This one is all about pure love. This captivating two-storey home in Almaty, Kazakhstan, designed by Elina Mussakulova of Interior Bureau, checks all the design boxes.

BY Roma Arora

“Saltanat, the owner of this house, approached Mussakulova and asked for two projects. Her aunt has a small apartment and her own house. If we were prepared to take on aunt’s apartment, we were not prepared to take on the house in the photos. Why? Because the house’s walls were already built, the design was created by an architectural firm that took on the project from the ground up. We never undertake projects after other designers, as we informed Saltanat. She sighed and stated that she would be our most obedient client and that she was prepared to accept all of our decisions. We had faith and did not give up,” shares Mussakulova.

The start of the housework coincided with the first wave of COVID-19 and a strict lockdown. “We were forced to work online due to the epidemic, which prevented us from fully getting to know and ‘feel’ the client. We were very concerned when we coordinated the planning solution and the project concept, despite the fact that Saltanat gave us carte blanche for everything and instead of references, we received the cherished ‘I want your taste and style’. Fortunately, all of our proposals were met with enthusiasm and accepted on the first try,” adds the designer.

For Mussakulova and her team, it was a challenging project. “This two-storey home has five bedrooms. We arrived at work with already constructed walls, almost all of which were load-bearing. We believe that planning solutions are our bureau’s hobby, but we were very limited here and couldn’t even move the openings. The project of a two-storey house initially assumed very few storage areas, no laundry room, storage rooms, and showers were designed so small, as if this was a forced solution for a small city apartment, rather than a house built from the ground up.”

Elina Mussakulova

Within these strict constraints, the design team did everything possible to ensure the residents’ comfort: they completely redesigned the arrangement of furniture and equipment, as well as attempted to allocate more space for household needs. For example, they abandoned the architects’ original plan to build a large library with a soft sunbed beneath the stairs in favour of a storage room. On the second floor of the house, non-standard depth cabinets were built around the door: in addition to storing extra blankets, bed linen, and towels for all family members, the designers installed a steam closet.

 “Ordering a planning solution for a room with load–bearing walls is sometimes thought to be a waste of money. However, we believe that you can change the perception of space even with the help of furniture placement. We’ve been debating how to design a kitchen-living room in this house for a long time. As a result, we changed everything to make the room as functional and interesting as possible: there is a large island with a built-in extractor hood, a breakfast table for small family gatherings, a large table for receiving guests, a cosy library by the window, and a sofa area with a decorative marble fireplace,” explains Mussakulova.

Interior style
Mussakulova describes her vision: “We don’t have the same taste in home interiors as we do in luxury chain hotels. We recognise that this concept has many supporters, but we took the opposite approach. We designed each bedroom to stand out from the others in the house, as if it were designed by the tenant himself. We made the common areas bold and colourful, with no sets of furniture from the same series or accessories. We envisioned the interior to resemble a patchwork quilt, with each element complementing and emphasising the beauty of the others.”

Colour scheme
There is no, for example, a combination of two colours or a single accent colour in the house. The team did not limit themselves, and when designing this interior, they were colourists, recalling Kandinsky and Matisse’s Fauvism period canvases.

Decorative techniques
Designers knew they were working on a house, not an apartment, so they wanted this house to have classic English elements like ceiling panels, wall panels, and classically shaped doors. At the same time, they chose modern-looking furniture and lamps. It came out eclectic and fresh.

Furniture and decor
Dozens of different furniture and decor items flew in from all over the world for the project. “We were concerned that COVID-19 would cause delivery delays, but the project went smoothly. We decorated a two-storey house from rough finishing to the final painting and an aromatic candle in nine months, which is an excellent result given the circumstances of the time,” says Mussakulova with pride.