Designers across the world have been exploring the relationship between cultural heritage and modern design for at least a century, drawing inspiration from traditional crafts in order to reimagine, reconstruct and reinvent ancient forms and techniques through a contemporary view point. One such designer is Victoria Yakusha, the Ukrainian-born architect behind FAINA, a collection of furniture, lighting and décor deeply rooted in Ukraine’s ancestral culture. Based on archetypal forms, hand-crafted authenticity and humble materials like clay, wood, willow and flax, the collection presents a uniquely sensual take on contemporary minimalism which has propelled the brand to the forefront of modern Ukrainian design. Launched in 2014, FAINA has generated widespread enthusiasm which is surely going to go up a notch with the new showroom that Yakusha has designed in Antwerp, Belgium. Housed in a 500-year-old building in the city’s historic centre, the minimalist space is swathed in dark earthy tones and rough-hewn textures in line with the brand’s primitive-modern aesthetic and primordial finesse.
Traditional crafts such as pottery, weaving, woodwork and musical instruments are an integral part of Ukrainian culture, interlinked with its economy, natural resources and social development. While FAINA draws inspiration from folk crafts, it’s also deeply connected to the Ukrainian land, both in terms of the natural materials that its products are made of and the spirituality that they are imbued with. As Yakusha herself explains, “in Ukraine, we have a strong connection to earth. She gives strength, guides, has a magical power”. It’s therefore no surprise that the importance of history and nature in the design process, which constitutes the gist of Yakusha’s “live design” philosophy, has also informed the brand’s Antwerp showroom.
Two monochromatic spaces, one swathed in dark green tones reflecting Mother Nature, the other in charcoal hues recalling the dark Ukrainian soil, comprise a minimalist yet soulful haven. Hand-painted walls, concrete floors and wooden ceilings, in their original state, offer an earthy backdrop for the archetypal forms and natural materials of the collection which includes signature pieces and bespoke, never-seen-before designs.
In the green-hued room, the curvaceous forms of the just released PLYN sofa recall stones that have been naturally rounded by the river or sea as a nod to ancestral beliefs in the healing powers of water, the SONIAH hand-sculpted floor lamps evoke sunflowers, an important symbol of the Ukrainian land, while the stern TREMBITA floor vases are inspired by a wind instrument traditionally made out of a single burnt tree with an ornate ceramic top by the Hutsuls, an ethnic group from the mountains of the western Ukraine. In the same space, a stainless-steel bespoke cabinet displays the brand’s ceramics, glass decor and home scents, showcasing pieces such as the BANDURA ceramic vase whose tear-shaped body resembles a folk string instrument of the same name, and the PLYN glass vases that echo the fluidity of water.
In the adjacent space, the 1.6-metre-wide STRIKHA pendant lamp stands out against the dark surroundings. Made in collaboration with a carpet weaving artisan, the willow-made lamp resembles the straw roof of a traditional Ukrainian hut. Underneath, the sculptural ZTISTA dining table, which consists of a metal frame covered in flax and other natural materials, is complemented by chairs from the same family. The bulbous DOMNA armchair pays homage to an ancient Ukrainian goddess as depicted by archaeological finds, while a black-hued tapestry that hangs above a black wooden cabinet was inspired by the symbol of earth according to the Neolithic-era Trypillian culture. Hand-woven from sheep wool on an ancient Carpathian loom, suffice it to say that the circular tapestry subtly embodies the layered set of historical, cultural and nature-based references behind FAINA’s minimalist designs.