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Marta Chrapka, the founder of Polish design studio , combines modernism and art nouveau to transform a Prewar apartment

Located on the fifth floor of a tenement house from 1913, the 150-square-metre apartment in central Warsaw captivated Marta Chrapka of Polish design studio

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By Shannon Manuel | September 25, 2021 | Interiors

The brief was to design a space for two people suitable for hosting frequent events, which include small piano concerts. ‘The space was to be as large as possible, which is why the living room is connected to the kitchen,’ says Marta. ‘The second part of the brief was to create two separate workspaces – there is a book room for him and a kind of atelier for her (she is a photographer).’ The couple also wanted the interiors to be interesting, but not overwhelming, and consistent with the building’s architecture. ‘When it comes to the style of the interior, I usually separate the fixed elements from the movable ones – the design of the furniture is not entirely related to the character of the building and thus the woodwork or flooring usually reflects the era of the building,’ says Marta. as such, the existing layout was not changed and instead of demolishing walls, the focus was placed on changing the proportions of the walls by adding stucco and utilising carpentry structures – such as wardrobe doors to enclose the bathroom entrance. The project combined furniture of Colombe’s design and international brands, and lighting by classic designers including Santa & Cole and Gubi, and fellow Polish design studio Lexavala. The rooms are minimalistic, with colour accents appearing mainly in the fabrics. ‘The calm and inviting interior is conditioned by the use of a monochrome palette as the background, and moments of colours and pattern to play against this background,’ says Marta. ‘While I was designing it, I imagined the interior as layered scenery, where the outer layers are light and inner ones are more intense.

Photography: © DePasquale+Maffini

When painting walls and carpentry, we opted to use Belgian brand Emente, as its solvent-free paint meets the conservatorship requirements when restoring a heritage apartment, and used tones from the original frescoes in the staircase and the rest is invention. This gives me the comfort that, no matter the colours we use, the style and era will match the historic interior.’

The kitchen, featuring a hand-painted de Gourney wallpaper with a motif of the Korean mountains, is undoubtedly the home’s pièce de résistance. ‘As the space has to double as entertainment-ready and be comfortably intimate for two, we decided to open the space as much as possible and focus on the kitchen as the most decorative area in the house,’ says Marta. ‘We decided to use the natural, cement tiles on the floor that were often found in this type of tenement house and add some modern character by using corrugated walnut panels. While the forest-patterned wallpaper was my first choice, the clients were not convinced but, luckily, they came round.’

Photography: © DePasquale+Maffini

Marta’s is greatly influenced by her affection for Prewar interiors, finding inspiration in the works of Josef Frank and Eileen Gray as well as the Polish folk style from the Tatra Mountains. ‘Growing up, the city and time didn’t have as strong a sense of aesthetic, nothing like I had found in the untouched Prewar interiors. These old houses were the only ones that were genuine and emotionally interesting. And since I spent part of my adult life in Africa, I like to break this nostalgia with the patterns and strong colours I saw there.’