Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Kirill Istomin and his World of Fantasy

One of my biggest complaints about social media is the sometimes deleterious effect it seems to have on creativity.  On the one hand, it could be argued that Instagram, Pinterest, and blogs have introduced people to a whole host of new images, new places, and new things, all of which, to some degree, have fostered a spirit of discovery.  On the other hand, the pitfall to a group of people looking at the same images is that too many people are drinking from the same well of inspiration, resulting in an uncomfortable amount of sameness in, for example, styles of dress and decorating.  Whichever opinion you prefer, I think we can all agree that seeking inspiration solely online is a recipe for dullness.  Now, more than ever, it's important to spend time away from our phones and find motivation in travel, art, film, books, or anywhere else that strikes one's fancy.

One designer who credits a range of sources for influencing his work is Kirill Istomin, a Moscow and New York-based designer whose interiors have been featured in numerous shelter magazines, both here in the United States and abroad.  Having trained at venerable Parish-Hadley, Istomin and his work are rooted in good, solid decorating.  But what makes Istomin stand out is that he has a particular love of fantasy, one which manifests itself in interiors that are highly decorative while remaining functional, too.  The designer credits film (Zeffirelli's La Traviata, especially), dance (George Balanchine's The Nutcracker), and even great designers from the past (namely Henri Samuel, John Fowler, Rose Cumming, Mario Buatta, Parish-Hadley, and Stephane Boudin) with inspiring his work.  But it's history that especially interests the designer, who cites 18th-century French and Russian history as particular areas of concentration.

Istomin's purpose for indulging in fantasy is that, "it takes us away from reality."  Below, you'll find images of Istomin's fantasy-infused work, including the inspiration behind some of the interiors.    I think you'll find that for the next few minutes, as you study these photos, you'll find yourself lost in a world of richly appointed and sumptuously pretty interiors.

For a lady's bathroom, above, Istomin based the idea of the wall's thin pilasters on those in the Porcelain Study of Catherine the Great at Tsarskoe Selo, outside of St. Petersburg:

Meanwhile, for the dressing room of the same lady client, the designer took his cue from Brighton Pavilion:

whose palm-motif columns inspired those surrounding the dressing-room shelving:

In fact, the spirit of 18th-century Russia pervades a number of Istomin-designed interiors, including this dining room below, which is located in a house in the Chinese Village, Tsarskoe Selo:

Here, the floor and door moldings are reminiscent of Catherine the Great's Chinese Study at Peterhof:

It's the historical inspiration that I find so interesting, but even without referencing the specific sources, Istomin's work is fascinating.  Take a look below, and I think you'll agree.  And if you happen to be attending Legends at La Cienega Design Quarter this week, be sure to swing by the Sherle Wagner showroom, where Istomin has designed a window vignette. I have a feeling it will be a real show-stopper and fantastical through and through.

All images courtesy of Kirill Istomin


  1. I completely agree with your views on IG. It is all becoming so homogenised and at best decor seems to be between maximalists or minimalists instead of the various schools of home decor. I do wonder about the state of design in about 10 years time...

  2. Love Kirill Istomin's work. So beautifully extravagant.
    I think it was Diana Vreeland who said " the eye has to travel".

  3. Kirill is my kinda guy.

  4. One can always hope for the inevitable human response; once things become more of the same for long enough, people will turn to the next new thing out of sheer boredom. Mr. Istomin's historical-based fantasies may not be to someone's taste, but at least it is joyous and unabashed, and like a couture gown seen on the Paris runway, his influence may trickle down to a more realizable vision, that will eventually oust, in its turn, the same ole same ole.

  5. Thank you for raising a voice against social media inspiration. It's a platform but there has to be more. Thanks for the inspiration and invitation to jump into fantasy. xoxo Mary

  6. Hello Jennifer, I too have long been worried about the internet considered as a universal repository of information and inspiration. While there is a vast amount online, many areas are scarcely represented, and there is also the problem of online copies being considered the equivalent of the originals. The mere presence of the internet (as the sole consulted source) is killing academic originality as well.

  7. Love that "Schiaparelli" sofa!

  8. Antiqued mirrors, and is that mother-of-pearl inlays on the bathroom floor? I'm in heaven...

  9. This place actually looks like a fantasy world, it has a nice antique vibe but it's so beautiful!