Predating the Roman Empire by at least four centuries, the old city of Lisbon is riddled with history: a borough of cobblestone paths and castles once trodden by aristocrats and conquerors of the first global empire. The sight of azulejos (tiles) on the alleyways is reminiscent of the trade port’s Moorish guests; juxtaposed with the graffiti lining the streets that lead to the museums of contemporary art collected from all over the world, the Portuguese capital commands dizzying attention from both tourists and its inhabitants alike.
Yet, Portugal is also about the seaside lifestyle. On the envious coastlines of Cascais and Costa da Caparica, drawing salty breaths of the Atlantic Ocean breeze are pleasures that transcend the centuries. It is here—just outside of Lisbon—that three generations of a family have chosen to build, from the ground up, an expansive white villa set in contrast to the lush nature of the courtyard that surrounds it. While estates and mansions of old are commonplace in the city, the natural landscape also inspires new architecture for familial abodes. Who could resist? Indeed, this family has made a permanent dwelling to favour the matriarch’s love for art and gathering; the adult sons’ leisure and interests; and the grandchildren’s entertainment amidst a wealth of sun and sea.
Built from scratch, there was no single approach to its decoration—a task undertaken by the design firm, Saaranha & Vasconcelos (SA&V). Taking into account the owners’ particularity for refinement, comfort, and sophistication, the result was, as in most SA&V projects, an inspiring collaboration that mixed both techniques and eras. Infusing the voluminous structure with modern art set side by side with bold geometric revivals, the rooms of the home are both functional and aesthetic, with the main floors of the three-storey villa connected by a gallery.
Entrance to the main hall opens up to floors in white Sivec, Portoro, Royal Gold, and Rouge Langdoc. From the ceiling hangs a Portuguese lantern in bronze. From the onset, there is a dominant art deco feel combined with contemporary and period styles.
A bright and spatial living room with floors in sucupira (Brazilian wild walnut) wood features two seating areas that open up to the dining room and breakfast room. In a base of ivory tones, it is punctuated with notes in black and orange that create a chic and relaxing atmosphere. In the background, a sideboard in chinoiserie flanked by a pair of Portuguese chairs from the 18th century adorns the area. An ornate fireplace is complemented by a diptych by Fernando Daza to the left and a mixed technique piece by Peter Zimmerman to the right. The matriarch’s private collection that fills the space encompasses a sculpture in marble by Susana Miranda, a bubble lamp by Tom Dixon, oil on screen by Joaquim Rodrigo on the walls, and even a 19th-century French commode.
The parlour boasts a space that sees many guests on occasion and a common area to host the clan on a day to day. That is, when the brood is not outdoors. As though the surrounding greenery and nearby coast were not enough, a panoramic swimming pool in pelletised Bisazza of shades of blue and travertine flooring sweeps across the spacious lawn. It lays out, in itself, a signature of the owners’ fancies: an arrangement featuring a fountain based on abraded stainless steel and ball in Murano glass atop the pool, enhancing the relaxing topography with furnishings of Manutti lounges. It is almost unimaginable that most of family time is not spent out here.
The dining room invites more interaction. Amidst the glass, bronze, and white, an elaborate setting awaits. The entrance is bordered by a pair of Portuguese D. Maria credenzas carved in fine gold from the 18th-century style, on top of which hang Pedro Calapez oils entitled, Off Limits. It seems it is not much since the eight-person seating conjures images of lively dinner parties that spill unto the salon. It is the breakfast room that creates more the atmosphere of intimacy. The enclave is surrounded by windows that bring in light. The dome and walls are painted in fresh green tones, offering a quiet space for more intimate family meals.
In contrast, the games and cinema room is animated. The tomato tones contrast with a base of black and white, almost cowhide-like patterns on the floor. Even the billiards table cannot escape the ripe red colour motif to indulge the grandchildren’s preferences. Dark wood and walls lined with paper connote the space might double as an extension of a bar, a man cave in the villa dominated by the matriarch’s more feminine touch.
To further explicate the distinction in each room’s interiors, the bedroom suites embody the different characters that inhabit them. The mast er’s bedroom is not unlike most of the house. The bed and headboard structure are in ivory leather. SA&V lays a bedspread by Isabel Lara in piqué and embroidered linen with the client’s monogram. A chandelier in white Murano glass with abat jours (lampshades) in white silk hangs fr om the ceiling, while the walls, lined with silk taupe paper, make the room easy on the eyes. Of course, an English breakfast table from the 18th-century finds itself in this space. The gilded walnut wood topped with black marble marquina is decorated with table lamps from Flos. The bedroom also features a fireplace, and over it hangs an oil on canvas in acrylic box by Pires Vieira.
In an effort to implicate ornate personal history into the interiors and architecture, the villa is evidently a pastiche of the generations that reside in it. SA&V has ensured the floors are classic to complement the numerous murals around the home, most of which are modern with a touch of irreverence. Ultimately, in mixing designer pieces and contemporary art with antiques from various eras and the ingenious blending of textures, materials, and colours, SA&V has achieved the desired result as dreamed by the owners of the estate.
Photography by M Garrida