Don’t let the name fool you, Red House, a former winery in a small village south of Lisbon that has been converted by Portuguese architects extrastudio into a family residence of contemporary minimalism, is not red. Or at least not consistently. Due to the mortar’s natural red pigment, the house’s colour changes in relation to humidity, from blush on dry summer days, to hibiscus on more humid autumnal afternoons, to black when it rains.
Built by the owners’ grandparents as a winery at the beginning of the 20th century, the house is located at the centre of the village next to a lush orchard of orange trees, whose preservation, in the hands of landscape architects Oficina dos Jardins, dictated the project’s overall design. Keeping the original structure intact meant that two of its sides that face adjacent properties would have no windows. This was counterbalanced by creating large openings on the other two facades and using white finishes, as well as mirrors, throughout the interiors in order to boost indirect day lighting.
On the ground floor, where all the communal spaces are accommodated, stretching along the entire garden-facing façade, a 14 metre long incision visually connects the living room with the orchard. Once the sliding patio doors are opened, the connection also becomes spatial, and when the orange trees blossom in May, olfactory as well. The dark tint of the panels’ glazing is picked up by the reflecting pool across the orchard, raised above the ground like an irrigation tank, whose black reflections of the sky among the vegetation mirror the black gloss of the glazing against the subdued red hues of the mortar - a lime based mortar that was purposefully developed by a local company in order to be compatible with the existing mortar surfaces and which petrifies into stone once it’s exposed to oxygen.
The upper floor where the private quarters are located was curved out in places in order to create double- and triple-height spaces that not only inject variety into the interior design but also allude to the building’s former use. Among these spaces is an external courtyard located at the “blind” corner abutting the adjacent properties, which funnels daylight into the rooms around it, as well as providing pleasant views courtesy of the planted greenery. Above the bedrooms, an open-plan attic crowns the house in text-book minimalism with an all-purpose space of pure white.
The Red House was sustainably renovated with all existing materials preserved and innovatively up cycled. Spare stone, for example, was used in the sill construction whereas timber from the roof structure ended up as an exterior circular deck — a geometrically playful companion to the rectangular pool — exemplifying how the house's Mediterranean roots have blossomed through extrastudio’s design into modernity.