Casa Totem by STUDIOTAMAT, Rome: Apartment with strong character

Casa Totem STUDIOTAMAT ©Serena Eller Vainicher

Do you know what your totem guide is? Is it perhaps a salmon, a hawk, a beaver or a deer? We didn’t know about ours until now, either. But since seeing the chic apartment “Casa Totem” by STUDIOTAMAT, we haven’t just wanted to know about our spirit animal, we’ve mainly wanted to go to Rome.

Hidden away in the heart of Trastevere, one of the busiest parts of the city, you’ll find the 65-square-metre Casa Totem on the first floor of a heritage-listed building. Casa Totem was designed by architecture firm STUDIOTAMAT to greet travellers longing to explore the contemporary side to Rome. The modern apartment can accommodate up to four people and comprises an entrance hall, two bedrooms, a kitchenette and a living room with versatile furniture so it can serve a variety of purposes. The original 70s wallpaper was removed to make way for the new and fresh appearance, with layers of original colours and glazes from the time coming to the surface and being exposed. At this point, the architects decided on a complementary colour scheme that would work with the existing plaster and retain the imperfections.

The challenge was to carry out a contemporary design intervention that was a continuation of the past, allowing us to maintain the historic features of the apartment and to enhance them with elements of modern architecture to create an interplay of contrasts. The result was a heterogeneous setting with a strong character,

explains Matteo Soddu, co-founder of STUDIOTAMAT.

Sculptural Volume

The entrance is dominated by a rough wall that bears scratches in the original colours and the original brick vaulted ceiling. A round burgundy metal mirror, the Glo-Ball Mini by Flos and horizontal linear light fittings are the only embellishments in this area. What’s most impressive about this apartment is the “totem”, a multifunctional and sculptural volume that rises up from the floor to the ceiling and acts as a kind of scenographic backdrop and focal point for the new room layout in the centre of the apartment.

Thanks to the totem, it was possible to create a layout that conceals the bedroom and provides a passage through to the custom-made kitchenette, illuminated by a floor-to-ceiling window. Articulated in a seemingly random way in the space, the totem screens off the bedroom from the living room and is home to all kinds of functional features, such as a wardrobe, lighting, a fridge, a wine fridge and bookshelves. A large horizontal surface made out of black painted wood provides additional seating for the dining table or serves as a chaise longue where you can read a book. The informal approach to colour is the stylistic signature of the entire pied-àterre, where warm and cool tones alternate to complement the original colours, without overpowering them.

Bold design vocabulary

The second bedroom is rather more secluded and cut off, and at first glance it seems to contrast with the rest of the apartment with its bold design vocabulary. It presents itself as an interplay between walls painted with plain colours, finely patterned fabrics and geometric materials. And this was no accident – it’s an invitation from the architects to curious guests to explore all of the spaces in the apartment. The en suite bathroom is perfectly integrated, yet partitioned off from the room by a perforated brick wall made from Mutina terracotta, which is part of the Celosia range designed by Patricia Urquiola.

It partially conceals the shower and the basin. The window over the basin looks out onto a cloister in the internal courtyard. The neighbourhood has always been home to small shops and craftspeople that have shaped the history of this area.

With its custom-made and beautifully handcrafted furnishings and lighting, Casa Totem pays homage to this neighbourhood. This new hotspot in Rome is brimming with warm hospitality, a place where you can feel at home and at the same time explore the surrounding area. A place that depicts a creative and buzzing city far removed from any clichés, yet always with careful consideration of the past.


Project name: Casa Totem (Totem House)
Location: Trastevere, Rome (Italy)
Architects: STUDIOTAMAT (Tommaso Amato, Matteo Soddu, Valentina Paiola)
Colour consultant: Sabina Guidotti
Completed: September 2021
GFA: 65 sqm (renovated)

Photos: ©Serena Eller Vainicher