Designer Spotlight

Serenity and Simplicity Are the Watchwords of Rising Interiors Talent Sergejs Ogurcovs

Interior designer Sergejs Ogurcovs SOG Interiors Saulkrasti beach resort Latvia living room
Interior designer Sergejs Ogurcovs SOG Interiors Latvia Riga apartment kitchen portrait
Designer Sergejs Ogurcovs founded his firm, SOG Interiors, in 2013. Here, in his kitchen in Riga, the capital of his native Latvia, he stands next to Powell & Bonnell stools (photo by Viktors Makarovs). Top: For the living room of a house in the Latvian seaside resort of Saulkrasti, Ogurcovs selected green Kravet sofas, a coffee table by Scala Luxury and mid-century armchairs that previously furnished Stockholm’s Czechoslovakian embassy. The Venetian Art Deco bar is from Artistic & myArtistic, the chrome Goffredo Reggiani floor lamp (far right) from Goldwood Interiors and the 1960s brass and Lucite mid-century floor lamp (far left) from Stephan Getzlaff. Photo by Sergejs Ogurcovs

When Latvian interior designer Sergejs Ogurcovs (pronounced SEHR-ghey ah-GUHR-tsov) wants to document his work, he doesn’t call upon a professional photographer. He prefers to shoot his projects himself. “I really enjoy the process,” he says. “And an interior is a designer’s baby, so you should want people to see the result through your own eye.” 

It’s perhaps no surprise that photography is one of his passions. Hanging on the bookshelves in his Riga apartment is a black-and-white image of a Burmese man standing on a low wall, taken by one of his favorite photographers, the San Francisco–based Monica Denevan. The entry hall, meanwhile, is dominated by a striking portrait photo he took of himself with his sister, Natalia, both shown, naked, from the waist up. “It was one of my experiments with a Mamiya Sixty-Seven camera,” he explains. “I set up all the lighting, although it was actually taken by my brother-in-law, because someone had to press the button.”

Ogurcovs came across his 900-square-foot flat after spotting a for sale sign on one of its windows while out for an evening stroll back in 2015. One of its main attractions for him was its location in a 1911 building designed in the National Romantic style — a Latvian version of Art Nouveau. Its architect, Aleksandrs Vanags, built several churches and some 70 apartment buildings in Riga all before World War I, coming to a tragic end after the hostilities, in 1919, when he was executed by a Bolshevik firing squad for “counterrevolutionary activities.

Ogurcovs’s flat had not been restored since the middle of the 20th century. Before he could get to work on the place, he had to consult with the local historical commission, which prescribed that its door had to remain the same, as did all the windows. Ogurcovs decided to restore the crown molding on the bedroom ceiling, replacing the crumbling plaster with a faithful re-creation.

Otherwise, he approached the space as an opportunity to experiment. “I wanted to try all these solutions that my clients are usually not ready for,” he explains. He used a gloss paint on the ceiling of the entry hall, chose a dark palette for his bedroom and installed geometric tiles with a relief effect in the kitchen. “I’d been proposing those tiles for ten years to homeowners I’ve worked with, and nobody ever wanted to use them,” he says.

The resulting decor is typical of Ogurcovs’s stylish, pared-down aesthetic. “I’m not a ‘wow’ designer,” he states. “If someone walks into a room and says, ‘Cool!,’ for me the space would be a complete failure.”

Interior designer Sergejs Ogurcovs SOG Interiors Latvia Riga apartment dining area room
A piece by young Russian photographer Fedor Bitkov hangs behind a pedestal table in the dining area. The brutalist chairs are by Adrian Pearsall, and the Skyflyer pendant light is by Yki Nummi. Ogurcovs uses the vintage rosewood Danish cabinet as a bar. Photo by Sergejs Ogurcovs and Nikolay Suyv

Instead, he favors serenity and simplicity. He also has a deep-rooted affection for American design, as evidenced by the high-backed sculptural Adrian Pearsall dining chairs at the table in his apartment. “Americans take the best of European things, and they simplify them,” he says. 

The vintage furniture he chooses doesn’t have to be signed  — “I don’t look to see if a piece is by an iconic designer” — or even cost a lot of money. He salvaged his desk chair from a garbage dump in San Francisco. 

If there is one constant in all his projects, it’s a sense of order — sometimes taken to an almost obsessive extreme. During a video tour of the apartment on Elle Decoration Russia’s Instagram account, he opens the door to his dishwasher and reveals plates and flatware perfectly arranged.

The designer attributes his tidiness to his 95-year-old grandmother, who was an important figure in his childhood. “From her, I learned to pay attention to every detail,” he states.

