In Rome, the Carriero Sansoni architecture studio has reconfigured the spaces of a large living area, transforming it into a modular environment, full of surprises with a 'see-through' effect

How to furnish a living room when there is so much space that it becomes disorienting during the organization phase?

The studio Carriero Sansoni Architetti in Rome also started from this question to reformulate the environments - including the generous living area and part of the sleeping area - of a large apartment in the center of the capital.

The owner family needed to adapt the domestic space to evolving life: a new child, two little ones who require additional space and a significant number of musical instruments to be valorised.

In fact, the couple's family nucleus is varied: in addition to the children, music (listened to and played) plays a fundamental emotional role, so much so that they bring with them a considerable quantity of 'trade' pieces which, having a large home, they deserve to enjoy one (or more!) dedicated space.

This last factor decisively oriented the project, becoming its identifying element, so much so that the architects renamed the apartment: Casa Per Musicisti.

Above all, the design logic with which the spaces have been remodeled is interesting: in the center of the living room, for example, a system of metal frames has been positioned able to create new areas, built around the different activities and needs. It is a large iron and wood machine designed by the architects, which gives rise to a central island that configures autonomous areas, always leaving physical and visual permeability.

We interviewed the Carriero Sansoni studio to find out more about the delicious logics.

What was the initial request?

Carriero Sansoni Architetti: "The initial requests were of a dual nature: on the one hand functional and on the other, in a certain sense, for display.

The main need was to adapt the house for the arrival of the third child, dedicating the existing sleeping area to the children and creating a new bedroom with bathroom for the parents.

A second functional need was to make the most of the living room space, which was very large but undervalued, and to solve storage problems, especially as regards the large number of books collected.

Finally, the most suggestive request for us was the need to place and enhance the numerous musical instruments, from the smallest to the most demanding, such as the large harp which has found its place at the top of the entrance path".

Did you design the metallic systems? How did you think of them?

Carriero Sansoni Architetti: "All the metal elements and carpentry - i.e. the wooden volumes and shelves placed in the metal structure - were designed by us, both in two-dimensional detail and three-dimensionally.

We followed the construction and coordinated the work, managing the collaboration between the blacksmith and the carpenter. The equipment is made up of iron frames and wooden infill panels: the two elements were made in the workshops of the respective craftsmen at different times, so one of our fundamental tasks was the design and control of all the construction nodes, preventing any overlapping problems .

The design of these systems has followed some objectives, which are very important to us: finding a unitary figurativeness and aesthetics, which would make the new intervention clearly read in relation to the existing space; develop a system that could work both hanging as wall equipment or isolated, as a sort of space furniture; designing a resistant structure in terms of capacity but also slender, which therefore guaranteed, when placed in the center of the living room, good visual permeability so as not to clearly separate the spaces, and at the same time offered the right flexibility to be articulated in full and empty; outline a 'widespread' system throughout the living area, and not a sum of isolated and disjointed elements, also capable of accommodating and integrating the more traditional furnishings already in place owned by the clients or purchased ad hoc for the project, such as the large sofa that is integrated into the new equipped wall".

What was the role of musical instruments in the development of the project?

Carriero Sansoni Architetti: "Musical instruments and devices for reproducing music from various periods, from the stereo system to the ancient gramophone, immediately appeared to us as objects with an exceptional character and in many cases we designed the new structure on them.

Sometimes their size has oriented the design of the niches and shelves, helping to lighten the metal structure, thus obtaining a location that has highlighted them, like the old music box on the equipped wall in the dining area ; in other cases they have become real focal points, like the harp at the entrance. For this great musical instrument - perhaps the most characteristic of the collection - we have designed a metal pedestal, designed dedicated lighting and created a colored background as if it were a frame.

We chose an unusual location for the harp, i.e. the transition point between the entrance and the living room: in this way it became the point of view from which you can enjoy the view as soon as you cross the threshold of the home, and a fulcrum for the transition between the two environments. We wanted to transform the obvious difficulty of placing such a large element into an opportunity for the project, exploiting its exceptional aesthetic qualities to give character to an otherwise easy-to-pass point.

It was also complex to manage the other great musical instrument, the piano, not only due to its size but also due to its uncertain fate. The eventuality hypothesized by the clients to move the piano elsewhere in the future, has set us the challenge of designing a space that currently welcomes it but that can easily be reconverted to a new function: the large equipment that at the moment embraces it, it may in the future be integrated with new seats, which will play with the chaise longue we have already created, going to define a small conversation area".

What is the advantage of living in a modular space, but without walls?

Carriero Sansoni Architetti: "In our projects we always try to reflect and work on the theme of the ambit, or a space within space, designed for a micro-function specific , such as to accommodate an equally specific need of the client.

In fact, we believe that the interior design can act on the hierarchical relationships between the rooms of the house, strengthening them but also, if necessary, resetting them, working on the articulation of the space and on those elements that make it possible to read more functional areas in a unitary environment.

For example, we traditionally feel the need to define the living room space using a carpet. This simple element is capable of emphasizing the delimitation of the space for staying and conversing: it strengthens the environment. We think that an interior design has many tools, far more complex but also far more effective, to be put to use in designing areas and therefore responding to the many needs of those who live in a space.

