Alentejo Villa

WORDS Laurence Dougier and Steve Smith PRODUCTION Laurence Dougier PHOTOS Nicolas Mathéus

An ode to tropical Modernism and hidden in a lush garden, this villa in the south of Portugal allows its owners and guests to unwind in the shade of a pine forest.

Ask about Portugal’s best beaches, and most point to the southeastern tip of the Iberian Peninsula. They are, of course, talking about the famous Algarve – but if you’re ever in the area, it’s the region just above it that’s really worth a visit. It’s known as Alentejo and, far from the Algarve’s tourist

swarms, life in this land of wheatfields, cork-oak forests, wildflower meadows and white-washed villages is lived at an altogether slower pace. It’s one of the least-developed and least-populated regions in western Europe, with 100 kilometres of coastline protected by the Southwest Alentejo and Vicentine Coast Natural Park – and it’s here that the owner of this home chose to build. “It only took us three days to completely fall in love, buy a vacant sloping site with a sea view, and embark on a five-year adventure to build our dream house,” she says.

Designed by architect Pedro Reis, the pool is coated with Portuguese Atlantic Blue limestone.

Two plots (“shaped like pizza slices”, she says) open up like a funnel onto the slope of a hill. The parcel of land allowed architect Pedro Reis to design a villa with the buildings and terraces as the high point, overlooking the pool and the sea in the distance. Two bankrupt builders later, his vision of sleek minimalism slowly took shape.

The brief was to re-create a Brazilian-inspired Mid-century Modern villa – an ode to Tropical Modernism – with a large main house and an adjacent smaller house for visiting friends. The idea was a property that could accommodate 18 people in total, allowing for both a degree of independence as well as a communal gathering space at the pool and in the lush landscaped garden outlined by a pine forest.

Paying homage to the principal force behind the Tropical Modernist aesthetic, Sri Lankan architect Geoffrey Bawa, Pedro used appropriate materials in the construction of his design – concrete, bagged brick, terrazzo, and a dark natural wood known as kambala, native to the west coast of Africa. The latter has been used throughout the home in the bespoke built-in fittings.

It’s a baton picked up by interior designer Marta Mantero, who also used the wood in the wall panelling and dividers, along with rattan and other muted natural fibres. Bespoke soft fabrics and furniture, and unique pieces by contemporary designers are complemented by vintage armchairs that were sourced by Marta and the owners.

Known as Casa Fibi, it may not be a truly seaside home – the coast is part of the natural park, so no private residences are permitted – but the tranquillity this region affords more than makes up for it. Besides, a morning spent on one of the beautiful crowd-free beaches is just a short drive away.

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