In most parts of the Roman Empire wealthy homeowner lived
in one story building with few windows. This was to prevent both noise coming
from the streets. Wealthy homeowners' often rented out the two front rooms of
their home to merchants if they lived on a busy streets. As you are able to see
in the diagram below a wealthy Roman Citizen lived in a large home. These homes
were separated into two parts, and linked together through the tablinum/study or
a small passageway.
The above diagram is designed after the home of Caecilius, a rich banker, who was buried along with his home in the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius. The main entrance to the house was facing the street, and consisting of a double-door. On passing through the door you would walk through a short passageway and enter into the atrium. The atrium is the most important part in the house. This is where guests were greeted and usually consisted of a small mosaic on the floor around the impluvium. The atrium was also high ceilinged and often consisted of sparse furnishings to give the effect of a lot of space. In modern architecture, an atrium is often used as a greeting center with a fountain in the middle just the same as it was during the Roman Empire. This is one of the many influences Roman Architecture had on Modern Architecture. In the center of the ceiling was a square opening which was called the compluvium. The roof was slanted slightly towards the opening so that rain water could come in. Directly below the compluvium was the the impluvium. The impluvium, often lined with marble, was a shallow rectangular pool to gather rainwater. Surrounding the atrium were arranged the the master's families main rooms, the cubiculums or bedrooms, the tablinum or study, and the triclinium or dining-room lined the atrium. Only two objects were present in the atrium of Caecilius; a small bronze box that stored precious family items and a small shrine to their household gods. This shrine was called a lararium. These shrines were used to pray to gods in the privacy of a citizens own home. In the master bedroom was a small wooden bed and couch which usually consisted of some slight padding. In each of the other bedrooms were usually just a bed. The triclinium had three couches surrounding a table. The triclinium often was similar in size to the master bedroom. The study/tablinum was used as a throughway to the second part of the house. If the master of the house was a banker or merchant the tablinum often was larger because of the more need for materials.
The back part of the house was centered around the peristylium much like the front was centered around the atrium. The peristylium was a small garden often surrounded by columns. Surrounding the peristylium were the bathrooms, kitchen and summer triclinium. The kitchen was usually a very small room with a small counter of sorts and a wood-burning stove. The wealthy had a slave who worked as a cook and spent nearly all their time in the kitchen. During a hot summer day the family ate there meals in the summer triclinium because it was warm. In ancient Rome there was no electricity and this is the reason for many of the features the buildings. Most of the light came from the cumpluvium and the no roof peristylium.