Romania: Faith in Decoration

Date of Visit: September/October 2017

Transylvania, Romania
& in Sibiu, a visit with illustrator/designer, Valentina Badeanu

While many cultures have discarded the practice, Romanians continue to include traditional decoration as an integral part of their daily lives. In homes and churches, on clothing, even in the fields—all are enhanced with decorative motifs. We found this throughout the regions of Transylvania and the Maramures, in the lovely medieval towns of Sibiu, Sighisora, Cluj-Napoca, Baia Mare and Brasov. The work is always executed with quality and knowledge of balancing numerous elements. The effect from all of this visual delight was a dream-like sense of traveling back in time. (We deliberately avoided the more sterile modern capital city of Bucharest in the neighboring region of Walachia.)
house cowDecoration is common on home exteriors, old, new and the newly red
wooden doorExtensively carved gates are a long on-going tradition for family compounds in some villages. Traditionally trained carpenters are kept busy with new orders.wood workerclothingVariations in Romanian embroidery on blouses for festive garb. (below) Metal crucifixes embellished with birds and patterns, a common sight in farm fields. crucifixchurch painted exterior
The exteriors of churches are surpassed only by the gilded and painted interiors and elaborately decorated bibles.
church interior rustic3 giospelsbooks

An Interview with Romanian Designer Valentina Badeanupretty face
So what effect does all of this decoration have on a designer who grows up surrounded by such a visual landscape? That was the question we put to young Romanian designer Valentina Badeanu, during a visit in her medieval hometown of Sibiu. She believes that one factor was her upbringing in a traditional Romanian Orthodox church where she was exposed to the frescoed and ornamented cathedral. It inspired her penchant for creating elaborate embellishment, however Valentina’s work is not in service to the church, rather it is a style highly applicable to the contemporary luxury market.

Romania orthodox churchtooltip
The interior of the Romanian Orthodox church (and detail) in Sibu. Pews are not part of the formula, here participants stand in the center for the service able to take in a 360 degree view of the art.

Other inspirations include her educational background with degrees in psychology and fashion design, but her love affair with drawing decoration and elaborate lettering dates back to her childhood. Now she applies her talents across several media, from embroidered textiles, fashion design, shoes, interior design as well as lettering and graphic design. She has built up an international clientele who have found her work on Behance and Dribble (including clients in Australia, the United States, England and Italy).

A self-trained handlettering artist influenced by Renaissance and Baroque styles. sketch project
Sketches created by hand, waiting for approval before scanning for final art.
bed monogram
A custom embroidered monogram design for a bed board.
Luxury playing cards “Absinthe” and bumble bee motif for Ellusionist,
a playing card company based in California.
The artistic process includes making a quarter drawing which can then be repeated three more times to make the full design.moet
Proposals for champagne packaging and a continuous line drawing for Chanel perfume. (lower right) A published poster for an Australian guitar company.posters
deskValentina’s office space, with inspiration from a lettering book by American designers Louise Fili and Stephen Heller.

Everything about Valentina is well curated, from her personal appearance to her home work space. Full of ideas, she exudes an enthusiasm felt by Romanian women of her generation—that is those born after the 1989 Romanian Revolution. She acknowledges that although the end to Communism had little effect on her, she knows that her parents and their contemporaries struggled to cope with their sudden freedom.

A Stark Reminder of Ceaușescu

Life in occupied Romania was not easy, especially for the heavily German population in Transylvania. The Romanian government sided with the Nazis during World War II and after the defeat of Germany, the treatment of Romanian-Germans by the Soviet occupiers was brutal. We were told that all Romanian-Germans (men between the ages of 17 and 45 and women between 18 and 30) were deported to Siberia as a prison labor force, many did not live to return. Someone told us of an uncle, who went out for bread, being swept up by the police trying to meet a quota of prisoners to deport.

After several weeks steeped in the decorative charm of the rest of Transylvania our brief encounter with Soviet-era design was all the more glaring. It happened amongst the magnificent scenery of the Transfăgărăsa highway. The highway, a vanity project by the communist ruler Ceaușescu, runs a 60-mile long tortuous path over the Fagaras Mountains. The perils of cutting a road through this terrain cost over 40 Romanian worker’s lives and millions of dollars. Blocky Soviet statues, architecture and typography were used to celebrate the dictator’s success. All ugly and showing signs of disintegration—which can’t happen fast enough.
A mountain and the Garmin decorated with the winding highway.
brutal acrhitecutre1962 1968


2 thoughts on “Romania: Faith in Decoration

  1. Nancy, thanks for sending this. Really beautiful! I’ve just been reading about the Klimpt paintings and Vienna. . .


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s