Private House - Rome - Roma

When smaller… is bigger

Architect Gaia Solustri has remodelled her home on the edge of Rome's Trastevere district, enlarging the perception of space using visually appealing bookcases
Riccardo Bianchi
Gaia Solustri
Ceramic surfaces
Alfani Ceramiche
Year of completion

On entering, one immediately wonders: just how big is this house? The answer is 80 square metres, a mere 80 square metres. And yet the space seems boundless, it captures and draws you in while seeming to expand outwards through the windows that offer an unusual view of the Trastevere area, up towards the slopes of the Gianicolo hill. The creator of this form of interior design wizardry in a sober building from the fifties is Gaia Solustri (, a Rome-based architect who is also a renowned creative and theatre stage designer. She is in fact highly experienced in working with small spaces, which have fascinated her ever since she first tackled the theme of the “minimal cell” at university. She enlarges the perception of space through solutions inspired by the theatre and painting, creating a kind of conceptual pathway that continually offers points of interest and curiosity. “In this case there was added motivation,” she explains. “Because it is my own home, more than on other occasions I had to take account of fragments of history, of long-cherished dreams, of family furniture, of objects and furnishings that I had personally designed, of artworks by friends, of lasting and fleeting passions, of the thousands of ideas that crowd into my head and urge to be put into practice. For this reason the house had to be able to accommodate everything and its opposite: a place where objects and furniture with different histories, styles and emotional content could sit side by side in harmony and which at the same time was open to future changes.” This led to the decision to demolish the whole of the existing interior and create an open space that would be as flexible as possible, punctuated by “interrupted” elements that would allow light, air and the gaze to flow freely but which as a whole would capture attention due to their aesthetic appeal. To achieve this result, Gaia Solustri resorted to one of her stocks-in-trade, theatre-style bookcases used as furnishing elements.
“They serve as partitions that flexibly define functional areas while deceiving the eye with the same magic that is used in the theatre,” she explains. “They consist of plasterboard uprights and large shelves constructed with asymmetries and plays of perspective that enhance spatial perception. But as they are gradually filled with books and mementos, they form abstract and variegated fields of colour that are creatively juxtaposed with pieces of twentieth century style furniture that I am particularly fond of.”
So how important is colour exactly? “When working with small spaces it is absolutely essential. The choice of one colour rather than another entirely changes the mood of the house, the way it is perceived and experienced. It is not possible to tone it down, to dilute its effects. This time, after much study and thought, I arrived at the colour green: aggressive yet restful, in harmony with the outside vegetation. And, as I discovered, very fashionable. Another aspect I like to focus on is that of light. I enjoy combining spot with diffused lighting, an approach that reflects my theatrical background.” Continuing with the theatrical metaphor, we come to the “stage”, or in this case the floor. Gaia Solustri was guided by two criteria: continuity and neutrality. “First of all, I decided to avoid parquet, which would have been too expressive, too much the focus of attention,” she explains. “Instead, I opted for plain coloured large-format ceramic tiles, a dark uniform backdrop that would enhance the green colour: a platform to complement the furnishing function of the bookcases but above all a palette on which to place the most diverse elements, whose colour intensity would reflect the distance between them while at the same time underscoring their presence. The “Tinte Unite” collection from Coem, a porcelain tile with a metallic sheen, was the perfect solution to my aesthetic requirements.”

Ceramic surfaces
Ceramiche Coem, T.U. Series
porcelain stoneware
natural/rectified cold black
60x60 cm

Ceramica Catalano
Lavabo Zero 50, by Ceramica Catalano

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