The Gallery

It’s standard practice in the Russian Federation that rented apartments come furnished. Over the last few months of looking at online rental postings, I came to realize that “furnished” is a broad term,┬áranging from skinny mattresses on cheap frames without bedding, bare walls, and inexpensive sofas to the sort of cozy spaces one might expect to see on Air BnB.

The apartment I ended up with is kind of in the middle. The living room is cozy. I love the sofa, the loveseat, and the arm chair. They are deep and overstuffed in the way that feels like a firm hug. When my sea shipment arrives with my pouf, this room will be perfect. (I’ve been putting my feet up on the glass coffee table very. carefully.)

Buttercup, a calico cat is curled up on a green sofa. On the beige wall above her are two large paintings, one of them depicting a silly cat, an artful wall sconce, and two small paintings.

The kitchen is a cheery, light-filled space with large windows and mint green cabinets. And it had the most essential things for preparing simple meals to tide me over until I could shop for more kitchen necessities, like a second pot and a mixing bowl.

A cheery kitchen with mint green cabinets and a collection of decorative plates hanging above them.

There are ostensibly two bedrooms. I’m sleeping in the smaller one on a classic Soviet-style futon sofa. My landlady told me it was “so comfortable,” but my hips disagree. (Next month, I’ll be buying an American-style bed frame and mattress.)

The larger “bedroom” is not furnished as a bedroom at all. It has two walls of bookcases full of Russian classics and foreign literature in translation. The landlady and the broker we worked with tried to see this to me as an asset. I can set up the room however I want, they said. I can read all the books, they said. Neither of those things is really true.

Framed art hangs on a beige wall above a writing desk.

What I’ve done is move the desk and a small (empty!) bookshelf from the smaller bedroom into the Library and now I have the largest office I’ve ever had in all my life. The landlady’s books are a nice decoration.

In the course of conversation, I learned that my landlady is a retired journalist, living with her family at their dacha outside the city. (It sounds very posh to have a country house, but it’s pretty normal for middle-class Russian families.) I realized that the books are here because they can’t go to the dacha, but they’re too valuable to this family to get rid of.

The same is true of the art on the walls. It’s quite nice. No big names, but also no cheap prints. This is an art collection that has been chosen lovingly. I suspect it is a record of travels around the world and of interactions with the artists themselves.

An oil painting of a walled monastery in the winter.

This apartment comes furnished with the curatorship of a library and art collection built over a lifetime.

I am living in a gallery.

1 Comment

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  1. “The Gallery” is quit different then what you would normally find in America. Quit the unique arrangement, I must say! Reading about the culture differences is going to be intriguing!

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