EARLY IN THEIR RELATIONSHIP, the architect António Falcão Costa Lopes and his wife, Filipa Fortunato, decided that opening a hotel one day might stave off empty-nest syndrome. “When we got married, over 20 years ago, we noticed that our parents were sad, even a little lonely, when we moved out,” says Fortunato, now 44, adding, half-jokingly, “We thought if we had a small hotel, and lived there, we would always have guests and wouldn’t get tired of talking only to each other.” The original plan was to sell their four-bedroom apartment in Bairro das Estacas, a Modernist complex in northern Lisbon, and build a nearby house-hotel from scratch after the last of their four children left for university, an event still 13 years off. “Then fate intervened,” says Fortunato — and now the couple is looking after children and guests both.
In 2017, Costa Lopes and his brother, Alexandre, decided to move the Lisbon office of their small Angola-based firm, Costalopes, across town, thus freeing up the 100-year-old Pombaline-style brick and limestone townhouse where Costa Lopes, 45, had worked for a decade. Located on the corner of a tree-lined avenue in the residential neighborhood of the Amoreiras, the building’s second floor was originally the home of a prominent physician whose family rented the lower level out to shops. In the postwar years, the second-floor space became a diplomatic club for the city’s growing Japanese community, and then, in the late ’60s, a stylish restaurant owned by the Portuguese singer and actress Simone de Oliveira. “There was so much light and space to play with,” says Costa Lopes. “I could see in its bones it had the capacity to be a home again.” The same day he and Alexandre made the business decision, Costa Lopes told Fortunato, who works in communications and childhood development, that the family was also moving.
Last fall, after a 14-month renovation during which the couple varnished the Empire-style staircase, sanded the original pinewood floors, reconfigured the pipes to add nine bathrooms and installed everything from picture windows to Fantini Rubinetti faucets, Casa Fortunato opened its doors. It has nine guest bedrooms, each different — one has Art Deco-leaning touches such as Jupiter 10 wallpaper covered in a Kandinsky-like print of rectangles and squares and Foscarini Filo table lamps, while another takes a more minimalist approach, with Eames desk chairs and satin brass pendant lights — plus an additional five bedrooms on the third floor, where Costa Lopes and Fortunato live with their kids and dog. Even though they have a private side entrance, the family tends to enter the building from the street like their guests, passing through the marble-floored foyer and communal living room, which is anchored by a bright scarlet floral sofa from the French set and costume designer Lucien Donnat. If they are heading out to run an errand — say, to shop at the organic market in Príncipe Real — it’s not uncommon for them to ask whomever they bump into to come along. At first, the couple’s children — Júlia, 16; Joaquim, 15; Mercês, 12; and Sofia, 5 — were skeptical of the living arrangement. Now, they do homework and take piano lessons in the hotel library. Joaquim likes to chat about his love of surfing with similarly inclined guests, while Júlia has become an unofficial concierge, recommending boutiques, walks and restaurants.
IN MANY WAYS, the property is an amalgamation of hospitality concepts: It has the warmth of a bed-and-breakfast and the polish of a hotel. But it’s also a balancing act between modern and classic design. Next to the library’s eggplant-colored Edra sofa is a 1960s-era felt-topped poker table that was once Fortunato’s grandmother’s (its surface is still marked with impressions made by long-ago gin-and-tonic glasses), while in the dining room, angular silver vases by Tia Kukas, a local jeweler and a family friend, sit atop an Eero Saarinen tulip table surrounded by eight wooden 18th-century traditional “cod fishtail” chairs. An artist and former dancer, Fortunato’s mother is responsible for the various drawings and paintings of ballet dancers throughout the house; and two guest rooms are illuminated by circular wall lamps by Foscarini Bahia that resemble U.F.O.s — Costa Lopes and Fortunato have been collecting contemporary furniture, and lighting in particular, since they first met as architecture students in the ’90s. The play of high-contrast eclecticism feels not deliberate but homey, the natural collision of two people’s aesthetics and objects. As Costa Lopes says, “It was like sorting through an attic of treasures and trying to make sense of it all for a functional, livable space.” The result, he adds, is “a living family tree in objects.”
Everywhere are discoveries: Spread between the bathroom, kitchen and dining room are about 8,000 glazed terra-cotta and cement tiles in 11 different shades (including cerulean and ocher). Some are matte cream with a painted motif of four crimson flower petals that Costa Lopes designed himself. These pieces came from a company in Montemor-o-Novo, a municipality in south-central Portugal; when Costa Lopes traveled there to place his order, he learned that the factory owner’s family has a second plant in Angola, where four generations of Costa Lopes’s own family have lived, some members working in shipbuilding. Sixty years earlier, the owner had even sold tiles to his grandfather.
Over the past few years, tourism to Lisbon, and indeed to much of Portugal, has thrived, and Casa Fortunato is one of a dozen or so small, thoughtful hotels to have opened in the country’s capital. What makes it exceptional is the fact that in addition to being present and warm, its owners also offer a glimpse of how they really live: Guests are invited to join the family for early-morning hatha yoga on the ground floor, for instance.
That communal spirit carries over to the family’s private rooms on the top floor. To make the slanted-walled space feel as roomy as possible, the couple left a long, narrow, 1,080-square-foot area, similar to those found at the center of a railroad apartment, open for cooking, dining and lounging. It’s filled with their favorite vintage Nordic furnishings: a bright orange Stacking Side chair by Verner Panton, cherry-red Solar Lounge chairs by Carlo Bartoli and half a dozen different styles of lights, including a blown Michael Anastassiades for Flos opaline glass diffuser and a glittering vintage crystal chandelier. “In our former homes, I’d be in one room and António would be watching TV in another, and then we’d all meet at the table for dinner,” says Fortunato. “Here, we feel much closer.” And while there are still plenty of family dinners, they and the kids often find themselves going downstairs to join a lively weekend brunch in the guest dining room. “We live in the whole house,” says Fortunato. “And it is always full.”
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