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A Small (but Growing) Apartment Inspired by a Favorite Novel

Lots of people get lost in novels; architect Mariana de Delás’s client wanted to curl up and live in her favorite book. Italo Calvino’s The Baron in the Trees is a fable about an 18th century young baron who breaks away from his restricted life by climbing into the tree canopy and leading a rich arboreal existence. Mariana, who runs her own multidisciplinary studio in Madrid, Barcelona, and Majorca, gamely did a deep read and dubbed the project House for Cosimo Piovasco after the novel’s main character.

Her client, she tells us, is an artist who runs an emerging gallery in Madrid, and her small one-bedroom apartment is in a 1940s four-story building near the city’s famed Rastro flea market. As an ode to Calvino, Mariana and her team removed internal partitions and in the exposed roof inserted an industrial treehouse-like mezzanine that turned the cramped setup into a duplex. The design works as an art piece, an architectural interpretation of the book, a space enhancer, and a hideaway. Come see.

Photography by Miguel de Guzman and Rocio Romero of Imagen Subliminal, courtesy of Mariana de Delás.

Architect Mariana de Delás-designed Madrid apartment known as The House for Cosimo Piovasco.
Above: The mezzanine rises above the living room and kitchen and lends the space an urban cabin feel. The sofa, bookshelves, and stair, among other things, were designed by Mariana’s studio and built, she explains, “using square and circular section tubular bars welded and painted by the steel shop on the street level below. All serve as a way to experiment with metal and its off-cuts, and the maximization of the space.”
Kitchen in architect Mariana de Delás-designed Madrid apartment, a project known as The House for Cosimo Piovasco.
Above: The room formerly had a dropped ceiling that hid a ventilation cavity. The custom kitchen is built from red plywood: “it comes already stained—it took us a while to find and we are super happy with it,” says Mariana. The perforated overhead panel now covers the air unit.

The art throughout is from the owner’s gallery, Cinco Tejas.

Kitchen in architect Mariana de Delás-designed Madrid apartment, a project known as The House for Cosimo Piovasco.
Above: The faucet is Ikea’s Bosjön, available in the US only in a stainless finish. Open shelving next to the sink holds spices and condiments, but just about all else is hidden inside the cabinets. The bar pulls are lacquered wooden dowels, and the window frames were built by a local carpenter.
Gangway/mezzanine in architect Mariana de Delás-designed Madrid apartment, a project known as The House for Cosimo Piovasco.
Above: “To keep his books, Cosimo constructed a kind of hanging bookcase, sheltered as best he could from rain and nibbling mouths,” Mariana quotes from the novel, noting that the overhead platform of painted metal can be seen as metaphoric branches. The mezzanine holds a study area overlooking the main quarters and there’s bedroom tucked in the back.

The floating panel of orange Plexiglas “lets the skylights shine through the surface and doubles as a lamp that floods the space with a warm orange light at night.”

Living room in architect Mariana de Delás-designed Madrid apartment, a project known as The House for Cosimo Piovasco.
Above: The ceiling is faced with cork panels “to provide insulation for a short period of time.” Mariana describes the setup as “ongrowing”: the plan is for an additional floor to be added to the space as soon as permitting is granted, “to keep on growing vertically; to keep on gathering light, to keep on looking from above.”

The additional floor will contain an additional bedroom with a living area and terrace, and the existing kitchen will expand.

Living room in architect Mariana de Delás-designed Madrid apartment, a project known as The House for Cosimo Piovasco.
Above: A balcony with sliding glass doors opens up the space. The yellow metal fan is a design by Mariana and architect Marcos Duffo: “we currently make them on request and are looking for someone to produce them.” The red plastic table lamp and its companion hanging light in the kitchen are street market finds from a trip to Hong Kong.
Living area in architect Mariana de Delás-designed Madrid apartment, a project known as The House for Cosimo Piovasco.
Above: The numbered chairs were purchased at a thrift store in the neighborhood.
Stair to mezzanine in architect Mariana de Delás-designed Madrid apartment, a project known as The House for Cosimo Piovasco.
Above: The “hanging staircase” is accessed via a built-in cabinet that doubles as a landing.
Tiled bathroom in architect Mariana de Delás-designed Madrid apartment, a project known as The House for Cosimo Piovasco.
Above: The greenery continues in the bathroom courtesy of a gridwork of tiles.
Loft bedroom in architect Mariana de Delás-designed Madrid apartment, a project known as The House for Cosimo Piovasco.
Above: The loft bedroom. “From the tree Cosimo looked at the world; everything seen from up there was different…” Mariana quotes from Calvino.
Floor plan Mariana de Delas design, House for Cosimo Piovasco, Madrid
Above: The downstairs is rendered in yellow and the upstairs canopy in green.

Here’s another high-concept remodel by Mariana de Delás:

Shed Chic: An Off-the-Grid Hut Transformed into a Dream Retreat

More small apartment inspiration:

N.B.: This post was first published on Remodelista on Sept. 12, 2022.

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