To release the untold stories of Ukrainian culture and traditions, during her expeditions to Ukrainian villages, museums and meeting craft masters, designer and architect Victoria Yakusha was compelled to transform her country’s forgotten practices into modern design and integrate ancient crafts into contemporary projects. In light of these discoveries and their correlation with what she’s coined ‘live minimalism’, we ask her to present and elaborate on the concept.

Since 2002, Victoria Yakusha’s been implementing hundreds of projects of varying complexity in Ukraine and abroad. She’s an author of numerous residential and public interiors, is the head of Yakusha Design studio and holds well over a dozen national and international awards.

All projects, whether product design or architecture, are inspired by the philosophies of laconism, naturalness, functionality. She adds: ‘I like working with natural materials: clay, greenery, wood, wool. I love laconic minimalist forms and you may see it in 99% of my interiors or design objects. I don’t appreciate interiors that are mixed and complicated. I prefer projects to be ‘emotionally pure’, so that the image is understandable to anyone.

FAINA – Yakusha’s ethnic furniture collection – was born as an artistic response to significant social processes that started in 2014 in Ukraine. Smack in the middle of the people’s battle for recognition as an independent country with its own dreams and choices, Victoria Yakusha was thinking of how she could contribute. ‘My answer was FAINA: a collection of furniture in the ethno-minimalism style, a modern view on Ukrainian history and traditions.’ FAINA has since put Ukraine on the design map of the world and has made Victoria Yakusha’s dream become a reality by the way it has shaped new visions and ideas.

FAINA collections attract the attention of lovers of minimalistic interiors who, in an age of globalisation and ubiquitous spam, appreciate more space and silence in their homes. Victoria’s main source of inspiration is nature, particularly in Ukraine, as they have so much of it: The Black sea, Carpathian Mountains, endless fields and wild forests. ‘I was born on these lands and feel a strong connection to our roots and traditions.’

We ask Victoria Yakusha what Live Minimalism is: ‘Live minimalism for me is a combination of two important ingredients: on the one side, a living spirit of the interior or design piece (a story behind it, an emotional connection to its owner); and on the other side, a clean, minimalist approach, which has no place for useless details.

‘I came to the realisation of this concept after 15 years of seeking what gives meaning to my work and practising what I really appreciate in design. I’m still in a process of crystallising this design philosophy. It’s not just a style or trend, it’s a way of living; and with each new project, I see it more clearly.’

Tending to create simple laconic forms in honest designs that mercilessly cut off all unnecessary things, Yakusha combines the beauty, diversity and imperfections of natural materials with traditions of craftsmanship. ‘This way,’ she explains, ‘you have a live design – where there is no room for arrogance or imitation.’

Yakusha Design (YD) is a multidisciplinary live design studio founded in 2006 in Kyiv, Ukraine. FAINA’s live design collection and interior projects awaken almost all human senses: touch, sight, hearing, smell. Clients confirm that FAINA pieces become real companions in their homes, they set the mood and tone for the entire interior and can fit into any style.

Says Victoria: ‘Ukrainians are very emotional, we tend to ‘exclaim’, but at the same time we simplify. We’re not as minimalistic as the Scandinavians and not as emotional as the Italians, I’d put us in the centre between the two. In fact, we’re also right between them geographically.

‘Ukrainians are gravitating towards beauty. Our ancestors painted their homes and all utensils with fascinating, naïve patterns. But under the USSR establishment, the theme of design and beauty was hidden away in the shade. Memories, traditions and important artefacts were lost.’

Ukrainians were forced to rediscover their authenticity after gaining independence, and this process is still in its initial stages.

She continues: ‘When I started to discover crafts during my expeditions to Ukrainian villages and museums of folk art and when I met with craft masters, I began to understand how their knowledge about materials provides power. I saw the respectful usage of natural resources and learnt about the power of the shapes and symbols that were encapsulated in crafts by so many generations. I decided to transform them into modern design, to ‘give them a voice’ and try to integrate crafts into contemporary design projects.
‘Our grandfathers knew so much about natural cycles. Their lives were closely linked to the changing seasons and fertility of the Earth, they were looking for a way to be beneficial to nature, not just exploit its resources. I believe in the huge value and practical meaning of this knowledge.

‘I use a lot of rare local craft techniques. We work with clay in furniture and architecture. We study the mixing techniques of different materials and what meaning they carried to people centuries ago. Clay is believed to be a healing, warming and living material; wool must be processed in mountain rivers and while weaving carpets, masters always sing ancient songs; nobody goes to work if they’re unhappy because it’s believed to be transmitted into the rugs. All of these details are important and influence my projects in design.’
According to Victoria, sustainability in design includes the longevity of the object. Carefully choosing materials and furniture pieces for our homes, our surroundings have a greater impact on our health and well-being.

In conclusion, Victoria admits that the advantage of being a Ukrainian contemporary designer today is that they can create something completely new as pioneers, since there are still no stereotypes or expectations about the country.

YD believes in authentic, honest, clean and emotional interiors. It is inspired by Ukraine’s native land, natural imperfections and traditions of craftsmanship. Every project is filled with life.

All socio-cultural projects are combined with one dream: to make Ukrainian design recognisable and understandable all over the world. YD is an ambassador of modern Ukrainian design, which reveals the soul and creativity of the people.;; V. Tutunnyka 53, Kyiv, Ukraine