Agapova: The situation with furniture brands has changed radically, in Moscow there is more and more stuff available. However, a lot of brands available are for mass-market distribution. It used to be that brands like Andrew Martin and Eichholtz were very exclusive – but now you see them everywhere you go. In order to retain our uniqueness we have to exercise more and more effort in our item sourcing.
BRABBU’s TUAREG Dining Chair in one of Oleg Klodt Architecture & Design Bureau projects.
10) What’s your philosophy in design – and in life?
Oleg Klodt: My philosophy is that everything should be done to the very best level you can achieve. If you do something, then do it to the maximum. This puts demands both on yourself, and those around you too.
Anna Agapova: Honesty and sincerity. Continuously working to improve yourself.
Oleg and Anna with one of their awards.
11) Please choose three BRABBU items, and tell us why you chose them?
Actually it’s pretty difficult to find any decent bar stools. They often have really bad proportions, or they’re really uncomfortable. But here we can see that the double back to the stool will support your back well, and the double frame is something I’ve not seen anywhere else in any other bar stools. I also love the great combination of materials – wood, with a very restricted metal component, and the fabric is a great colour blend and attractive texture.
Actually this armchair doesn’t really suit my own aesthetic preferences much. But I chose it even so! It’s designed in a kind of 1960s style, and it’s very comfortable (I sat in it myself). It has small details which make it rather interesting – for example the nails, which which the padding is attached from the back.
This item is more of a couchette than a sofa. You could put it in a corridor, for example. We often use furniture which has small arms – architecturally they slot well into art-déco. The proportions work-out very neatly, and the choice of fabric points-up the overall simplicity of the design. All of the materials convey a top-end aesthetic – zimbrana, velvet, silk. If this sofa had been shaped more classically, it would have been over-the-top. But here in this stripped-down design it looks great!
I chose this chair too, without even knowing Oleg had picked it. It has a deliciously understated shape, as Oleg noticed – and the combination of textures works out very well. The lightweight back above the seat… it all makes this an item for use anywhere, something you could place in any interior, whether art-déco or contemporary.. it works anywhere you put it.
Now this really is my favourite chair! It’s deliciously soft and a wonderful shape. You could change the upholstery and the buttons, you’d get a very touching item for a child’s bedroom. In a single-colour fabric in a deep purple hue you could put it in the lobby of any grand hotel in London, where it would attract interest, and become an art-object in its own right.
This sofa tells its own story. I adore the shapes – completely balanced. I feel that this design hovers between contemporary and classic. When designers manage to balance items exactly on that brink – it’s the sign of real talent.
Oleg Klodt and Anna Agapova – thank you very much for having this wonderful design talk with us and give us an inside and more accurate look of your work and of the interior design industry and process.
The SBID International Design Awards and Andrew Martin Interior Designer of the Year are some of the awards that Oleg Klodt Architecture & Design Bureau already won. You can see the entire list here: http://olegklodt.com/en/awards
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