Worldly influences, color and inviting comfort define Portuguese home design.
You can invest in the world’s best contemporary home furniture, have a house of beautifully preserved furnishings from another era or even follow the interior design trends of 2022. However, it can be argued that what makes the interior design of a particular home unforgettable—and uniquely your own—are the one-of-a-kind accessories acquired and curated from years of travel.
The Portuguese have known this for centuries. As one of the leaders of maritime and commerce from the Renaissance forward, they brought their artistic and artisanal influences to Brazil, China, India and North America. Today, many of those global influences have returned to the motherland, bringing this form of eclecticism into the 21st Century.
“In Portugal, we have such wonderful and traditional pieces,” explains Joao Faria, lead of Emotional Objects. “If we think about the filigree jewelry, Bilros lace, glassware produced in Marinha Grande and the silverwork of Topazio, we realize that we have such amazing and inspiring objects. All this influence is present in our pieces, as in many other Portuguese designers, in a more or less evident way. We do not follow fashion or interior design trends; our pieces are created with the purpose of becoming future classics that will gracefully stand the test of time.”
These ideas are on full display at the family-oriented Martinhal Resorts’ luxury property in Lisbon’s Chiado neighborhood, built into a residential building constructed in 1855. Under the direction of interior designer Dagny Bain, each fully appointed suite is designed to be a home away from home.
The framework of each dwelling is made up of hardwood floors and original 19th-Century architectural flourishes. Mid-century-inspired chairs and plush, upholstered sofas add depth.
The rest of the space is filled in with lively colors, shapes, and textures sure to appeal to children and teens. Tile-patterned throw rugs and sheeps’ wool blankets—similar to those woven by heritage labels Ecolã and Loja de Burel—draped on beds and sofas provide comfy finishing touches.
Eclectic? Yes, but don’t call this kind of look “boho chic,” even with the use of ornate tiled accent walls, fabric prints inspired by nature, and subtle placements of Indian, Middle Eastern and Chinese accessories.
Margardida Costa of Trinta Design, whose home interior aesthetic leans towards clean lines and natural materials, points out that good Portuguese design is actually a well-balanced amalgam of home-grown items and things curated from abroad.
“Today, Portugal isn’t just our home; the world is our home,” she says. “That makes everything [I create as a designer] global. Portuguese pieces [furniture and accessories] and our history, by their nature, transcend boundaries. Which, in turn, allow different elements of a room to be mixed and matched in ways that suit a given space.”
At Martinhal Chiado, for example, bespoke canvases by Portuguese artists Angela Ferreira, a.k.a. Kruella d’Enfer, Ana Aragao and Ana Perez Queroga add joyful pops of color, along with framed pages from vintage comic books and the whimsical appointments of the resort’s kids’ club.
For greater personalization in older homes, some designers factor in subtle hints of baroque craftsmanship on the ceiling, wall, or a small table.
With locals referring to Portugal as the “California of Europe,” it’s not surprising that these qualities work particularly well in family homes in Arizona, New Mexico and California, imparting an elegant nonchalance that works as well in an urban setting as it does a beach house or farmhouse in the mountains. Repurposed elements such as reclaimed doors, windows, ceramics, wood pallets and other elements of sustainable decorating provide conversation-starting counterpoints to both sleek contemporary pieces and simple functional sofas rendered in chintz or velvety fabrics. For greater personalization in older homes, some designers factor in subtle hints of baroque craftsmanship on the ceiling, wall, or a small table.
Portugal-based Luísa Peixoto believes what sets Portuguese style apart from other countries’ aesthetics, and her studio in particular, is a strong passion for handcrafted work. The craft honors the integrity of natural materials used in every part of the room, whether it’s seating and larger furnishings, or the smallest accessory. Achieving a personalized look for each client is also a priority.
“Every element [of a room] created is intended to be an immersive experience for the senses,” says Peixoto.
“Every element [of a room] created is intended to be an immersive experience for the senses,” says Peixoto, who stresses that the materials used for both furnishings and accessories makes our work decidedly not “boho chic” and, therefore, something transcending trendy.
“If you take a look at our interior design projects, you can see what we have achieved for hotels in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East as well as private houses, executing our clients’ original ideas. [One-of-a-kind] looks are made up of individual items, which are designed to be timeless and elegant.”
The SAL website or its Lisbon brick-and-mortar concept store is uniquely inspirational, as it displays the atelier’s varied lines of furniture, lighting, and accessories in an organic space that could be your home. Pick the right mix of mid-century-inspired chairs in muted jewel tones, light fixtures, and art with an assist from one of the shop’s design-savvy and experienced staff members. For a more modern rustic interior design, Pura Cal is known for its tile-inspired pillow covers, restored, and repurposed pieces remade for 21st-Century tastes.
“Our ‘secret’ [of what makes us distinctive] could be the way we combine ancient handcrafted techniques with pieces with edgy design and the use of natural and traditional materials,” says Faria. Perhaps this is why a diverse group of celebrities is buying property in Portugal, from Madonna to actors John Malkovich and Michael Fassbender, and renowned shoe designer Christian Louboutin. It’s testament to why the aesthetic lends itself to a variety of tastes and lifestyle. It’s not just mixing the old with the new—it’s positively ageless!