In the musicians' house, overcoming the concept of the wall as a clear physical division by opening up to the various possible declinations of permeability and shielding, chosen from time to time according to the specific needs of the clients, allows the space to be enriched and articulated , insert visual goals that cross the entire living room, make the totality of the space perceived and control the degree of intimacy.

Can the concept of permeability be applied in an existing apartment?

You can work on the visual permeability gradient between the different environments, reflecting on what it is necessary to shield and where instead you can insert a communication element: even just a beam of light, or an element that cannot be approaches the wall but detaches, it can change the perception of a space.

In our case, in the center of the living room we needed to insert a multifunctional system that was a container but also a place for various activities, and that was also an element of separation and at the same time of mediation with the dining area.

Hence the idea of the equipped island: an element with opaque curtain walls where it is necessary to screen, contain or where specific functions are activated such as the smart working station or the reading station, and instead completely open in the upper parts and detached from the perimeter walls so as to allow the entire space to continue to be read.

The structure finds points of contact with the ceiling and walls so that it still reads as an element connected to the environment and not as isolated furniture, as well as solving the need for electrical wiring.

How did you work on the dialogue between new spaces, light and color palette?

Carriero Sansoni Architetti: "From the very first visit, the great brightness of the house seemed to us to be its most interesting feature. Perceiving the natural light that floods the living room space in a very lively way immediately convinced us of the need not to divide the space and therefore to add a functional nucleus, which was 'other' than the dining area and living room and which helped in the demarcation of these two areas, but guaranteeing the reading of the entire spatiality and above all letting the light circulate fluidly inside.

It is precisely this great luminosity that led us to the choice of obtaining the new bedroom in the entrance area of the house, thus leaving the living room space intact.

The color palette is an element that is chosen together with the client: we believe that our task is to suggest shades and above all the right degree of color saturation, but always listening to the preferences of those who will then live in the house. Specifically in this project, given the richness of the elements present, it seemed important to us to establish chromatic homogeneity, albeit with the right exceptions.

To underline the design choices, the artificial light brings out the system of equipment through LED strips which provide a diffused light, and with punctual elements which backlight the plates designed by us, as exceptional points of contact between structure and walls".

So light was a determining element for the entire project?

Carriero Sansoni Architetti: "Yes, and speaking of light and visual permeability: we are very keen to underline how windows establish the relationship between inside and outside and contact with the suggestion of natural light. We have designed two equipped windows, the one in the living room integrated into the system that contains the TV and that of the entrance.

In these places, in different ways and with different intimacies, an individual place has been created to enter into direct and personal contact with the outside world. For example, sitting on the bench at the entrance enclosed in a niche generated by the new equipment, you get an unexpected diagonal view of the corridor.

From here we discover a view of an important historic villa in front of the building, establishing a direct relationship that only those sitting in this area can reach, and all enhanced by sunlight.

Finally, to underline these two exceptional places and their close relationship with natural light, the backrest of the two seats is covered with a mix of white tiles with a matte, smooth and iridescent finish which changes effect as the light conditions vary, generating a mutable vibration throughout the day, always giving different colors".

A large living room is the dream of many. Is there a 'too much' that equals too little functionality?

Carriero Sansoni Architetti: "We are of the opinion that the architect must always be able to read the opportunities that arise from the limits and seize the opportunities, therefore often the smallest spaces are a great stimulus for us. However, space is always a great opportunity, a great value, but the interior design must know how to apply it to whoever will then live there.

We are of the opinion that true luxury is not necessarily large spaces, but rather a space that knows how to accommodate the needs of those who live there, creating a dedicated area for each of them, a comfortable niche.

Another important objective of the project should be to be able to articulate the space in order to obtain a richness and mutability of situations, including perceptive ones, but safeguarding the value that derives from perceiving the totality of a large, continuous and unitary space.

In our project we have tried to merge all these aspects: we continue to perceive a large living area, but without losing the opportunity to generate new functional areas, which are intimate and distinct but also interconnected".

3 tips to optimize a large space

Carriero Sansoni Architetti: "Certainly the first advice is to articulate the space without forgetting that the ceiling, or rather the height of the various areas of a single space, plays a very important role in their perception: compressions and dilatation in height, can delimit in a virtual but very effective way various areas of the same large room, and help to establish a hierarchy between the areas.

A second piece of advice is not to stop at the idea of the traditional wall as the only instrument for spatial delimitation. If you want to keep a large space large, this doesn't mean that there aren't tools available to screen areas: filters with varying degrees of visual permeability or even ad hoc designed furnishings can effectively characterize and define the different areas.

Finally, the apparently obvious but not obvious third tip is to take advantage of all the space available: choosing furnishings that can be placed freely in the space, such as sofas with movable cushions or double-sided container elements, can generate interactions unexpected among the various areas of a large space, multiplying its functionality.

In the same sense, choosing objects capable of acting as visual attractors, of catalyzing attention and activating paths in space, makes it possible to enrich and characterize the various areas of a large space".