A home is often that place that you come back to escape the world, to ground and re-charge. It’s where our sense of self is affirmed, where our most personal facets, bonds and preferences are lived and celebrated. How our homes feel, what we put in them is both intuitive and considered, based on our present and also so strongly influenced by our lives thus far.
Architect Maria Megina has lots of personal experience with setting up home: from childhood on, she’s moved extensively, be it between neighbourhoods, cities or countries. Her current home is a beautiful pre-war apartment in Vienna that she shares with her partner, the graphic designer and editor Stephan Göschl, and cats Lisa (possessed of a perfect grey coat; also the sole Viennese inhabitant of this apartment) and Max (a Bulgarian street cat and foodie).
It is inviting and considered, furnished with unusual and eclectic pieces of furniture, large artworks, and lots of space in which to contemplate each of these. It is also where her past and present come together and inform each other. Over a lovely afternoon together, with glasses of bubbly and tiny, exquisite Viennese pastries, we chatted about life and this beautiful home.
Masha, could you tell us more about how you came to live in your current home?
I’ve moved around a lot in my life. I was born in a small town in the former USSR, called Vishnyj Volotcheck. Apartments were allocated to families at the time and so my parents moved to different neighbourhoods in our town whilst waiting for a home of their own. My mother used to be a professional musician and travelled with her job. When I was 15, we moved to Ulm, in southern Germany where we spent a few years. I then moved to Halle, where I finished school and then started my architectural studies in Weimar, before moving to Vienna, where I’ve lived for the last 11 years.
This apartment happened quite by chance in 2012: After a liter of vodka martini, my colleague told me about it, and a friend of hers was it renting it at the time. One thing led to another, and a month later, I moved in.
What informs your sense of home?
Mascha: My family is scattered across several countries, and I’ve had so many places I that I called home. I tend towards friendships that are lasting and this is my way of creating a sense of ‘heimat’, of home-coming and belonging both in my living spaces and my relationships with people.
These two aspects sometimes collide beautifully, as in the case of the three dining chairs I have. They are from a ‘Wirtschaft’ here in Vienna, a traditional restaurant that became my local hangout. It’s where the architecture students spent time and I was there quite often. The owner was an older gentleman in faded jeans, checked shirt, and two pairs of glasses (one always perched on his head), and he and I became friends. He referred to me as ‘the Russian lady’, and I was always guaranteed a seat, no matter how packed the place was. This gentleman was in the know about everything that mattered in the neighbourhood—from apartments that were being vacated to the best local garage to have your car fixed at. When he passed away, I was offered the chance to take something from this space that I’d spent so much time at and I picked these chairs. They are pieces from that special part of my Viennese experience.
Can you share the story behind the bench at your dining table?
It’s probably an unusual choice for this particular table, and when we have friends over, it always ends up being full of people, all packed together. In a former life it was in a Protestant church in Karlsruhe, south Germany. The entire room has taken shape around it, even the painting and other pieces of art.
Stephan, how do your tastes and interests make their presence felt here?
Mascha and I met sometime last year in L.A.—this despite the fact that we both live here in Vienna and also move in similar circles. A common friend that travels to LA regularly invited a few of us over for a week to celebrate her birthday and that’s how we met. We stayed in touch on our return, went on a few dates and hit it off really well. We decided that I’d move to Mascha’s apartment, and so I left my place to a very good friend who I shared it with, put some things in storage and made the move with a few boxes of books, my clothes and not much more. I don’t really live in the past and am more future-oriented. I have everything here that I need to feel grounded and at home.
We both feel that a home needs time; to grow, and for things to come together in harmony.
How does having cats impact your life?
Mascha: Lisa and Max are part of my sense of home and belonging, They have this sense of calm and are very grounding for me.
Stephan: Max, and lately Lisa as well, likes to come over and schmooze with me on the couch when I read late into night. I never had pets in my previous apartments or whilst growing up, but we soon got along very well and I wouldn’t want to miss them now.
Your kitchen is so unique—not least because it has a disco ball hanging in it…
Mascha: The kitchen was designed by architecture students that once lived in the apartment. All the residents in this building were once either architects or architecture students, now it’s just me and one of my friends in the apartment above ours. The layout and design of the kitchen is unusual and quite interesting, there are, however, a couple of little features that can be challenging.
Stephan: The tiled counters, for example: getting crumbs out from between them can be work sometimes!
What do you both most like about living in Vienna?
There’s so much to love about this city: cycling; culture—exhibitions, theatres (both stage and screen) and concerts; the outdoor markets and restaurants; diversity with regard to local identities—this changes from district to district within the city; the city’s ‘honesty’’, that allows both the polished and grimy to co-exist.
You have such beautiful pieces of art—how did you start collecting them
Three paintings are by the artist Carlos Perez, who’s also an old and good friend. There’s also a photograph of Lampedusa by Sonja Schwarz, an illustration of Adam and Eve by illustrator Francesco Ciccolella and two artworks by famous artist Jorge de Leon from Guatemala.
How do you love spending time at home?
Some of our favourite things to do are working, cooking, reading, napping and playing with the cats.
Thank you so much for welcoming us into your beautiful home Mascha, Stephan, Lisa and Max!
Images: Sonja Schwarz