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Café and SUP paradise from an old Soviet locker room

Under the aegis of the White Rabbit Surf Café, transformed from a former Soviet locker room, a cozy café, a SUP board rental and the newest community center in a small Ukrainian town merge. The white-painted brick walls, broken into a special arch, and the emerging terracotta shades create the character of the interior.

The owner couple, interior designer Natalia Solovey and Oleg Solovey, coordinated their different ideas in this common space. Natalia had an old dream of running a minimalist café, and Oleg was a fan of SUP surfing and wanted to promote this new sport in his hometown. This is how the White Rabbit was born, with a café in one half and a surf shop and SUP board rental in the other half. There are no doors between the two, just an asymmetrical passage made by the designer and her husband with their own hands.

The one-story building is located in Khmelnytsky, on the south bank of the Bug River, and was erected in 1964 next to the sports stadium. This is where the showers and changing rooms of the volleyball players training nearby were placed. “When I entered this building, neglected for the past twenty years, I was speechless. I hardly noticed the mold on the walls, the scattered plaster or the remnants of tiles from Soviet times, I was only interested in the beautiful brick wall and the picturesque view of the river. I saw our café so vividly in front of me that I didn’t even waste time on accurate plans and renderings, I just made a simple sketch. We made plans only for electrical networks and unique furniture. The result then looked 100% the way I first imagined,” Natalia said.

The plaster-cleaned and white-painted walls provided a flawless background for a simple and minimalist interior. The color palette of White Rabbit Surf Café carries shades of white, gray, light wood and terracotta, which also appear on ceramics and upholstery. The big bar counter, tables and seats are all made of ash wood. Almost all pieces of furniture are made individually in local workshops. There are also some pieces made by Ukrainian brands, such as the armchairs of ProPro Furniture and Slava Balbek, the white coffee table of Staritska Maysternya and the ceramic vase of Natura Ceramiš.

“A vibrant community developed around the White Rabbit. People gather for SUP, waterfront yoga, sunset, poetry evenings, chamber live music concerts, and exhibitions by young painters. In a short time, we had an impact on the city’s recreational culture and opened this part of the park and riverbank to people who had never been here before. When we organize parties, almost half the city comes,” Natalia said.

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