A piece of Saint Petersburg in Northern London
Imagine subdued lighting, cool wooden floor, smell of coffee and silence. Welcome to Dina’s home! Artists Dina Varpahovski, Edward Saye and their children Sasha 12 years old and Wilford 1 year old live in North London.
What is a home?
I guess this is a place where I create future memories for my children. I grew up in a home that was peculiar, strange (dominated by a very despotic grandmother) but not particularly warm or cosy or beautiful. The layout of the rooms were train-like, the rooms were long and narrow. We had a living room and a bedroom coming off of it which all three of us shared (grandmother, mother and I). I didn’t have my own room and was always under my grandmother’s watch. Whatever I was doing after school, she was there to remind me of my homework and my piano practice, never fun. No wonder why I rarely think of my childhood home as a place I’d love to re-visit. For my children I want things to be different! I want them to have the loveliest memories of their childhood home where they grow up. I want them to think: my mother’s room had a beautiful Edwardian dressing table. We had to drive down to Wiltshire to a local antique shop to get it. The owner recommended us a great pub by a river, where we had the best hotdog ever. Or my room was growing and changing with me. When I got my high-rise bed, my mother put in canvas sails and a real boat steering wheel to make it look like a sailing boat. In fact, she was probably worried that I’d fall out of bed and thought that the sails would protect me.
What was your inspiration while creating your home?
The atmosphere of an old flat in Saint Petersburg, Russia, where my friend used to live. I visited her quite often and I always loved this big communal flat which was shared between several tenants. The abundance of cupboards in the long corridor, the creaking floors, cats, Dutch ovens, small kitchen…
That is why you decided to have a small kitchen and divide the space with a long corridor?
Yes, I think an open plan doesn’t work for me. When we were remodeling the flat, architects advised me to make an open plan flat but I am glad that I declined. I like the atmosphere of old Russian communal flats. For example, I always loved our small soviet kitchens where people got together for tea and talk. At that time the kitchen was the center of life. I think it is important for a family to get together and talk. I like this tradition and want my children to inherit it. We try to have a dinner together in our kitchen every day and everyone should share what good and bad happened during the day.
What is your favorite part of the house?
It’s my bed. I was lucky to get an amazingly comfortable matrass. I love when the children are put to bed, the day is done and I have my own time. It’s my prize at the end of the day. It’s my island of calmness and silence. But it is not the only place I love; I also love our spacious sofa where the whole family gets together after dinner.
How does your home change with a time?
Something changes all the time. The color of walls and pieces of art on the walls change often. In the corridor, we decided to have shelves instead of putting a new nail every time we want to put something new. On the one side of the corridor there is art. It can be presents from our artists friends, our own buys or Shasha’s creations. The opposite wall is dedicated to photography. I think photography is very important for us.
What about the mirror on the photography wall? How did it get there?
By accident. We inherited it from Edward’s grandfather. Actually there are a lot of pieces of furniture which we inherited from Edward’s family. So when we got the mirror we could not find a right place for it as we already had mirrors throughout the flat. Finally we decided to hang it on the wall with photographs and now when a person looks at the photos on that wall he or she sees his or her own image but we did not plan it that way.
With what smell or what recipe do you associate your home with?
In terms of smells, I don’t think there is a strong association with any particular recipe as we both are keen cooks and try lots of different things often. I guess the smell of coffee in the morning and a Sunday roast (especially Ed’s lemon and rosemary chicken) are my favorites.
And what about sounds?
One of the home sounds I can associate with home is the radio, always BBC4 in the morning. This is when we all sit down to breakfast and learn what is happening in the outside world. Another one is electronic noises of Sasha’s games, which is probably not a great thing. At the moment, he plays FIFA, which is all about football, so the house sounds pretty much like a football stadium. Before that, it was a driving game (which was worse). In fact, when I am alone I prefer silence!
You can find out about Dina’s work here.