Brazil isn’t all about beaches and bikinis. Amid the grey bustle of São Paulo is this plant-filled apartment, designed to bring a breath of fresh air to its owner
Set amid the urban metropolis of São Paulo, this apartment has been transformed into a sun-filled green oasis
When Rafael, the owner of this apartment, asked architects Regina Strumpf and Rogério Gurgel of RSRG Arquitetos to give his home a facelift, they were charged with making it feel like a light, spacious house rather than a unit in a busy city. “The building’s structure was great, but we had a limited budget,” says Rogério. “We decided that the most important thing to do was knock down internal walls to create an airy open-plan area.”
“Once the walls were torn down, bright intense light flooded the apartment,” says Regina. “The big window in the middle of the living space is now the centrepiece, offering great views of the neighbourhood.” The free-flowing layout means the kitchen opens out onto the living area and study nook, creating a multi-purpose space, with a laundry, bathroom and bedroom behind closed doors.
In order to create the illusion that the apartment is set in lush open grounds instead of a closed-in block, Rogério wanted to pack the space with as much greenery as possible. He worked with landscape artist Daniela Ruiz to choose plants that add life and texture to the space, acting as an antidote to the city buildings that can be seen from the large windows around the apartment. “We live in a very grey city and the apartments here are getting smaller and smaller,” says Rogério. “Plants make our homes more vivid and cosy, and they reconnect us to nature.” Ivy and fiddle-leaf fig trail the walls and hang from the ceiling to give the feeling of being nestled in a private garden. Forest-green cabinetry enhances the garden theme and brings a sense of cohesion to the apartment.The emerald shade is also one of Rogério’s signature design elements. “It’s my favourite colour,” he admits. “I use it wherever I can.”
The tight budget meant some creative thinking was required when it came to the final look of each room. In the end, Regina and Rogério decided that stripping the building back to expose its bare brick walls and concrete pillars would allow the apartment to retain a sense of its history; the modern aesthetic could be achieved by furnishing it cleverly. “I always want to preserve a sense of place,” says Rogério. “I like the Brutalist feel of bare walls. As Rafael has a Baroque taste point, we decided to keep the architecture minimal so he could fill it with his personal possessions.”
In some rooms, parts of the old wall are hung on the ceiling to “suggest what the building used to look like,” says Rogério. “The parquetry floors had termites and couldn’t be salvaged so they’ve been replaced in parts by cement tiles. These contrast well with the pink and green tiles in the ensuite, which give a vintage feel.”
Throughout the apartment, there are meaningful nods to Rafael’s life. “The doors were replaced by vintage ones found in the Embu das Artes area, where Rafael’s family runs a wallpaper company,” says Regina. The decor is a mix of old and new; the iron heart-shaped chair in the entry (pictured above) and a chair with bone inlay finishing in the bedroom were gifts from his grandmother, an antique dealer. The timber-and-wicker bed is from a local flea market. Images of saints from all over the world, Brazilian artefacts and Bolivian and African sculptures are dotted around the home. These quirky touches contrast with classic design pieces such as the Objekto ‘Paulistano’ chairs in the living and dining area to make the apartment a truly unique place to live.
For more information on Regina and Rogério’s work at RSRG Arquitetos, visit rsrg.com.br.
1. Entry 2. Dining area 3. Kitchen 4. Laundry 5. Bathroom 6. Living area 7. Ensuite 8. Study nook 9. TV area 10. Master bedroom