The piano nobile is the principal floor of a large house, usually built in one of the styles of classical renaissance architecture. This floor contains the principal reception and bedrooms of the house.
The piano nobile is often the first or sometimes the second floor, located above an (often rusticated) ground floor containing minor rooms and service rooms. The reasons for this were so the rooms would have finer views, and more practically to avoid damp. This is especially true in Venice where the piano nobile of the many palazzi is especially obvious from the exterior by virtue of its larger windows and balconies and open loggias. Examples of this are Ca' Foscari, Ca' d'Oro and Palazzo Barbarigo.
Larger windows than those on other floors are usually the most obvious feature of the piano nobile. Often in England and Italy the piano nobile is reached by an ornate outer staircase, which negated the need for the inhabitants of this floor to enter the house by the servant's floor below. Kedleston Hall is an example of this in England, as is Villa Capra in Italy.
Most houses contained a secondary floor above the piano nobile which contained more intimate withdrawing and bedrooms for private use by the family of the house when no honoured guests were present. Above this floor would often be an attic floor containing staff bedrooms.
Secondo piano nobile: In Italy, especially in Venetian, and the larger, palazzi, the floor above the piano nobile is sometimes referred to as the "secondo piano nobile" (second principal floor), especially if the loggias and balconies reflect those below on a slightly smaller scale. In these instances, occasionally in museums etc, the principal piano nobile, is described as the "primo piano nobile" to differentiate it. These terms while often used are technically incorrect as the piano nobile always contains the grandest rooms, therefore the secondary floor by its very name cannot be as grand. This term is not used in Britain.
This arrangement of floors continued throughout Europe for as long as large houses continued to be built in the classical styles. This arrangement was designed at Buckingham Palace as recently as the mid 19th century. Holkham Hall, Osterley Park and Chiswick House are 18th century English houses which employed this design.
A grand tour: renovating the Hotel Monaco & Grand Canal in Venice, Lissoni Associati takes visitors on a journey through time.
Jun 01, 2003; For years, visitors to the Hotel. Monaco & Grand Canal enjoyed the refined ambience and proximity to Harry's Bar. They had no...
It takes two: fashion designer Gianfranco Ferre teams up with Franco Raggi Architect to outfit his Milan headquarters.
Apr 01, 2005; The relationship between Gianfranco Ferre and Franco Raggi goes back nearly four decades. They began as classmates in the late...