But there’s considerably less information when it comes to the interior design of the same period. Photographers Alessandro Calvaresi and Elena Amabili aim to fill that gap with Soviet Innerness, a set of postcards whose close-up images of peeling wallpaper offer a glimpse of the multi-layered history of Soviet-era domestic spaces.
The postcards arose from Amabili and Calvaresi’s photo project of the same name, which features photos taken in abandoned homes in former Eastern Bloc countries. The Italian-born, Berlin-based couple came up with the idea while visiting Irbene, Latvia–a former Soviet army town that was once home to a secret radar center. They started with the walls of a derelict public housing complex in Irbene, then traveled to other countries once under Soviet control, shooting photos of long-forgotten interiors along the way.
The pair realized that you could learn a lot about the history of a home by peeling back the layers of its wallpaper. “What we wanted to show is that there is life behind those gray concrete panels, and that life was often an explosion of colors,” they write in an email. “Coats and coats of different paint showed three-dimensional shapes, polka-dots painted kitchens, giant apes washing their teeth above the bathroom sink and bright flowery ’70s wallpaper.”
By digging deeper into the era’s interior design, Soviet Innerness gives a glimpse of the colorful domestic life peeking through the drab facades that were so ubiquitous at the time. “We are essentially doing a research and preservation work through the less considered perspective,” Amabili and Calvaresi write. “The intimate perspective, or an ‘innerness.'”