Text by Nino Kvirikashvili
I became once again convinced that there are houses you always miss when I visited the Inaishvili Residence in Old Batumi.
Generally, I take Old Batumi for a quintessential European city. The house at 44 Vazha-Pshavela is an inseparable part of European Batumi. On my friend’s advice—who said that honesty always works—I just dropped by uninvited at my favorite house, one constantly shrouded in mystery.
In the yard, I bumped into Madame Nana, the chief housewife around here. I explained that I wanted to write a story about the house. Nana is the Inaishvilis’ daughter-in-law. After a discussion with her daughter, Irina Inaishvili, my story was green-lighted. Irina is the house manager of sorts. Just like the house, she is beautiful.
She tells me how much she loves the house. Forget about love, she’s bound to it.
The house was built by the Armenian merchant Alikhanov in 1904. In the communist era, one Doctor Tsereteli moved here. In 1953, Irina’s grandfather bought the place. The building required renovation, which he did while keeping the original appearance at the same time. This uniqueness and original spirit is the beauty of the house.
“A terrace used to be here where we are sitting now,” Irina tells me, “and everything here, the façade and décor, is the same as when it was built.”
Irina is proud of one section that was added to the house without altering its appearance—nobody can even tell. And that’s the secret of the house, a clear demonstration how one can maintain the authenticity of unique buildings in a rapidly changing Batumi. Irina was in charge of the house’s latest renovation in 2011, though she did not change anything. She doesn’t use the air conditioner, believing that it would alter the house’s homogeneity. And she doesn’t even need one in the first place—it’s quite cool here in summer. The house is built properly, and everything here breathes, she says. Concrete is used only in the kitchen and bathrooms, everything else is built with wooden planks.The ceiling uses wooden logs, and the décor has never changed, though the paintings have faded away, with water leaking for quite some time and damaging the works. But Irina remembers how the ceiling once looked, beautiful with paintings of small teapots. A kitchen must have been here at some point.
The roofing uses Marseille tiles. The Inaishvilis have been frequently advised to change the roof because of leaking. But they never have. The tiles keep the building cooler. Irina’s father bought these tiles left after the demolition of another building. You can’t find tiles like these anymore.
“Everyone has a place where they belong. I feel I belong here. I had land in Kobuleti, but I sold it and used the money on this house. Of course, a house like this is not cheap to maintain,” the housewife says.
To me, the house’s key attraction is the china statuette of a woman peeking from the top of one of its large white ceramic-tiled fireplaces. Generally, these tall fireplaces made from white ceramic tiles lend special grandeur to the place.
Currently, the chimneys are not in use. They’re very difficult to look after. It takes a lot of firewood, then charcoal, and then you close the door, and the fireplace can keep the room warm for three days.
“As for the entrance hall, my father and I decided in favor of conservation over restoration. Just like what they do in Italy. Firstly, I think that the paintings are in good shape; secondly, I don’t think that anyone can restore these murals and do them justice,” Irina guides me through the house with angels depicted on its walls. The entrance hall is in itself a monument of cultural heritage.
I absolutely must single out the importance of the color blue in the house, not because it is my favorite, but because it enriches the place with special tranquility and comfort. Even the door handles of Irina’s room are blue—they’re made from blue crystal, to be precise. And here you can touch upon the mystery in the details.
Irina believes that every house has its own aura. I haven’t met a single person who, having once visited this house, doesn’t want to come back. Many just waltz in straight from the street—just like that!
“I always say that I’m like a snail carrying its own house on its back, and so was my father,” Irina says. “He studied in Leningrad at first and then in Tbilisi. Still, he came back here. I, too, have been all over the place, but I have always felt homesick. In fact, it is because of this house that I am here. Yes, I adore Batumi, but without the house, I would be someplace else.”
The house’s owner, probably just like anyone else, treasures privacy. Her home is her world, with the most beautiful blue door linking her to the outside world. And it is thanks to this door that many people are aware of the house. Every day, people come here to take pictures. They pose for photos, having fun and taking away their share of sweet memories. That blue door of the Inaishvili Residence is one of the major landmarks of Old Batumi.