While the English have William Shakespeare, the Russians have Alexander Pushkin. And, like Shakespeare, Pushkin’s work continues the capture the greater cultural imagination. The operatic adaptation of his lyrical novel “Eugene Onegin,” completed by Pyotr Tchaikovsky in 1879, brought to life the work’s visuals for the first time in a now legendary spectacle. In a nod to this bygone era of opulence and extravagance, Russian designers Olga Sedova and Prohor Mashukov of ONLY Design set out to transform a historic building in Moscow into a bar that reflects Pushkin’s literature.
Inspired by the line, “he arrives and the cork goes flying up!” from Pushkin’s original text, the Onegin bar invites visitors to experience the same level of fanfare today. The lavish yet welcoming space is located in the former guest house of Prince Konstantin Aleksandrovich Gorchakov, whose father studied with Pushkin. During renovations, Sedova and Mashukov were able to expand the ceiling height by over two feet which elongated the windows and revealed part of a stucco cornice that had not been seen for centuries. The duo decided to preserve the original moulding and add the custom-designed decorative supports, creating a dynamic dialogue between the old and the new.
“The walls and the ceiling were in poor condition, but we decided not to restore them to the ideal, but to show the history of the time,” Sedova shares, noting that they also added modern elements, such as “bright hallucinogenic sofas.” The repurposed carved wooden sofas, handmade by craftsmen in Uzbekistan, are painted in a neon brindle scheme, which stands out against the bar’s raw edges. With murals inspired by the Italian renaissance and symbols of alchemy—nodding to the mystical locale where Tchaikovsky worked on his score for the work’s operatic adaptation—diners are transported into Onegin’s ornate world.