My Houzz: A Light-filled Live-work Space in a Former Factory
A design duo have cleverly magicked a beautiful home and an inspiring studio out of one empty factory building
Who lives here? Andrea Trimarchi and Simone Farresin, founders of Studio Formafantasma
Location Amsterdam, the Netherlands
Size About 1,615 sq ft (150 sq m); on the ground floor is a large open space and a kitchen; a living room and a bedroom are on a mezzanine; and there is a 325 sq ft (30 sq m) extension in the garden, which serves as a modelling room
Photos by Anna Giulia Gregori
One of the leading names in Italian design, Studio Formafantasma is known for its tireless dedication to translating contemporary needs and tensions into iconic projects for museums and collectors. Andrea Trimarchi (born in 1983) and Simone Farresin (born in 1980) have created a distinctive and deeply personal design culture characterised by in-depth anthropological analysis and experimentation with materials.
Some Formafantasma designs are visible on the topmost bookcase shelf in this photo. From the left: the Sponge Stool from the Craftica series (2012); the Botanica I vase from the Botanica collection (2011); and Bladder Water Containers, also from the Craftica series (2012).
During the day, this spacious workshop is flooded with light from a skylight and large windows, creating a welcoming environment for the owners and their collaborators. In the evening, it transforms into a more intimate space, especially in the two first-floor rooms.
It’s the combination of prototypes, works by anonymous designers, and iconic pieces that give this understated house character. The result is a laid-back space in which handmade craftsmanship coexists with industrially produced items.
We asked Simone Farresin about how the designers live and furnish their workshop home, and how this space reflects Formafantasma’s work and philosophy.
Lamp, vintage. Sofa, Cassina.
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After many years in Eindhoven [in the south of the country], where we studied at the Design Academy Eindhoven – and where we now teach – we wanted to move to a larger city. Amsterdam was the natural choice.
However, it’s very hard to find a home here. Little housing is available and tourism makes many of the downtown areas less appealing to live in. We were lucky. We came across an online ad for a workshop in the Vogelbuurt district, in northern Amsterdam, which is rented out exclusively to artists. This area is close to downtown, but is not yet frequented by tourists.
We fell in love with this place on our first and only visit. Initially, we only wanted to use it as a workshop, but we had a hard time finding a house to move into, and we realised the space could easily suit both functions.
In the foreground on the left is Wolffish Stool from the Craftica collection (2012). In the background is Plastic Armchair RAR by Charles and Ray Eames for Vitra and, on the wall to the right, WireRing by Formafantasma for Flos (2017).
I agree. Often, it’s not easy to design for yourself, no matter what you’re designing. But the flexibility of this place has made life easier, because the large, open room and the two levels make it possible to segment and organise the space.
Also, a lot of objects that are part of our archives and work tools have come together in this house. They found their places spontaneously and the whole process evolved naturally.
On the right, in front of the kitchen, is the 1892 stool from Formafantasma’s De Natura Fossilium series.
We work six days a week, one of which is without our collaborators, so work is a significant part of our lives and routine. You need rules to manage this balance – ours is that we never work in the evening.
At the same time, the structure of the two-storey house helps create separation. We work in the large space downstairs, while the sleeping area, which is divided into a bedroom and a living room, is on the first floor.
There’s also another element that reinforces this division: by adjusting the lights, you can partition the space with cones of shadow and dark areas.
Table: 1123 xF by Enzo Mari, from “Autoprogettazione?” (1974)
We were sure we didn’t want an overly designed home, the typical house that looks as if it was designed by an architect, but doesn’t really make for comfortable living.
We also believe such houses don’t correspond to the kind of design we’re trying to develop. Our design approach inevitably starts with discussing ideas and a working process that leads to a final result that’s unexpected, often unwanted and something we didn’t even know we were looking for.
However, I’m not sure this house necessarily reflects our concept of design. In recent months, we’ve been working on an interior design project for a private residence, and what’s coming to life certainly differs from what you see in our home.
The idea of a house as a ‘statement’ isn’t something we hold to. We have no prejudices as to which kinds of objects are acceptable and which are not. There are industrial metal bookcases within our décor that we like because they fit their functions perfectly.
Furthermore, we don’t have works of art or special pieces on display. In addition to our prototypes and objects of study, many of the things scattered around the house come from our travels around the world; each tells a story about an experience we like reliving.
We’ve picked up many pieces at flea markets over the years – there are lots of them in the Netherlands, and you can get fantastic deals there.
We also have some pieces from Ikea, some tables by Enzo Mari that we built ourselves – the models of “Autoprogettazione?” from 1974 – and, among the chairs, we have some iconic pieces by Vitra and a new edition by Jean Prouvé.
Shop furniture on Houzz.
Andrea is from Sicily, and this land inspired some of our work [Moulding Tradition from 2010, which responds to the tradition of “Teste di Moro” ceramic heads].
However, we believe the Sicily of today reflects the great tension that animates the contemporary world more generally. It’s an archaic place where peasant culture has almost disappeared and where craftsmanship involves many interesting elements, but doesn’t always succeed in renewing itself, because it often remains bound to the tourist market.
Furthermore, the presence of the almost exclusively heavy industry and the fact that it’s a first-reception destination for migrants make it a symbol, a paradigm on which one should reflect. We believe designers should consider these things, as they have always been interpreters of the social and cultural dynamics of their time.
Wirering was a project that required a particularly long incubation and research period. We wanted to come up with an LED light analogous to a light bulb with a cord. We believe that, as designers, we have the responsibility, especially if we work in an industrial context, to bring onto the market objects that embody a long-lasting aspiration.
This is why Wirering is a deliberately neutral object with a really simple shape, which conceals, however, the hard engineering work that stands behind it, making the piece a technically advanced project.
As for light inside our home, the open space is always bright thanks to the skylight, so during the day we don’t need to use artificial lighting. In general, we prefer having many different sources of light, so we can adjust the lighting to our needs and mood.
We really like plants and enjoy taking care of them. They’re a living element that shows how much care people take of the environment they live in. For a guest that walks through the doorway, plants are indicative of how well the residents can take care of not only the space, but also people.
What do you think of this live-work space? Share your thoughts in the Comments section.