Ivan Ilych’s Quirky, Fatal St Petersburg Abode


Ivan Ilych is one of St Petersburg’s most likable magistrates, known for his witty rulings and legendary dinner parties (just ask him about that dance with Peter Ivanovich and the sturgeon!). At home, Ivan displays his quirkier side, including his love of whist and reading, which is evident in his library’s arrangement of books by color (a rainbow spanning dark to medium red leather). Throughout the home, whimsical vignettes display his passion for quadrille and Pomeranians.

Ivan’s enthusiasm for interior design is so tremendous that we conducted the interview in bed, while he was recovering from a décor-related accident. “But it was so worth it!” he said. “Did you see the curtains in the drawing room?” Although our interview was sometimes interrupted by Ivan’s groans of pain, I couldn’t deny that he had done an amazing job everywhere, including the bedroom, with its smoky plum wainscoting and artisanal Kazakh rug. The moody vibe was breathtaking.

Apartment Therapy Survey

My Style: Empress Joséphine meets nomadic life on the Steppes

Inspiration: Haussman’s games room, that incredible vintage yurt in Astana, my neighbors

Favorite Element: The 14-foot ceilings

Biggest Challenge: Putting up those curtains!

What Friends Say: “Are we in Paris?”

Proudest DIY: Those curtains, for sure. My manservant Gerasim just wasn’t able to get the drape of the fabric right. I was like “five creases, Gerasim, five! Three will never do!” Unfortunately while hanging the curtains myself I fell, and since then I’ve seen a couple doctors about the sharp pains in my side, but they don’t know what’s wrong. Probably I just need to eat less sturgeon.

Biggest Indulgence: I scored some great deals on the antiques, but the velveteen Pomeranian wallpaper imported from Paris was definitely a splurge.

Biggest Embarrassment: The drawing room pouffe has springs that creak when unwitting visitors sit on it — that can get really awkward. Plus, my wife Praskovya Federovna is always leaving her teacups on the Empire credenza so now it looks like the surface of the moon! That said, I gotta admit that I’m not perfect either — my groans of pain (that darn fall!) really dampen the ambience sometimes. And we still need to redo the kitchen.

Best Advice: DIY is totally the way to go. Only you know what you want, and you can make it happen!

Dream Sources: St Petersburg flea markets, the Hermitage Museum Shop, Dostoevsky’s yard sales