Welcome to my home!
It is not unusual—in the country where I grew up—to take off your shoes after you enter the house.
If you take 1 step forward, you will find yourself in the small hallway. Immediately in front of you, you can see through to the living room, and the balcony with a view of the city and green hills. On the wall between the door in front of you that leads to the living room, and the door on your left that leads to the kitchen, is a mirror. It has been there for as long as I remember. When I was a teenager I used to step up on the bench across from the mirror—it was the only way to see how the outfit I chose for the night looked on me.
On your right is the bathroom with bathtub, washing machine and toilet. It is quite small. The cold white halogen light is stark and annoying, as it has always been. Under this light you can see even the tiniest flaw on your face. It used to make me feel insecure. If I am honest, it still can.
This is probably your first visit to my apartment. Please take 3 more steps forward to enter the living room. We—my family and I—often enjoyed reorganising this space. The couch on your right side was usually there, but sometimes we would move it on the left side close to the wall, so you could see it when you enter the apartment. The walls were covered with paintings, and even though I knew all of them, I would examine each painting over and over looking for the details I missed before. Some of the paintings needed new frames and we took them off the walls. The wall on the left side has a wide “gap” that leads to the dining room. The shorter part of this wall which is closer to the balcony (right in front of you) has a small dent you can still feel if you run your fingers over the corner of the wall. I know it’s hardly possible, but I think it has been there from the moment I hit my head when I was four or five years old and fractured my eye-socket. I was playing with my baby brother, and I slipped from a small round chair, hurting both of us. I still have a scar above my right eye.
If you take 4 more steps forward, you will get to the balcony door and window, which are almost the entire length of the wall. Take 3 longer steps, and you will be outside, against the non-ornamental balustrade. On your right side is the hill, littered with two and three-story houses some of which have an unfinished façade ( here to see video). If you look straight forward you can see the city centre in the distance, with the famous hotel “Zlatibor” also known as “Sivonja” designed in brutalist style by Svetlana Kana Radević (an architect from Montenegro) in 1981. A few tall apartment buildings stand in red brick, alongside those cast in grey concrete during Tito’s time. Beyond that, a glimpse of “Stari Grad” built between 12th and 13th century. From the centre to the far left of the cityscape is “Zabučje”, a hill overgrown mostly with evergreen trees, and with dozens of scattered houses. When I think about this balcony, I always picture my father looking in the distance while smoking a cigarette.
If you go back inside the apartment (4 steps), and take 2 steps on your right, you will find yourself in a dining room. For some reason, instead of the living room, this was the space filled with indoor plants. On your right side is one large window, and one smaller. The view is almost the same as the one from the balcony ( here to see the view). It’s been almost two decades since I had breakfast at the table watching bombs aiming to destroy communication relay on “Zabučje”. The flattened line of the right side of the hill still reminds me of that time.
The wall on your left side has a pantry door at the corner with the front wall. Filled with shelves from the floor to ceiling, the pantry is so small, but that didn’t stop my brother and me hiding behind the door while being in danger of getting hit directly in the head if someone opened it.
In the middle of the left wall is a gap for the kitchen door, but the door was never there. You can walk through it by turning on your left and taking 3-4 steps. This space is quite narrow with a stove and oven, working surface and the freezer on your left, a fridge, small working surface and a sink on your right. As a teenager I would just walk through the kitchen or grab a glass of water, or sometimes make a sandwich, while my younger brother was making amazing cakes just to avoid doing his homework.
When you take another 3 steps you will find yourself in the hallway again. If you want to leave, just turn left, take 2 steps, turn right at the entrance door and take another step.
However, if you wish to see the rest of my apartment turn on your right and take 2 steps to enter an even smaller hallway that leads to two bedrooms and small toilet. As an architect I have a strange relationship with toilets and bathrooms—during my studies, fitting these spaces into a designing plan of any kind of building, was a real problem. But real toilets were also spaces of discovery where “eureka” happened all the time. It probably sounds awkward, but this tiny toilet on your right side was a special space for me—I’ve read so many books in there; and in one moment I even turned it into a dark room where I developed black and white photographs and films.
In front of you is the door that leads into the room where my brother and I grew up. It went through many changes over the years—in one moment it was divided by furniture into two “rooms” to create private space for both of us. If you take 3 steps forward, you will find yourself in my brother’s “room” where many fights and arguments happened. Another 3 steps in front of you is a big window with a view to the forest across the street and this apartment building. It gets beautiful, especially in winter time, with the first snow ( here to see the view), and in springtime when it grows fresh new leaves. If you turn on your right, taking 4 steps you will find yourself in what used to be my room. In 2 more steps you get to the window that also looks over the city and “Zabučje”. The closest building you see is where I spent almost every day over the course of last three years of my high school, drawing, painting and getting ready for the architecture entrance exam ( here to see the view). I was sitting at my desk right here where you are standing, trying to do homework while waiting for the lights to turn on so I could join my friends. There used to be a storage box for the bedding on the right side of the desk, which I used to keep all of my drawings.
There is only one room left for you to visit—it was my parents’ bedroom until my father passed away last year. Just take 4 steps back, turn left and walk another 5 steps until you find yourself in the hallway again, and then take 2-3 steps on your right.
This room holds many memories, both happy and painful—from the early childhood when I enjoyed jumping on the bed that was in the middle of the room and opposite the windows, because it was the best one in the house to do jumping on, to the more recent times when I spent two months in this room with my mother on her deathbed. It feels strange to find my brother’s clothes in the closet behind the door instead of my mother’s and father’s.
This is the first time this room has lot of light. It has been always dark even though it gets lot of morning sun—big wardrobe that you can see across where you stand used to be close to the wall on your right covering half of the bigger window and making a big shadow in the space. On your right side, 6 steps further, you can see the same windows as those in the dining room, but the view is completely different ( here to see the view). You can see only forest, and if you bring your face really close to the window and look on your right side you can also see parts of the buildings from this neighbourhood.
If you wish you can spend more time here, in my apartment, exploring the space. If not, just take 6 steps back, until you get to the door, turn left and take 2 steps, turn right and take another 5 steps to the first hallway. You can see yourself in the mirror on your left side. Take another step forward, turn on your right and take another step, until you find yourself outside of the apartment.
I hope you have enjoyed this visit!
Thank you for being my guest! Come again!