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Re-Co: living a green life in an urban space

Urban, small spaces do not always provide the opportunity to live a green life. However, the new generation of young designers and architects is coming up with seriously awesome solutions to this dilemma.


Here is the story of Livia and Matteo, participants at the Festival del Verde e del Paesaggio held in Rome in late May. The project they presented at the Festival, called Re-Co, was a small urban space, completely created with recycled and upcycled construction site debris. Eco-friendly and sleek: could it get any better?

We were truly inspired by this duo’s work and passion. We hope the interview below will make you feel the same!

And for our “home based” friends, here is the original version of the interview in Italian. Buona lettura!

1. How did your interest in the environment begin?

Livia. The environment has always been part of my life: I grew up in a nature-loving family, between Rome and Umbria. I was always surrounded by gardens, plants, flowers and trees. In fact, I owe it to my parents if I grew up to be curious enough to start studying the Earth’s natural cycles and energies. Plus, I love creating things on my own, manually, by taking things apart and putting them back together. Recycling is vital to me.

Matteo. I was born and raised in the Roman campagna (fields). My family, amongst others, raises animals and relies on agriculture to provide for the family. And, to this day, we live off of the earth and conduct a healthy lifestyle. I consider living like this a way to leave the everyday work routine behind. In fact, I decided to study interior design so as to learn to create functional, natural spaces out of the alienating modern ones that surround us.

2. How did you meet?

We met 4 years ago, at the Academy for graphic arts and interior design in Rome. Our lifestyles and ideas were very similar – highly creative and very practical. We wanted to both live an authentic life close to nature. But we felt incredibly limited by the urban situation in Rome – with its little “green” and cramped apartments. With time, though, we realized that – together – we could improve both limited urban living conditions, as well as the environment around us.

3. How did you come up with the Re-Co project presented at the Festival? 

Livia. The project actually came out of nowhere! I had just moved to a typical Roman apartment, with extremely small balconies. There, I felt the need to surround myself with all the green I possibly could, to feel more at home. Then I started producing kokedama – plants or bonsai supported by moss balls. These hang from a wall, using vertical spaces rather than horizontal ones only.

Photo credit: FDV

Matteo. When I visited Livia at her apartment, we would often make kokedamas. It really helps take the mind off of anything else. Plus, it’s a perfect solution to having plants inside the apartment in case the balcony is full! When I came across the Festival announcement one day, I immediately realized it was the perfect opportunity for us to express ourselves. To come up with something innovative to facilitate urban life.

Our ideas were inspired by Livia’s balcony. How could we create something useful and green for such a small space? And something from recycled materials to reduce expenses, too? My family also owns a furniture store, where ceramic and construction debris is often accumulated and hard to get rid of. So we decided to create practical furniture for a small space with these materials. Re-Co is, in fact, reconstruction, the coexistence of the natural and structural worlds in one, little space.

Michelle Calcatelli

Michelle Calcatelli

Hi there! My name is Michelle. I'm an American living in Italy, mom of two girls, a lover of travel, music and good food shared with loved ones. I am a freelance grant writer and a former agricultural development practitioner, having worked mostly in rural Africa for 18 years. I look forward to creating a space here - with your help - where we can exchange dreams, ideas and kindness to start shaping a better tomorrow.

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