Seeing Double

By Nina Frolova / Published by Dwell
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In Russia, a bipartite modular system gives way to a contemporary country getaway.

"My life’s always been strictly urban," says Anna Gor, director of the Arsenal National Centre of Contemporary Art in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia. In 2015, as a bit of a lifestyle experiment, she bought a lot in front of her friend’s holiday cottage outside the city. Finding inspiration in a lesson by Russian architect Mikhail Labazov, she decided to create "a small shelter for [her] favorite pursuits": reading, entertaining, and arranging flowers. 

The interior was designed with as few partitions as possible; floor-to-ceiling glazing by Russian Glass Company underscores the sense of openness.

The interior was designed with as few partitions as possible; floor-to-ceiling glazing by Russian Glass Company underscores the sense of openness.

Photo: Tobias Harvey

With her busy schedule at the Arsenal, Anna didn’t have much time to think about her future house. Then she discovered DublDom online and decided that its prefabricated houses would be an affordable, efficient alternative to commissioning a custom project from an architect. 

Anna’s house is a version of the DublDom 2.87, which has a starting price of 2.87 million rubles (about $46,000). The structure features a porch at each end lined in stained plywood. Anna surveys the countryside from under the gabled roof.

Anna’s house is a version of the DublDom 2.87, which has a starting price of 2.87 million rubles (about $46,000). The structure features a porch at each end lined in stained plywood. Anna surveys the countryside from under the gabled roof.

Photo: Tobias Harvey

DublDom modular houses are designed and produced by Moscow-based architect Ivan Ovchinnikov, who created them as an alternative to the low-quality traditional-style houses common in Russian suburbs. Most people just want the basics—bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, and porch—for an affordable price, Ovchinnikov says. "Our task is to pack their wishes into a modern form, changing their way of life—and the countryside as a whole." 

With its timber rafters and expanses of glass, the house contrasts with its more conventional neighbors. To keep the focus on the views, Anna opted for minimal furnishings. The final design is the result of many imagined interiors, she explains: "I dreamt about this house for some time—then I saw it in real life." In the dining area, a pair of IKEA Hektar pendants hangs over a table designed by Anna’s employees as a gift. The chairs are from European home improvement store Obi; the rug is vintage.

With its timber rafters and expanses of glass, the house contrasts with its more conventional neighbors. To keep the focus on the views, Anna opted for minimal furnishings. The final design is the result of many imagined interiors, she explains: "I dreamt about this house for some time—then I saw it in real life." In the dining area, a pair of IKEA Hektar pendants hangs over a table designed by Anna’s employees as a gift. The chairs are from European home improvement store Obi; the rug is vintage.

Photo: Tobias Harvey

The smallest DublDom model, a cabin with a pitched roof, is made of two units. (DublDom is a play on "double home.") Each module’s length (6 meters, or a little less than 20 feet) was determined by the standard size of timber products in Russia. Its width (about 8 feet) and height (about 10 feet) were defined by transportation rules. 

Near a Gent wood-burning stove by Thorma in the living area, an IKEA Poäng chair and ottoman provide a cozy spot for reading. Thanks to the passive design strategies utilized by Ovchinnikov, the house stays warm through the winter with only minimal heating required.

Near a Gent wood-burning stove by Thorma in the living area, an IKEA Poäng chair and ottoman provide a cozy spot for reading. Thanks to the passive design strategies utilized by Ovchinnikov, the house stays warm through the winter with only minimal heating required.

Photo: Tobias Harvey

The modules are joined by an insert along the roof spine, which gives the structures their distinctive pitched form rather than the blocky silhouette often seen in prefab construction. One DublDom house can be composed of several pairs of such parts, and more can be added later if an owner decides to expand. Anna’s house, a version of the DublDom 2.87 design, is made of four modules—for now. 

The timber-frame structure is made of pine planks with insulation between them; the cables and plumbing are installed in the walls before cladding is added. DublDom’s default exterior finish is black corrugated steel, but there are many options. Anna chose Shinglas shingles for the roof and two sides of the house. Her DublDom boasts a high-performance envelope designed with passive strategies like a porch awning that protects the glass of the southern facade from summer sun but catches low winter light so well that even in freezing temperatures it can be warm inside without turning on the heat. 

DublDoms are designed so that they can be integrated into many different settings—houses have been shipped as far away as Italy and France. Though they are standardized, it’s the interiors and "energy" that make each one unique, Ovchinnikov says. Anna envisioned her house as a pastoral contrast to her hectic urban life. In a guest room, an IKEA sleeper sofa sits opposite an antique chest.

DublDoms are designed so that they can be integrated into many different settings—houses have been shipped as far away as Italy and France. Though they are standardized, it’s the interiors and "energy" that make each one unique, Ovchinnikov says. Anna envisioned her house as a pastoral contrast to her hectic urban life. In a guest room, an IKEA sleeper sofa sits opposite an antique chest.

Photo: Tobias Harvey

To date, Ovchinnikov has developed about 50 versions of the DublDom concept, but Anna’s home is more personalized than most. (Since details as small as changing a faucet can cause a delay of a full week, Ovchinnikov plans to one day stock three standardized versions of DublDom’s most popular models, which he envisions selling as simply as cars.) 

By the entrance to the master suite, a mirror sits on a table of Ovchinnikov’s design. 

By the entrance to the master suite, a mirror sits on a table of Ovchinnikov’s design. 

Photo: Tobias Harvey

For her getaway, Anna asked him to remove almost all inner partitions and doors—even on the bedrooms. "All my life I’ve lived in small, cramped places," she says. "I wanted to try to create an open, free space that continues beyond the glass facades." 

The pitched roof of Anna Gor’s house outside Nizhny Novgorod, Russia, is a signature of the DublDom modular system.

The pitched roof of Anna Gor’s house outside Nizhny Novgorod, Russia, is a signature of the DublDom modular system.

Photo: Tobias Harvey

Anna also customized the finishes, becoming one of the first DublDom clients to tint all the interior timber surfaces. The material’s grayish hue coordinates with the home’s red-and-gray color scheme, the same used at the Arsenal. The dramatic red ramp that leads to the main porch is another nod to Anna’s workplace, specifically to the now-dismantled crimson entrance that existed during the reconstruction of its historical building. Other special features include the large mechanical room for a gas water heater and heating system (electricity is usually used for heating in DublDom houses) and built-in shelves for the books Anna inherited from her parents. She bought most of the furniture at IKEA, except for an antique chest and a dining table that her staff made. The small end table in the living area was a housewarming gift from Ovchinnikov to his client, who found the home she imagined so many times—with its pitched roof and two glass facades—realized as a DublDom. 

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