This family heirloom of a home dates back to the early 20th century, featuring a myriad of styles and materials that embody the lives of the previous inhabitants. Tasked with giving the interior a much-needed facelift, Turin-based architecture and interior design firm Marcante Testa were careful to preserve its legacy, striking a delicate balance between joyful nostalgia and the functions of contemporary life.
Originally owned by Ascanio Sobrero (the inventor of nitroglycerine), today it is home to a man in his forties who re-inhabits the places of his childhood and adolescence where he once lived with his parents and grandparents. Many features – from the old wallpapers to the tiles from the 1970s, the chandeliers and the old wood panelling in the living area – have been preserved and incorporated into the project with this latest refurbishment being treated as another layer in the home’s storied past, binding them all together.
Located in the northwest Italian town of Cavallermaggiore, the explosive mixture of materials, furnishings and finishes from past eras all unify under one roof. The external entrance and staircase have been updated with a metal framework inspired by chicken coops sitting atop a brick base that takes its cue from rural buildings and barns. Leading to the first floor, the metal detailing follows into the interiors with a burnt clementine structure that weaves through the internal space, connecting elements between the various rooms and defining new furnishings and functions.
A strip of blue resin connects the kitchen, entrance and living area, and leads to the bathroom. The solid colour contrasts with the designs of the old ceramic floor tiles. Walls and fixtures, like the bathroom sink and powder room toilet seat, are colour matched enhancing the visual narrative. Original wainscotting remains, engaging with new furniture and objects while a small theatre with updated curtains playfully hides the television. The metal clementine structure plays a crucial role throughout, framing the old wallpaper; it is at once a suspended ceiling, a coffee table and a partition wall.
Marcante Testa have long desired to create an interior where elements from the past could be kept and enhanced without any judgement of their aesthetic value.
“Today, perhaps, the approach to refurbishing of homes tends all too easily to produce a tabula rasa,” explains the team. “This eliminates what exists and thus loses the chance to investigate – without prejudices or nostalgic sentiment – whether a possible added value can be derived from the presence of an echo of the lives (even unknown to us) that previously unfolded in the rooms we now want to take over.”
Bold and brave, this latest refurbishment shows that change is often good but sometimes a renaissance is even better.