Ukrainian designers talk about the current state of affairs

As the war in Ukraine rages on, architecture and design professionals continue to strive to ensure a safer and more prosperous future. Following the profiles of Ukrainian designers last May, other creatives from the region offer insight into the current reality of their professional and family lives.

Editor’s Note: These interviews have been edited and condensed for clarity.

Kateryna Sokolova, NOOM

Project: Puriosity exhibition at SUPERDESIGN, Milan Design Week 2022

Catherine Sokolova: NOOM was founded in 2017. I can describe my signature style as sophisticated minimalism. I am inspired by the Bauhaus ideas of functionalism and conciseness, the combination of craftsmanship and art. My creations always mix simple geometric shapes, clean lines, fine details and intriguing materials. Our head office is located in Kyiv and part of our team works from there. Another part is spread over Ukraine. Our production was located in Kharkiv, which from the first hours of the war became the target of massive and ruthless artillery shelling. We were forced to relocate our manufacturing to other cities. Now we produce our objects in different parts of Ukraine and are currently looking for manufacturing partners in Europe. After our victory, we will all be back in Kyiv.

Catherine Sokolova. Image courtesy of NOOM.

In June, we participated in three design weeks: Lithuanian Design Week, Barcelona Design Week and Milan Design Week. As you can see, we were very busy. Perhaps we can say that the situation is more stable than in March. For example, we have already found partners and set up production in western Ukraine. This summer, we have already launched some new products: the Gropius sofa as an extension of the Bauhaus collection, the Freyja coffee tables as a preview of the new collection which will be presented in the fall, and the new collection of mirrors, created by French designers for NOOM. Our first Gropius baby chairs are also on the way. We can’t say what will happen next year, but we are planning for the nearest future. This fall, we plan to launch our new furniture collection, exhibit our products in the United States and participate in Maison et Object, the London design festival and Dutch Design Week. Next year we plan to expand our presence in the US market.

War always brings fear, horror and the death of thousands of innocent people. But war is also a powerful engine of progress. Ukraine will undoubtedly take a big step forward in the field of architecture and design. We will rebuild our cities, and some of them, for example Mariupol, will be rebuilt from scratch. And we will use the most advanced solutions that are now available in the global architecture. Moreover, I believe that many famous architectural firms will help restore Ukraine and bring their vision to our cities. Already, many architects are working on a restoration program. Product design will also take off. Today, many designers work for overseas markets, but after the victory, we expect investment in production and a stable domestic market. With the outbreak of the war, most Ukrainians try to consume products made in Ukraine in order to support small businesses.

Not only architecture and design will take a big step forward, but culture in general.

a collection of NOOM products on display
Image courtesy of NOOM.
a mirror display of NOOM products
Image courtesy of NOOM.
a seat and a sofa by NOOM
Image courtesy of NOOM.
round side tables
Image courtesy of NOOM.

Elena Petrescu

Project: Apartment 8, Kyiv

Elena Petresku
Elena Petresku. Photograph by Anna Belocur.

Elena Petrescu: My career as a designer started quite late, in my thirties. For several years, I worked individually on projects. After a few years, I founded a studio and started working on bigger projects, mainly in Kyiv and Odessa. Projects ranged from private homes and apartments to offices, shops and cafes.

I have been in design for 19 years now. For the past five years, however, I have been working mainly in the Scandinavian style. The aesthetics and philosophy of Nordic design are personally very close to me. At the moment my office is in my new house in Lisbon, on the carpet. Most apartments here are rented unfurnished. It takes time to buy the furniture that will delight you on a daily basis. I guess that’s one of the designers’ problems; we cannot live without beauty and functionality.

Part of my team is in Kyiv and the other is far away in Africa. Design work requires emotional stability and strength. In the current political climate, this is not easy. But we are doing our best and starting our own new project here in Lisbon very soon. The war disrupted not only our business, but our whole life. Instead of being creative and focusing on creating wonderful projects, we now spend more time solving mundane problems, like connecting our water pipes in rented apartments, looking for kindergartens and schools for our children, or learn a new language. And of course, behind all this, there is the daily concern of our relatives and friends who remained in Ukraine.

The war changed everything, it destroyed many lives and radically changed all of us. The war divided our lives into before and after, and no one was ready for it. Five months after February 24, when Russia began its full-scale invasion, we are still learning to face the new reality and find our place in it as professionals and human beings. Living without planning is the hardest time for all of us. Every day bombs explode in Ukraine, every day we see destroyed cities and deaths. We don’t think about business, we think about peace in our country. We want this hell to end. We believe in the victory and restoration of Ukraine.

a kitchen in an apartment designed by Elena Petresku
Photograph by Katia Zolotukhina.
a bedroom designed by Elena Petresku
Photograph by Katia Zolotukhina.
a door opens into the bedroom of apartment 8 of Elena Petresku
Photograph by Katia Zolotukhina.
the bathroom of Apartment 8 by Elena Petresku
Photograph by Katia Zolotukhina.

Betty K. Park