How to turn an abandoned house into a children's center

At the end of last year, the old house in the Arbatskaya area found a new life. The rickety wooden mansion was repaired, the facade was painted, and children's laughter is now heard from the windows. All this is the work of Vera and Oleg Stepanov, the Moscow family and the parents of four children who last year renovated an old house in the center of Moscow, moved there and opened children's studios there.

In just a few weeks, the place, called "Living House", has grown rumors, has earned a regular audience and regularly receives offers for cooperation - from festivals, theaters and children's book publishers. Life around talked with the Stepanov family and found out how it occurred to them to create studios for children in their own home.

Oleg Stepanov

"Living house"

About the past

For a long time I worked in the book market - I opened two book networks in Moscow. My wife is a clothing designer by profession, she was a designer in a large foreign company. But such work brings little satisfaction, even if everything goes well. For example, I like to read books and read a lot, but the opening of bookstores is primarily related to the choice of real estate, construction, marketing, personnel management and product flows, and does not apply to good books.

About "living houses" in Moscow

Faith and I have always lived in the center. Like many people, during walks we paid attention to cozy or unusual houses and thought how great it would be to live there. Two years ago, we began to think seriously about this idea. Many say that living in Moscow is psychologically difficult. The reasons are called different - traffic jams, little greenery, undeveloped infrastructure, uninteresting, non-modern public spaces. Recently, a lot of this has changed for the better, but living is still difficult, psychologically uncomfortable. And so we realized that the problem was not traffic jams and disorder, but that the city was dead and mechanistic - yards and streets were dead. And above all, because there is no diverse and textured life on the first floors, which is in full swing in any old city in Europe, Asia, America. Behind the cafes, in shops and in workshops, owners and their families work, often living in the same house. Friends and neighbors come to them, residents of neighboring houses, and the owners - here they are, in front of them, are not investors who are far, far away. And this small, personal, individual, untidy business that cries, laughs, makes noise, fills any city with a psychologically comfortable atmosphere for a person. Just as trees absorb muck and fill the air with oxygen, so this business fills the city with life.

So we had the project "Living House". We thought that this could be a special program of the Moscow government: when, on a competitive basis, the city would sell / rent to people houses requiring restoration, with the condition that there new owners open a socially useful business - a private kindergarten, museum, repair shops, dry cleaners, laundries, small cafes, hostels, inexpensive hotels, shops of goods that they themselves produce. We described the project and sent it to the city hall, but did not receive a positive reaction. Then we decided to do everything on our own and found the owner of this house. We rented a building, made repairs, opened children's studios, and on weekends we organize general holidays and events - masquerades, games, performances, dinners.

The interior of the house combines antique items and Ikean furniture. On the ground floor there are two large study rooms, a dining room where parents can drink tea while waiting for the children. The family lives on the second floor, classes do not pass there. The house also has a full ground floor, there is a workshop where the hostess comes up with clothes, and the hall where the children's studios are held - they play soldiers, show physical experiments and conduct rehearsals of the musical group in which the eldest son plays.

About the idea

Why did we make children's studios? You can open a cafe, a hotel, workshops, a museum ... but the Living House is a consequence of our life, our skills, our problems and their solutions. We have four children. The eldest is 16, the rest are 4, 5 and 7 years old. And we educate them, educate them, relax with them, celebrate holidays and so on, so we have ideas about how to do this better and more interesting. I hired the eldest son from the mehmat to play with him puzzle games that I was looking for them. This develops the ability to think, and the school curriculum should be taught at school. Therefore, for the Living House I found a teacher with a whole course of such games for children of different ages. Together with friends we arranged masquerades (Vera makes up costumes and makes them in an hour from everything at hand) with thematic dinners and set sketches on holidays. And in the “Living House” we had a Georgian New Year's masquerade: all the guests were in suits - hats, cloaks, gazyrs on their jackets, - grilled kebabs, drank chacha, dressed up the Christmas tree, took pictures in a cardboard white Volga ... There were about 100 people, counting children. And our favorite family game is scrabble, and we specially collect people to play smart games.

this small personal unkempt business that cries, laughs, makes noise, fills the city with a psychologically comfortable atmosphere for a person

Today in the Living House you can enroll a child in 10 courses: Book of Fairy Tales (illustrate books), We Play Soldiers: The Story of the Great Battles, Little Artists (the History of Painting with Hands and Brushes), Everyday Astronomy (Teaching Children look at the sky) "," Animation for children: the story of do-it-yourself animation "," Real fashion designers (think of clothes) "," History of everyday life: the High Middle Ages "," Mathematics playfully "," Physics without formulas: The magic of experiment "and "Puppet Theater Workshop". For each of them there are two groups: for children under 6 years of age and schoolchildren under 12. Classes are offered to be paid for a month, since it is important for the creators that the Living House becomes for each child a club for communication rather than just a one-time experience. A subscription for four classes costs 3,800 rubles, for eight (or four, but for two children) - 6,080 rubles, and for 12 - 7,980 rubles. Those who want to engage more often or less often have to agree individually. Now 30 people are enrolled in the courses.

Teachers and Learning

Often with children they are "engaged in creativity" and "develop imagination." We do not like these two words - “creativity” and “fantasy”. These vague words cover up the emptiness and poor quality of classes. We believe that it is necessary to develop a child through involvement in processes - thinking, crafts, games.