Ogurcovs was born in 1980 in the Baltic Sea resort of Liepaja, where both his parents were employed at a local textile factory: his father as head of its chemical laboratory, his mother as an economist. After high school, he graduated from university with a degree in computer science and worked for seven years in the marketing department of a chain of Chrysler automobile dealerships before taking up a similar position in Moscow.

In 2007, his boss arranged for Ogurcovs to travel to Alaska with a stopover in Los Angeles, where he stayed at the Wilshire Beverly Hills. The hotel triggered something of an epiphany. “I was amazed by everything — how decor could be so balanced and so beautiful,” he recalls. 

Interior designer Sergejs Ogurcovs SOG Interiors Latvia Riga apartment living area dining area kitchen room
In the living area, a pair of vintage Art Deco armchairs, a Kravet couch and a bent-plywood Cowrie chair by Made in Ratio surround a Sputnik-style coffee table with an etched-glass top custom crafted by a Riga studio. Hanging above the rosewood cabinet-bar is a watercolor, Building Under Construction, by Russian painter and illustrator Polina Egorushkina. Photo by Sergejs Ogurcovs and Nikolay Suyv

He started to dabble in interiors on the side, starting with friends and quickly moving to word-of-mouth clients. Two years later, in 2009, he decorated a small Moscow flat that eventually made its way into the pages of AD Russia

In 2011, Ogurcovs decided it was time to get some formal training and enrolled in the interior design program at the San Francisco Academy of Arts. He left after two years, encouraged not to stay for the full four by Barbara Barry, one of his design idols, whom he met at a book signing. “She told me that she had dropped out of the academy,” he recalls. “Then, when she dedicated the book for me, she wrote, ‘No degrees needed!’ ”

Indeed, a lack of a diploma does not seem to have hindered Ogurcovs’s career. He set up his own firm, SOG Interiors, in 2013 and now splits his time between Moscow and Riga, accepting no more than three or four projects per year.

Interior designer Sergejs Ogurcovs SOG Interiors Saulkrasti beach resort Latvia house bedroom
Mid-century modern nightstands from Castle Antiques & Design flank the bed in the primary suite of the Saulkrasti house. A Carl Malmsten Farmor armchair sits beside a 20th-century Syrian hexagonal side table from Susanne Hollis and an adjustable Alzabile floor lamp by Ignazio Gardella from The Craftcode. The painting above the bed is by the young Latvian artist Jānis Šneiders. Photo by Sergejs Ogurcovs

Ogurcovs’s modus operandi is well suited to the current Covid-19 crisis: He has no office, preferring instead to operate from home, while his two assistants work remotely. In recent years, he has also taken to communicating with his clients largely via WhatsApp. “For me, it’s more efficient than doing a big presentation, where they make a lot of decisions at one time and are tired after one hour,” he explains. “Instead, when I send them a few messages per day, I get a quick answer.”

And there are a lot of decisions to make. Ogurcovs leaves no design element unconsidered. “He goes deeply into every little detail,” says Alexei Dorozhkin, the editor in chief of Elle Decoration Russia

Interior designer Sergejs Ogurcovs SOG Interiors Saulkrasti beach resort Latvia house kitchen
In the Saulkrasti kitchen, counter chairs by A. Rudin stand at an island topped by graphic Panda marble. Hanging above are pink Murano glass Tronchi chandeliers from FABIO LTD. Photo by Sergejs Ogurcovs

“I don’t know any designer who can spend so much time choosing fabrics and trims,” adds the owner of a 1,600-square-foot apartment that Ogurcovs designed in the seaside resort of Saulkrasti, some 30 miles northeast of Riga.

Because the home is in a building just 230 feet from the shore, Ogurcovs aimed for a beachy feeling in the decor. To that end, he installed white-painted wood paneling in both the entry hall and dining room. “I wanted to give the sense that you were almost on a boat,” he says. The rest of his initial concept was extremely calm. The client, however, pushed him to experiment.

“He asked me, ‘Can you do something you didn’t do before and be more brave?’ ” recalls Ogurcovs.

Interior designer Sergejs Ogurcovs SOG Interiors Saulkrasti beach resort Latvia house guest room bedroom
Ogurcovs hung a Farrow & Ball wallpaper upside down in this guest room, so the stalks of grass — meant to look like they’re growing up from the floor — wouldn’t be hidden behind the custom headboards upholstered in a Holly Hunt fabric. The Torche sconces are from Atelier de Troupe, and the Louis XVI–style chair, made around 1900, is reupholstered in a lipstick-red leather. Photo by Sergejs Ogurcovs

Among the more dramatic additions are the pair of apple-green sofas from Kravet in the living room, expanses of graphic Panda marble in the kitchen and a Farrow & Ball paper in one of the guest bedrooms that was hung upside down so its pattern wouldn’t be concealed by the twin headboards. (Normally, the design’s stalks of grass appear to be growing up from the floor; instead they cascade down from the ceiling.)

