Q+A with Interior Designer Katarina Rulinskaya: On Romance in Design and Mixing Modernity with Classicalism
Interior designer Katarina Rulinskaya creates spaces that are as gently modern as they are timeless.
Rulinskaya’s strikingly distinctive style commonly carries a tangible sense of warmth, tactility, and romance. Her pared-back and mindfully curated spaces emphasize the designs within the design; the materials, like marbles, woods, and micro-cement, the workmanship — finely crafted cabinetry, joinery, and plastering — and the finer details, such as sculptural copper fixtures, hand-thrown tiles, and bespoke washbasins.
Each design of Rulinskaya’s, who also works as an interior stylist, is a feat of balance. Not only are her homes created to be comfortable, they are also artfully appointed and thoroughly functional. Rulinskaya manages to evoke classicalism and interpret it in a way that is contemporary, viewed through the sphere of culture as it is and where it is, influenced by the cities in which her spaces live, and the rich cultural history that defines them.
ES: When did you first realize you wanted to become a designer?
KR: I remember when I was a little 5 year old girl, I was sitting in the corner of my room, making houses for my toys. Decorating houses for the dolls was more interesting for me than the act of playing itself. I enjoyed the process of creating from my childhood and later, at the age of 11, I went to art school and learned about interior design as a profession. I was happy to know that I could get money for my “child’s game”. It is like breathing to me.
ES: How would you describe the overall aesthetic of your design work?
KR: The philosophy of my design is that the space of your home should support you and be your inner energy recurse. As human beings, we are strongly connected with nature and my aim is to make people closer to it.
To cause feelings through touching and visual contact with organic forms, textures and materials, such as wood, stone, rattan, plants, etc.
ES: How do you find your surroundings — the building you’re working within, but also the city and country — influence your work?
KR: Buildings and countries have strong influence on me. I have noticed that when I lived in Belarus, I made one kind of design, more minimalistic. In Poland, my style has changed. It has become more sensitive, more complex with the forms, textures and atmosphere. Because here you are surrounded with old buildings, historic places, it inspires me so much. I am also inspired by Australian and French design.
ES: You often play with contrasting forms and materials; with clashing fabrics, curves paired directly with more organic forms where, traditionally, we would expect to see hard lines. What informs those choices?
KR: People are analyzing projects using their mind, but I prefer to listen to my soul. If you design trusting it, you don’t need to overthink about harmony and balance. The intuition knows how to make it better than any brilliant brain at the peak of its capabilities. I like this drama in the process of creating design, to combine the incompatible, to play on contrasts, but you always need to feel: when two different objects complement each other with their difference and when it’s too much. And if you have the right proportions your design becomes a story to explore not just a list of items.
“People are analyzing projects using their mind, but I prefer to listen to my soul.”
— Katarina Rulinskaya
ES: Another thing you often experiment with is deeply traditional design elements, such as fresco-like wallpapers, and organic materials like hand-thrown tiles, and juxtaposing them with modern and sculptural lighting fixtures. How do you balance more classical themes with such stark modernity?
KR: I am trying to listen to my intuition and inner sense of balance combining classical themes and modernity. If I feel for example that this tile is as old as a granny’s house, I add some modern glass or lamp and you have new emotions from this. Things start to play a new game and live a new life.
ES: How do you approach colour in your designs?
KR: Now I am trying to avoid bright colors, especially in residential projects. I am more for natural shades and they should be deep, not too simple color. I prefer warm grey, beige, grey-pink, for walls not to push on your mind and not to get tired of being in the room. There can be some bright accents on furniture textile and lighting to add a sense of life and happiness. I have found one secret way of searching good combinations of colors: you go to the art gallery and look on paintings and you can find there the rich world of deep colors to use.
ES: Your work has a real sense of artfulness about it. How important to you and your creative process is the relationship between art and design?
KR: Design is more about balance, functionality and comfort for me. Art is the soul of design. It makes it unique.
ES: What or who influences you as a designer?
KR: I am creating designs like an artist creates a painting, influenced by his mood, surroundings and feelings. I am a very excited person and am always in the process of searching something new: countries, people, nature. I am sure that while living in Poland, Germany, France or any other country, my designs will be a bit different with the features of that other country. I am open to change, considering it as a part of my development. I don’t want to limit myself within one style. I am changing, and my designs change too.
ES: Your spaces have a real sense of timelessness about them; are there any trends you find yourself specifically avoiding to maintain that quality?
KR: I respect and admire classics. They act as a baseline, having existed for so long, and their principles will never go out of fashion. But I also love ethnic, organic design, because it’s something I feel I have grown up with. The countryside and natural textures, forms and objects are so well known to me. We had a lot of old furniture in my granny’s house; wood, concrete, old tiles. I feel this atmosphere and know how to use it. Classical and modern elements add some kind of charm.
ES: Who’s your ideal client?
KR: My ideal client is a romantic woman or a couple with children who want to live in a very atmospheric place, who feels from the materials as much energy as I. Who has a sense of style, inside beauty and harmony. A client who is open to something unusual and who will value a high quality of life. We work as team, together involved into the process of creating the ideal space to live in.
All images courtesy of Katarina Rulinskaya