It was while strolling through the storied streets of Rome that the architect Maria Stefania Biondo dalla Casapiccola and her partner spotted a sign advertising an apartment in the historical Palazzo Scapucci. The stuff of legend, the palace, dating back to the 1500s, was the perfect canvas for the couple to unleash their creativity – even if it did, as Maria is happy to admit, ‘require a lot of imagination.’
Located on the building’s top floor, sitting alongside the mysterious Tower of the Monkey – named after a folk story about a nobleman’s child who was taken from its crib by a family pet and saved from being thrown from the roof – the apartment was a labyrinth of previous architectural interventions.
Maria’s task was to redistribute spaces in a functional way and return original elements to their former glory, but also to add something more intangible; an element more poetic than practical.
The surprises she’s created are delightful, from a small cloakroom disguised behind a wall of mirrors to the main bedroom’s entrance that involves stepping through a hidden door in the kitchen cabinets.
Some are less theatrical, intended to allow a fuller appreciation of this home’s history and location. The bespoke curved sofa in the living room, for instance, was created to perfectly position those sat on it to drink in the view of St Peter’s roof (Maria’s dachshunds India and Maya certainly appreciate the vantage point).
It is this same room that became a canvas for the artist Malù dalla Piccola during the renovation process. Part demolition job, part performance piece, her work titled Damnatio Memoriae displays the layers of the past found in this home’s walls and has become a fitting backdrop in a household that values wabi-sabi principles.
‘I was inspired by the Japanese view that there’s beauty in imperfection,’ explains Maria. ‘I appreciate simplicity and accept the transient nature of everything.’
Against the peeled-back plaster and the palace’s original wooden trusses and beams, the couple’s collection of art (mostly works by female artists) and iconic design pieces really shines. There’s a chair by Gio Ponti, a coffee table by Angelo Mangiarotti and, throughout, a bold selection of fabrics by the likes of Manuel Canovas and Dedar.
The more luxurious qualities of this home reach their pinnacle in the main bedroom. Here, you are met by a vast space with an adjoining bathroom and a dramatic spiral staircase that ascends to the terrace above, offering views across the rooftops of Rome. It is a room both restful and stimulating; ‘a place,’ adds Maria, with a smile, ‘where you feel as though you’re away on holiday.’
Looking back on her original aim to ‘sculpt the house of her dreams’, it’s evident that her mission is complete. This house is, she says, ‘a personal refuge for regeneration and a welcoming space to be shared with friends.’