He also assembled an enticing mix of vintage furniture, including a pair of 1960s armchairs that formerly belonged to the Czechoslovakian embassy in Stockholm and some choice pieces found on 1stDibs, such as a Venetian Art Deco bar from Artistic & myArtistic and a chrome Goffredo Reggiani floor lamp from Goldwood Interiors.

Interior designer Sergejs Ogurcovs SOG Interiors Moscow apartment living room
In a Moscow apartment’s living room, two Kravet sofas face a vintage burlwood Carpathian coffee table by Baker that Ogurcovs found at Reeves Antiques. Behind the near sofa is a Zanotta console table. Providing additional seating, a pair of mid-century Italian armchairs is flanked by Pasha side tables from Martyn Lawrence Bullard Atelier that are topped by vintage Japanese candlestick lamps. Photo by Sergej Ogurcov and Nikolay Suyva

Although different in building type and context, a 1,700-square-foot city apartment on the 22nd floor of a Moscow skyscraper had a similar chromatic evolution. 

This time, however, it was the homeowner who requested only grays and Ogurcovs who pushed for more diverse hues. He eventually got her to agree to a violet silk wallpaper in the primary bedroom, a pair of mid-century Italian armchairs upholstered in mauve mohair in the living room and an Italian 1950s dining table with a striking burgundy top. “Sergejs’s style is simple and elegant,” says the client, “and he is very easygoing, with a perfect sense of humor.”

Interior designer Sergejs Ogurcovs SOG Interiors Moscow apartment bedroom
A Louis XVI–style bench — sold by Bardin Palomo and covered in a Schumacher fabric — sits at the foot of a bed upholstered in another Holly Hunt textile in the Moscow home’s primary suite. The mid-century table lamp is by Gerald Thurston. In the corner, a Gubi Grasshopper floor lamp stands next to a Morris chair by Morris Lapidus. The vintage chest is by Alfred Cox, and the painting above the bed is Winged by Ukrainian artist Victoria Belyakova. Photo by Sergej Ogurcov and Nikolay Suyva

His work, characterized by a clean crispness, is guided by one firmly held belief in particular. As he puts it, “The main thing in an interior should be the owner. So, it shouldn’t be excessively decorative.” 

Earlier in his career, Ogurcovs also maintained that decor should be conceived to last. Now, though, he feels that’s not realistic. 

Interior designer Sergejs Ogurcovs SOG Interiors Moscow apartment dining area room kitchen
Eero Saarinen Executive chairs surround an Italian 1950s mahogany dining table in the home’s dining area, which opens to the kitchen. The large photograph hanging on the wall is by Sergey Shchelukhin. Photo by Sergej Ogurcov and Nikolay Suyva

“Interiors are not as durable as architecture,” he says. “However beautiful they are, they will be somehow changed in ten or twenty years, unless the clients are so famous that their home becomes a museum. 

“But, let’s face it,” he concludes, “that doesn’t happen very often.”

Sergejs Ogurcovs’s Quick Picks

Angelo Mangiarotti Lesbo table lamp, ca. 1960, offered by Watteeu
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Angelo Mangiarotti Lesbo table lamp, ca. 1960, offered by Watteeu

“This lamp is sleek, sculptural and minimalist. It would bring freshness to any interior.” 

French dining chairs, 1955, offered by Bourgeois Boheme
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French dining chairs, 1955, offered by Bourgeois Boheme

“These dining chairs are well-proportioned, inviting and very practical: When you need to move one, you can hold it by the wood on top, so the fabric stays cleaner longer.”

Spanish chromed table lamps, 1970, offered by Sacramento Anticuaria
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Spanish chromed table lamps, 1970, offered by Sacramento Anticuaria

“The unusual proportions and materials of these Spanish table lamps will make your interior look like an impressive film set.”

Murano chandelier, 1960, offered by Flowermountain
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Murano chandelier, 1960, offered by Flowermountain

“Beauty is more important than brand. That’s proved by this gorgeous chandelier, which doesn’t have a big-name designer or glassmaker associated with it.”

Pierre Cardin sideboard, 1980s–90s, offered by This Place
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Pierre Cardin sideboard, 1980s–90s, offered by This Place

“Until I saw this piece on 1stDibs, I hadn’t fully appreciated that Pierre Cardin also designed furniture. Turns out, he was really good at it.” 

Nils Johan candlestick, 1960s, offered by Studio Schalling
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Nils Johan candlestick, 1960s, offered by Studio Schalling

“This would be a universally beloved birthday or holiday or belated Valentine’s Day gift. It would create a chic romantic atmosphere!”

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