Greenery Breathes Fresh Life Into a Brazilian Midcentury

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By Lucy Wang
With a budget of $50,000, a home rich in family history is treated to a bright, airy renovation for the first time since it was built.

Having served as her birthplace and childhood home where her parents and grandparents lived, the 1953 apartment that a client asked Brazilian studio Cupertino Arquitetura to renovate was steeped in family history.

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The solid timber sideboard and framed mirror had belonged to the owner’s grandmother, and are now prominently positioned in the living room.

The solid timber sideboard and framed mirror had belonged to the owner’s grandmother, and are now prominently positioned in the living room.

After she inherited the property following the death of her father, the owner sought a contemporary refresh to better accommodate her, her husband, and their young child. At the same time, she wanted to preserve important family heirlooms and references to the apartment’s past.

The original steel window frames were restored and now overlook views of a lush canopy.

The original steel window frames were restored and now overlook views of a lush canopy.

There was also the challenge of a very tight budget of approximately $50,000.

Since the apartment is located on the first level, part of the floor plan was carved out to serve as two ventilation pits for the upper-floor bathrooms and kitchens. The architects strategically decided to turn these spaces into small gardens.

Since the apartment is located on the first level, part of the floor plan was carved out to serve as two ventilation pits for the upper-floor bathrooms and kitchens. The architects strategically decided to turn these spaces into small gardens.

Undaunted, the architects rose to the challenge of renovating the Tucumã Apartment, named after the street on which it’s located.

Originally compartmentalized into eleven rooms, the 1,070-square-foot home was dramatically opened up following the teardown of multiple interior walls.

All of the electrical and hydraulic infrastructure has been reinstalled.

All of the electrical and hydraulic infrastructure has been reinstalled.

To give the updated open layout even greater access to natural light and ventilation, the architects turned two outdoor patios into a pair of glass-walled gardens that inject greenery into the heart of the home.

The third bedroom has been converted into a home office with built-in furnishings that serve as walls to divide the office from the bedrooms on either side.

The third bedroom has been converted into a home office with built-in furnishings that serve as walls to divide the office from the bedrooms on either side.

"The brief was to create a new language and transform a place full of family history for a new circle of life, a new generation," explain the architects. "We updated the layout to create more open spaces that would be better suited to contemporary living in a large city like São Paulo." 

The perimeter walls have been peeled back to expose the original brick as a reference to the building's past.

The perimeter walls have been peeled back to expose the original brick as a reference to the building's past.

Cupertino Arquitetura also oversaw the interior design and used new millwork and cabinetry as functional, space-saving room dividers.

Local artist Teo Menna designed the pattern for the bathroom cement tile. "It is an old material that refers back to the time of the construction of the building, but was used with a more contemporary language," note the architects.

Local artist Teo Menna designed the pattern for the bathroom cement tile. "It is an old material that refers back to the time of the construction of the building, but was used with a more contemporary language," note the architects.

Taking cues from the couple’s modern lifestyles, the architects have dressed the apartment in simple and contemporary furnishing, while maintaining a neutral color palette to highlight the vibrant gardens.

"Imbuia wood has a rich texture that contrasts with the floor and gives character to the surroundings," adds the firm.

"Imbuia wood has a rich texture that contrasts with the floor and gives character to the surroundings," adds the firm.

The floors are finished with resin and polyurethane paint throughout the home, including in the bathroom—a material decision the architects say "helps to visually enlarge the space and blur divisions between rooms."

A glimpse into the remodeled kitchen with Silestone countertops and backsplashes paired with cabinetry built of lacquered MDF and Imbuia wood.

A glimpse into the remodeled kitchen with Silestone countertops and backsplashes paired with cabinetry built of lacquered MDF and Imbuia wood.

An opening above the double sink frames views of the tree canopy.

An opening above the double sink frames views of the tree canopy.

Tucumã Apartment Floor Plan.

Tucumã Apartment Floor Plan.

Tucumã Apartment Demolition Plan.

Tucumã Apartment Demolition Plan.

Tucumã Apartment Original Floor Plan.

Tucumã Apartment Original Floor Plan.

Project Credits: 

Architect of Record: Cupertino Arquitetura

Interior Design/ General Contractor: Cupertino Arquitetura

Cabinetry Design: Rutra Marcenaria