The country of Georgia has not historically had a go-to designer you could point to to explain the national style in the way you could hold up Charles and Ray Eames as the epitome of American mid-century design, or Naoto Fukasawa as an ambassador for Japanese minimalism. But if any design team is poised to assume that position for the Eastern European country, it’s almost assuredly Rooms, a two-woman design studio operating out of Tbilisi.
Nata Janberidze and Keti Toloraia formed Rooms in 2007, when the local design scene wasn’t just nascent — it didn’t exist. Their early pieces mimicked the Soviet-era furniture they each grew up with: “We were influenced by our childhood memories, like a TV table,” Janberidze says. “There was also a sofa that was very Soviet in form and shape — like the shape of the ’60s, but it’s very basic and rigid in a way.”
In recent years Janberidze and Toloraia have slowed down their process and started hand-carving pieces that nod at traditional Georgian relics. One bench from their most recent Wild Minimalism series borrows a curved shape from Tbilisi’s now-demolished Otar Kalamdarishili housing-complex building; other chairs are made in the image of traditional pieces created in a Georgian mountain region.
Around Tbilisi, Janberidze and Toloraia have left their mark on the Rooms Hotel, where they consulted on the design; at a new restaurant called Kharcho, where they did the interiors; and, of course, in their own homes. Janberidze and Toloraia both live in the old Vera district of Tbilisi — Janberidze in a spacious apartment with big sky-lights, Toloraia in a 1970s-era Soviet-style apartment with what she calls “an unbelievably retro, large-scale unproportional bathtub with baby blue tiles.” Both designers say they filled their respective airy, bohemian apartments with mid-to-late century furniture collected over the years. Their homes, like their furniture, “are very minimal, but grandly wild at the same time.” Take a tour of the apartments here, and look for a line of rugs and a retrospective in Milan next year, when Rooms celebrates its ten-year anniversary.