For example, physics is the knowledge of how the world works, and the beginning of knowledge is surprise. And a physics course without formulas is based on the fact that specially invented experiments based on various physical phenomena amaze the imagination of children. And then they are happy to participate in the discussion process: how, what, why?

Or - a story. History in textbooks is a grid of dates and events, filled with ideology, depending on time and country, it is different, but always dull and boring. Any ideology is primitive and boring. Children cannot be carried away by this: they do not understand the benefits of having an idea about the arrow of time and disputes about who Ivan the Terrible was — a great politician or a nutcase on the throne. And a real interest in history is the charm of the mystery of a lost, otherwise gone. People of the past wore different clothes, ate different food, they had a different daily routine, a different house, life ... Therefore, we give the child a naked character doll, and he dresses her, builds her a house, prepares food - everything is in accordance with the small details collected by specialists in the studied period and place.

Courses related not with knowledge but with skills are also built in such a way as to captivate the child. For example, on animation, we do not shoot a cartoon in one or two lessons, but repeat the techniques that arose in the history of animation. We go through the history of animation with our own hands. Vera herself leads the studio "Real Fashion Designers". Girls come up with dresses, take measurements, make patterns and sew - and first for the doll, then for themselves, and then for mom.

Games are also very important for the development of the child, through them there is a comprehension of the environment, self-awareness, the formation of a personality built into society. In "Living House" there is a course "We play soldiers: the history of the great battles." Soldiers are such an original boyish game. You need to see the eyes of the boys when they examine the uniform of soldiers, weapons, understand the purpose of different types of infantry and cavalry, build order, think through tactics and strategy, try to win. This is the formation of the skills necessary for a man. Or the so-called role-playing games - the language does not dare to call what we played in the yard all our childhood: Indians, bank robberies, rivalries of all kinds of clans. Now there are no yards, and children often play one on one with a computer. This is not that. Indeed, in these yard games, the ability to come up with a plot, and to quickly respond to changing situations, and the ability to collaborate / compete, and the ability to recognize the role and follow it develops. And how many emotions - laughter, screaming, and how much movement and, in the end, happiness in the eyes of all children!

Pupils and their parents

We do not refuse anyone in the classroom, we have no entrance exams. The audience comes in different, but for the most part they are pleasant "well-developed" people who want to develop their children as well. And the children themselves are very curious, lively, hooligan. But if they are busy with business, then they immediately calm down, concentrate, are carried away by the subject. Some teachers say, "Five, seven years is very little!" - but then they start to deal with them and understand that there are different children. I was recently a seven-year-old boy, the son of Boris Akimov from Lavkalavka, beat chess here. I can’t say that I play terribly: not at all professional, and not even an amateur, but I can. Moreover, I sat and thought about each move for 10 minutes, and in two seconds he rearranged the figure and ran away to play with the guys.

Often come interesting, nice people. For example, there came a family of Muscovites who left Moscow to live in a hut with stove heating, about 80 kilometers along the Novorizhskoe highway. They brought in a farm - animals - but they don’t cut it, but for the sake of milk, eggs and children for fun. Moreover, her husband, a top manager in a large company, daily goes to work in Moscow, getting up at 4 in the morning! Returns back at 4-5 pm ... Very collected, thinking, open people, it was nice to communicate with them.


Residents of surrounding houses, of course, are interested in what is happening here. They come, get acquainted. Once a beautiful woman came with her son, drank tea with us, we chatted, then called to visit us. It turned out that she is a successful interior designer, and she has half of one of the neighboring houses in the possession - you go into the porch and put on slippers.

with small need
mostly play, and our “serious” afternoon activities are here

Just the other day an elderly man came, our eldest son came out to open the gate to him. He came and said: "There grandfather came with one rose, he says, brought in memory of the long-dead mistress of this house." We decided that this is one of the city madmen, which happens to drop in to us. But the man came into the house - we look, a handsome, very elderly man, they offered him tea. He told us about the story of our house. Very beautiful old man, spoke a good old intelligent language. We had a very nice evening.

About plans for the future

Firstly, we launch the brand of children's clothing "EYUA". Vera came up with her for a long time and sewed off the sample dresses. But all hands did not reach, was engaged in the "adult" brand VeraOlshwang. Now the showroom is in the house, and there are so many children around that they decided, everything is time. Already received patterns for all ages.

In addition, we are going to launch a group for three to four year olds and a group for five to six year old for half a day - from 10 to 14 hours. Very parents asked: "We want to give the children half a day to the wonderful atmosphere of the Living House and go about their business." But with the little ones you have to play mainly, and our “serious” activities in the afternoon are not suitable here. Now we have found wonderful guys and let's go with them to study folklore games for kids in the Centralized Learning Center (Center for Clinical Pedagogy. - Approx. Ed.). It seems to us that this is a wonderful basis for kids to spend time - both fun and correctly shape the psyche, because people have been playing since ancient times, following subconsciously established plots, we can say, in the process of realizing our separation from the natural world, identifying ourselves as members of society.

Well, dreams. They even thought of releasing a children's magazine, books, and maybe launching a portal. Moreover, this topic is born in conversations with parents who are waiting for children in our living room. And not just what, let’s run it. No, designers, poets, journalists, artists - fathers and mothers of children involved in our studio - say: "Let's do it together!" Although, it must be borne in mind that attempts to make children's magazines and portals were made more than once, and by very talented people. For some reason, everyone failed. Need to try?!

Photos: Varya Lozenko, Living House / Facebook

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