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This Florentine Bookstore Is Renewed With A Welcoming Expansion

Deferrari + Modesti renovates the Brac Bookstore into a cozy, enchanting and diversified space


Just a stone's throw away from the Piazza Della Signoria and the Uffizzi Gallery, and hidden among the many courtyards of the city of Florence's historic center, the Brac Bookstore is renovated by Deferrari + Modesti, led by architects Javier Deferrari and Lavinia Modesti.  They expanded the original core of the "bookstore with a kitchen," which they had originally worked on in 2009, and again in 2016.  Armed with good doses of courage, hope and optimism,  Sacha Sandri Olmo (a cook specializing in vegetarian and vegan cuisine) and Melisa Di Nardo (a bibliophile and librarian) embarked on the  idea of a renovation and expansion with their initial thoughts taking shape during the quieting down of the city center in the thick of the COVID-19 lockdowns.  


Now, the Brac Bookstore is renewed as a cozy, untold place of enchantment, a refuge for many who seek the company of books, desiring to get lost in the worlds that are hidden in volumes dedicated to photography, film, art, architecture, design, graphic novels and illustration.  Within its shelves are a good amount of representation by established publishers and small, boutique ones as well.  



This latest recent intervention reuses and renovates the premises adjacent to the existing bookstore, defined by large rooms with arches and barrel-vaulted ceilings and traditional Tuscan finishes, such as brick vaults and terracotta floors. It is an interior space belonging to the historical fabric of the city of Florence, organized into three major rooms. Each of these possesses different sizes, shapes and heights, which become references for the new system of furniture and scenography. The project builds precisely on the constraints of the space and then turns them into assets, working on specific set-ups and using a variety of devices and configurations. The sequence of the three main rooms is thus reorganized and rethought as part of one large interior, punctuated by rooms each characterized by a specific atmosphere.


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Each room is occupied by a variety of furniture elements, custom designed by the architects, with different finishes, volumes and geometries. In fact, the project exploits the capacity for furniture to act as a spatial device, a tool for orienting the actions of the public and the rhythms of the their activities. The architects’ intervention is based on the desire to recompose the interior space and then break it down into a variety of functions and relationships. Thus, the furniture performs different tasks: work surface, book display, seat, container, scenography, filter.


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The color palette, already present in the first project for Brac, is revived and enhanced with bright color accents. New materials are added with the new intervention; from natural multilayer wood to painted panels, from lanolin-painted boards to painted OSB (oriented strand board) surfaces. The project also uses wood as cladding for the volumes that conceal service spaces. These become elements to emphasize the proportions and heights of the rooms, as in the case of the light wood volume behind the bar counter, which takes the greatest height of the space.


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The sequence of rooms is delineated and punctuated by carpets, which in their shapes seek both to connect the various spaces and to highlight differences between areas. The carpets all have the same texture, but come in different shades; they are made of PVC, easily washable, yet their texture conveys a cozy feeling. Various lounges are distributed in the rooms, with different types of seating, for reading a book, conversing or simply hanging out.


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The new intervention also had to deal with the scarcity of natural light, which filters into the space through the only street facing window and the two apertures to the inner courtyard. As a result, the new rooms are illuminated through unobtrusive technical fixtures and more decorative lighting, warm and punctual, inserted into the various reading and seating areas. The two pendant lamps are iconic objects, which characterize the counter area and the communal study area.


The entire lighting system gives the rooms a cozy and informal atmosphere with a contemporary feel. The project places the public at its center through the warm and open dimension of the new interiors, where time seems to dilate and reading, fine dining and contemporary arts find space.


Brac Bookstore is a 3-minute walk away from Museo Galileo. Visit Libreria Brac at Via dei Vagellai, 18/R, 50122 Firenze FI, Italy, or at https://www.libreriabrac.net/.