|Project Name||Marqí||Posted in||Hotels||Location||
86 Estrada do Rodízio
|Telephone||+351 925 219 655||[email protected]||Completed||2022|
Life has a funny way of taking you on winding paths that lead to unexpected destinations. This was the case, both figuratively and literally, for Danish photographer and former fashion brand owner Mikkel Kristensen who, while driving down the winding roads of Sintra in Portugal, an enchanting expanse of verdant hills that cascade down towards the Atlantic Ocean, came across a strange 1980s family house tucked away on a hillside. Enamoured with the property, he decided to convert it into a boutique guesthouse in line with his vision of a utopian way of living. Fast forward a couple of years and a global pandemic later, and Mikkel is now the proud owner of Marqí, a secluded oasis of nostalgic charm and familial intimacy.
Eclectically decorated with handpicked vintage finds, the retro-styled interiors ooze cool mid-century-modern and 1970s vibes that extend to the exotic gardens and leisurely pool. Add in the vintage Mercedes that chauffeurs guests to and from the airport, nearby beaches and local restaurants, the nightly cocktails in the lobby, and the funk and soul soundtrack playing on the vinyl player, it’s no wonder that Marqí, which officially opened its doors last spring, has already garnered a cult following – an achievement made all the more impressive considering its absence from any booking website.
Dotted with pastel-hued palaces, the verdant foothills of the Sintra mountains have long been a favourite destination of Portuguese royalty thanks to the cool microclimate, scenic landscape and short distance from Lisbon. For Mikkel, a keen surfer, the numerous surf spots on the Atlantic coast were also a draw; this was actually one of the reasons that he journeyed to Portugal when he decided to close his fashion brand to work on other projects. Asides from the fairy tale-like setting, there was a certain air of mystery that attracted Mikkel to Sintra. As he explains: “There are a lot of Freemason houses here and the Roman Polanski movie The Ninth Gate was filmed just around the corner”. Another factor that captivated him was Sintra’s winding roads which reminded him of Los Angeles’ Mulholland Drive which snakes its way from the Hollywood Hills, across the spine of the Santa Monica Mountains, towards the Pacific Ocean.
In a serendipitous twist of fate, the mansion that Mikkel discovered also had an Old Hollywood aura, what with its gothic-style architecture and lush, exotic garden, which explains why he chose this property for a career change. “It already had so much character and soul when I saw it”, he explains, “a coolness and realness [combined] with warmth and history”. It also offered privacy, seclusion and beautiful views of the valley and ocean, as well as proximity to a number of beautiful beaches - Praia Grande, a glorious stretch of golden sand popular with surfers, is only a 15-minute walk down the hill.
Having bought the property in the spring of 2020, just as the pandemic hit, renovating the house into a boutique hotel was challenging to say the least, both in terms of financing and sourcing. A true labour of love, Marqí, whose name draws on the words marquee and marquis (the former a nod to cinemas, the latter to the area’s royal history), was brought to life in collaboration with a few friends from Copenhagen, most notably artist and architect Mikas Emil who came to help Mikkel design the interiors and never left and is now a partner in the business, living and working here in a little bungalow/studio behind the hotel.
Part of the house’s appeal was its entertaining-friendly design, courtesy of its original owner, Fernando (Nando) Talvez, an outgoing civil-engineer who purposefully built the house in order to entertain his friends and clients on weekends when he decamped to Sintra with his wife and three daughters – he even designed a little discotheque in the basement that now serves as a secret bar, fittingly named Nando’s Place, complete with a secret door that the team added to connect it with the lobby that takes over the former living room. Another social area on the ground floor has been converted into three suites, with five additional guest rooms fitted with new marble bathrooms taking over the bedrooms on the upper floor. As far as outdoor spaces are concerned, the property’s numerous terraces, lush gardens, swimming pool and pool bar effortlessly set the stage for summer living.
With no radical interventions required, the renovation focused on interior design. “The house was very gothic when we found it so we had to tone that down, make it brighter and cleaner”, Mikkel says, which was achieved through a less-is-more approach underpinned by a muted palette of white tones with black accents. Despite the minimalist sensibility of the design, the spaces by no means lack character; some of the original details such as the wooden staircase and the weird little windows have been kept intact, while pops of colour and vintage furniture channel the cool elegance of mid-century modern and 1970s interiors in order to evoke in Mikkel’s words “a calm, Palm Springs, L.A., Ibiza feel”.
With stores closed because of the lockdowns, Mikkel and his friends took to the road with a van driving around Portugal with a van, from the Algarve in the south to Porto in the north, buying one-of-a-kind vintage furniture from private sellers, including two original Alky Chairs designed by Giancarlo Piretti in the 1970s, stopping along the way to surf. They also repurposed several pieces that had been left behind by the previous owner, most notably a lobby couch that was reupholstered in a vibrant green fabric, resulting in thoroughly eclectic and uniquely playful interiors. In combination with the exotic gardens, dreamy pool and vintage Mercedes, Marqí feels like an enchanting time capsule, an exclusive hideaway that takes guests back to a time “when life moved so new and strange and wonderful” as Mikkel says quoting Charles Bukowski to describe what it felt like to open this “strange little hotel”.