The most striking thing about the interior design of Daniela Baráčková and Jakub Filip Novak (No Architects) is their ability to draw inspiration from setting and place of origin to design something new, staying true to a single theme. In the case of the maisonette in the Žižkov district in central Prague, the common thread joining past and present is the clients’ love of art.
When we discussed No Architects’ recent renovation of an apartment in Dejvice, we emphasised the details, designed not as arbitrary decorations, but imagining they were building a bridge with elements of the original style of the early twentieth-century building. The design of the upholstery on the bedhead is inspired by that of the window grills; the door frames are inspired by the elegant window frames of the façade; and the motifs on the common staircase railings are reflected in the radiator covers. It is not a matter of imitation, but of creating a sense of belonging and demonstrating respect for that which came before and is worth remembering.
At practically the same time, No Architects were also working on another renovation project, in a different context, a recent construction without any form of decoration or other qualitative elements of interest. The interior design almost entirely rebuilds the furnishing system as if it were a second skin, an installation accompanying its inhabitants’ daily lives even as the architectural container remains separate and removed from them.
But the so-called original context does not consist only of a significant wrapper, but also of the bond with its inhabitants, who in this case provide a key for interpretation through art. The artworks become the fulcrum for rotation of daily living, determining the colours, finishes, aesthetic choices and even surprising formal gestures. The apartment is called “Sixty-nine”, the number in the middle of the painting by Czech artist Vladimír Houdek on one of the kitchen walls.
“One group of people accept contemporary art as mere home decoration. Another group of people – collectors – can value contemporary art. However, their homes are cluttered and turn into art depositaries. Finally, there is the third group of people who, although not necessarily collectors, have fine pieces of art in their homes that bring them joy and pleasure. The reconstruction of a maisonette in Žižkov was designed to give some fine pieces of art a respectable living space.”
The renovation project involved the entire maisonette, including the ground-floor living area and the bedrooms in the attic. The layout connects with the outdoors at two points, and features a ground floor entrance and a large indoor staircase, facing one another in a central position.
The paintings in various rooms in the home qualify the spaces with their imposing presence. Vladimír Houdek’s painting representing an upside-down reflected number 69 is located on the wall that is visible right away upon entering the kitchen, next to the cabinets and stove. Its colours, with a prevalence of blue, accompanied by hints of black, white and pink, dictate the colour palette of the interior. Against a natural oak floor and white walls, No Architects set furnishings designed with care down to the tiniest detail. This is evident in the jointed edges, wall coverings allowing the furnishings to expand into more space than usual, and differences in colour between vertical and horizontal planes. Electric blue and pastel pink enamelled MDF surfaces vibrate with light and clash to attract our attention. But then we discover the unusual erosion effect on the kitchen cabinet doors and realise they are just like the edges of the Houdek painting hanging beside them. The light fixtures are drops of milky glass that look as if they are dripping from the ceiling, creating a surreal atmosphere. Across from them is the living room, with a sofa kissed by sunlight from the balcony. Sitting on it, we have a view of a work by Josef Bolf that gives off a profound sense of melancholy: a wall in graduated hues of grey amplifies its dark atmosphere, while the bookshelf below focuses attention on the painting. Even high-tech elements such as the heater covers or ventilation nozzles can shine with artistic inspiration if, as in this project, the grid pattern is designed to form lots of little 69s, obsessively repeating the number.
On the opposite side of this floor is a minimalist study, also featuring the same motifs in its graphics and colours, in which design gives concrete form to the concept formulated in the second painting by Vladimír Houdek, resting on the desk: light from above must necessarily open up a breach among material things.
The core of the apartment is occupied by floor-to-ceiling sideboards, all strictly electric blue, custom-designed with beautiful handles, and by the semi-circular stairwell. This tunnel-like space combines walls with oak panelling connected to the roof with concealed enamelled MDF storage cupboards. Spot lighting incorporated into the steps and the walls provides plenty of light even in a windowless room.
At the top of the stairs, the space under the roof is divided between the master bedroom, the two children’s bedroom and the bathrooms. The most interesting aspect of this space is not the layout, in such a small area, but the ability to create rooms with a specific identity. The master bedroom features quilted blue velvet boiserie and a wardrobe with a pink frame and white metal handles, sliding down towards the ground like drops of milk. The children’s room is a whole other world, where blue becomes paler, pink becomes red, and black becomes grey. Combatting the limitations of such a small space, the architects redesigned the whole room, furnishing it so that even the tiniest spaces in the attic could be used as a play area.
Architects: No Architects www.noarchitects.cz
Author: Jakub Filip Novák, Daniela Baráčková, Ján Šefčík
Location: Prague 3 – Žižkov (Czech Republic)
Project year: 2020
Completion year: 2021
Gross Floor Area: 130 sqm
Usable Floor Area: 100 sqm
Photographer: Studio Flusser, [email protected], www.studioflusser.com
Contractor: CZ interiéry, www.czinteriery.eu