Though Serhii Makhno reached far into Ukraine’s past when building his house in Kozyn, a village south of Kyiv, he also sought to break new ground. “I wanted materials that have been used for centuries,” said the architect and furnishings designer. “But I also wanted to make something you’ve never seen before.”
Design-savvy homeowners often share this desire to achieve uniqueness, to wow jaded visitors the minute they step into the foyer. And as sui generis as Mr. Makhno’s home is, anyone can access one of his main routes to originality: discernibly handmade furniture and finishes. You might not mix individual “recipes” for the clay walls of every room to give each a distinct personality, as Mr. Makhno did. But as you layer on one-of-a-kind textiles or variegated zellige tiles, your style becomes less imitable. After dinner at the Makhno house one evening, an artist guest obliged his host by painting a grand, whimsical Jean Cocteau-like drawing on the wall of his son’s bedroom. The local talent you find (perhaps via such sites as Bark and Thumbtack) might perform less spontaneously, but the mural you commission can be equally fresh and impressive.