Although Chris Briffa has been living in his five-storey Valletta townhouse for some eight years, the space never stands still, instead constantly undergoing a myriad of changes, especially those needed to accommodate a growing family.
But it would be wrong to think of his place simply as a ‘house’. In 2009, when he first moved in, it could have been classified as such. However, since then, much has changed and Chris has purchased as many as five adjacent units, on either side of the original property, which have now been translated into his architecture practice as well as a soon-to-be design gallery. Each of the three distinct components have, and still are, evolving according to necessity.
The ground floor of the house constitutes the oldest part of the middle property, and as such, Chris wanted to leave it as intact as possible; this meant restoration rather than alteration. In fact, you gradually sense the ‘shift’ towards a more contemporary sensibility, once you start ascending the stairs, to the mezzanine and first floor levels. Chris explains how he wanted to do something different on each floor. Rather than adopting a formulaic approach to the whole space, he wanted to react to the dynamic of the architectural fabric, most especially, the natural light as well as the different temperature conditions. His son’s room, for example, is a small cosy space, overlooking the internal courtyard.
The second floor is a high-ceilinged space, originally made up of two distinct rooms but now an open-plan multi-functional space that’s highlighted by a number of aesthetic yet highly-functional pieces. This is the heart of the home, not just because it hosts the kitchen but because it is their ‘performance’ space, where Chris and his partner cook breakfast, lunch and dinner, where they entertain, where they relax and cosy up to the stove in winter. Besides the well-equipped vedo non vedo, kitchen, the space also doubles up as formal / informal living and sitting room, but also contains a small dining area, which is partly, yet neatly tucked into the balcony space.
The upper floors have an altogether different flavour. The top-most floor houses a gorgeous artist studio – the perfect nook and hide-out for those days of creative take-overs. This floor was an addition to the original structure; the concrete floors and ceilings being a bit of a give-away. The stone walls have, however, been cleverly re-appropriated from the sala nobile rooms on the second floor. Again flooded with gorgeous natural light, this room looks out onto the roof and terrace areas. Having previously lived in an apartment, Chris craved a good outdoor space – this was ultimately a determining factor and the quality which initially inspired him to purchase the property.
In-keeping with his reputation, the three restrooms which Chris has designed in his house, whether for guests or for personal / family-use, range from retro and whimsical, to sauna-inspired Scandinavian, or even vertigo-inducing.
The office / practice is the last piece of the puzzle – one which Chris has been painstakingly piecing together. Although there was no real intention at the time for the properties to become his new business premises, over the course of the last year Chris Briffa Architects was moved from the property on Republic Street, to St Paul’s. So far, the first floor has been completed, however, Chris already has grand projects in mind for the spaces, including a possible move of his family home to the top floors. But that’s another story altogether.