Renovation of de Gournay Moscow showroom
When de Gournay invited Georgian-born, Moscow-based interior designer Irakli Zaria to redecorate its private apartment in Moscow, “my first idea was to do something unexpected,” he says. Situated in the Arbat District which runs west from the Kremlin to the River Moscow, once the favoured preserve of artisans and artists, Irakli wanted to marry the area’s historical past with his own keen eye for a contemporary, sophisticated present in a quietly luxurious way.
“In my work, I am always mixing antique and 20th century modern pieces with 21st century art,” he says, “so here, although Russians are more traditional, with a love for the neoclassical style, I wanted to do something neutral, elegant, and sophisticated, but at the same time fresh.”
For the showroom, Irakli has designed a subtle, soothing ‘Grasses’ panoramic, revised from a pattern he first created with de Gournay for a residential project in Moscow. Originally inspired by an image of an 18th century Japanese Edo period screen, Irakli has taken the motif of towering obana grasses, complete with delicate feathery ‘tail heads’ dancing in a gentle breeze, and created a new pattern which he has swathed across both walls and curtains, enveloping the room in sumptuous silk.
Sitting in the space, “you feel immersed in nature,” he says. Hand painted onto a slub silk background for added texture, the background was first painted with a layer of misty washes to lend depth. Using watercolors, the grass leaves and stems in the foreground have been painted more opaquely, while the background grasses are more translucent. The pure white ‘tail flowers’ at the top of the grasses, “adding movement and air to the design,” says Irakli, have been fashioned with fine silk threads using delicate Suzhou needlework, one of the oldest embroidery techniques in the world.
Gilded curved screens feature two more of de Gournay’s designs, ‘Willow and Egrets’ and ‘Ogata Blossom’ (new additions to the Japanese & Korean collection) – both also inspired by screens from the Edo period, when artists first pioneered painting onto gilded grounds in a style called Rinpa, where pigment is dropped into water to create organic inky effects. In ‘Willow and Egrets’, a special Japanese technique called Sunago has also been used to sprinkle gold leaf over the surface of the wallpaper, lending a glittering, ethereal edge to the clouds.
Into the mix, Irakli has teamed seductively curved sofas and armchairs with triangular side tables, abstract bases for both dining and coffee tables, and rough, bulbous table lamps (all exclusively created by the designer for the space) with vintage lighting by French designer Max Ingrand (once artistic director of FontanaArte). “A little bit of asymmetry adds life to a space,” he enthuses.
A fusion of textures, both rough and smooth, from velvet and travertine to bouclé and clay, make the space feel “much more interesting and attractive,” Irakli says. On the back of the armchairs, a similar grasses design – “more stylized and contemporary to the grasses painted on the walls and curtains” – has been embroidered in raffia and metal thread onto rough linen; the asymmetric desk, another of Irakli’s own designs and one of his favourites, has been finished in a glossy deep red lacquer, “another gesture paying homage to traditional Japanese techniques,” he enthuses. The project proved the ideal showcase for the designer to underscore “de Gournay’s ability to create something that is beyond expectation,” says Irakli.
In the dining room, Irakli cleverly chose to embroider de Gournay’s ‘Deco Wisteria’ onto a wool sateen to upholster the panels of cupboard doors while the heavily embellished ‘Magnolia Canopy’, first developed for the brand’s Beirut showroom, hangs on one wall and the classic ‘Portobello’ chinoiserie on another.
At only 36, Irakli is one of the design world’s most exciting rising stars. Raised in Georgia, he first studied economics in his hometown of Tbilisi because “there were no other professions other than lawyer, doctor or economist in post-Soviet countries,” he explains. “My parents told me to get a proper diploma in a real profession so if then I wanted to study design, I could study design, but if I failed, I could get some kind of a job in something normal,” he laughs.
His interest in design was sparked as a late teen when he laid eyes on a copy of the British interiors magazine House & Garden during an English lesson at school. “I didn’t know anything about interior design until that moment,” he recalls. He immediately went in search for everything he could find on the history of design, architecture, and art. By the time he moved to Moscow to study at the Details School of Design in his early twenties, “I had a huge library of information in my head, but I needed to know how to put it onto the right shelves.”
He has now been based in Moscow for just over a decade. “I was planning to go home but after graduation I was offered my first project here, and then a second one, and then a third one, so I decided to stay,” he laughs. His studio, based near the majestic Patriarch Ponds in the city’s stylish downtown Presnensky district, works not only in Russia but around the world, from London and Barcelona to the south of France.
As with all de Gournay designs, ‘Grasses’ can be transformed into any colour palette. “The main goal was to create something which could work for any scheme and style – when I’m designing, I rarely think about where it will be used because today, there are no limits in design. You can do whatever you want, using any kind of design in any kind of space,” Irakli enthuses.
“You can see Irakli’s design is rooted in an ancient Japanese art form, but it feels very contemporary in the way it delivers a slightly stripped back, simpler version of nature into a space.” says de Gournay’s Creative Director, Jemma Cave.