Cubiculum is the new interior design studio that proposes to preserve the memories of a home. A project by Álvaro Roquette and Joana Correia
He’s an antique dealer. She’s an architect. They met a few years ago through business and developed a friendship. Joana Correia decided to set up an interior design business and invited Álvaro Roquette to help her in this new challenge. “We had already worked together and, in addition to having become friends, we also noticed that we complemented each other very well. When the idea of setting up a business of this kind came about, I thought that Álvaro would be the right man for the job. I was a little shy to begin with and I told him that I was just thinking about it, and Álvaro said: ‘Go on then, let’s talk’,” reveals Joana.
Cubiculum, the name of this project, aims to be different. More than fully decorating a house, Joana and Álvaro believe that reutilisation and restoration are the best paths to take, seeing as the priority lies in preserving the memories of the people who inhabit it. “I think that there is something novel about this project, despite this being an area with many people already working in it. This facet, of Álvaro being an antique dealer and being used to working with things that already exist, is ideal. Most interior design companies, and even most architects, like to work with what is new; that’s the trend. I have always found it very interesting to have the ability to look at an existing space, to make a story that suits the clients, and ensure that this story includes the use of things that are already part of their lives (…) Restoring can mean having everything new. An environment is entirely transformed when you restore it, from its structure to the objects it contains. Basically, it’s all about adapting the spaces to peoples’ experiences.”
Álvaro reaffirms this same idea. “We don’t have the right to arrive in the home of two people, who’ve lived together for 20 years, who have objects and memories, and suddenly force them to live in a new world with nothing to refer to. Such a scenario shouldn’t exist; it doesn’t make sense,” the antique dealer argues. His home, for example, reflects just this. “The beauty of forms is what attracts me. I’m not bothered if things are old or not […] I bring things home that inspire me, which make me dream and this is what people don’t do. They take home generic paintings, ‘so-and-so’ brand sofas. At a certain point, you go into houses and they’re all the same. And this cannot happen because there are no set formulae (…) I think that a little of the humanity of houses has been lost with this issue of minimalism. I get nervous when I go into a minimalist house.”
The psychological aspect of this project is another characteristic attracting both partners. “Sometimes we act as arbitrators of messages between people, which is very interesting. We end up being a part of that equation; we are more than the creator of the work, we are also mediators in conflicts, in messages that don’t have to be passed like that. And this almost psychological component of the project is very important (…) We pay great attention to understanding who is on the other side. What do they use, how do they use it, why do they like a given object so much, why did they choose that house. It is important for the person to take this journey with us,” says the architect. After the journey, it’s time for action. “We want to dress houses; normally, people don’t do this. More than decorating, we dress them (…) This is tailoring, in the world of interior design.”
With the aim of “giving a home to their work”, all focus is now on their showroom/ shop/studio, which opened its doors on Rua D. João V in Lisbon. The space that will feature original pieces, many of which bear their design. “They were things that were made, improved, designed to be exclusive, but this exclusiveness is only down to the hours we have spent thinking about them. They don’t have to be very expensive things (…) We focus on the use of surprising materials. What we don’t design has a plus. We take someone else’s idea, we speak with this person and we ask to change something (…) The idea is for people to find a little of our DNA here. The pieces are from this space, and you’re not going to find them anywhere else.”
Joana and Álvaro illustrate this with a piece they have already created. “We have a table, which is the simplest thing in the world, but the top is extraordinary – it is a stone, packed with fossils (…) From a client’s point of view, it is a lot easier to enter a place and understand that these possibilities exist. Which doesn’t mean that we don’t go out and buy things, or sort out other solutions. What matters is that clients understand that they are working with professionals that can push the boundaries of invention.”
There are plenty of surprises waiting in the wings of Cubiculum, the two partners reveal, many of which are to do with reinventing Portuguese arts and crafts, making use of craftsmanship and serving a contemporary purpose, they assure us. When it comes to the success of Cubiculum, Joana and Álvaro guarantee one thing: “We don’t know if there is room or not. This has never been a concern for us. What matters is that, fortunately, we still have work,” they conclude.