Space is the new luxury, that’s been our motto,’ says Gail Curley, owner and designer of Palácio Principe Real boutique hotel in Lisbon, Portugal.
Gail and her husband, Miles, already owned several apartments across the city when, four years ago, they came across this 19th-century property, which spans 25,000 square feet.
And while they weren’t planning on investing in another property at the time, they fell in love with its architecture and decided to restore it and turn it into a 28-bed hotel.
Once the necessary planning permissions were approved, Gail set about designing each of the rooms, and the couple visited a furniture fair in Valencia for inspiration and to meet suppliers. ‘It was a very organic process, which was a real treat,’ says Gail. ‘Many of the people I met came from family-run businesses, so were able to recommend others to us that they knew and trusted.’
The master suite is particularly striking. ‘The space used to be a ballroom where lots of parties were once held,’ explains Gail, ‘and we wanted to bring it back to its former glory.’
Modern features, such as air-conditioning, heated flooring and a powerful shower, were installed to add to the sense of luxury, and a divide to hide the shower and toilet was added for privacy, while keeping the space open plan.
Ensuring the décor sympathetic to the original features of the building was important to the couple, so a greyscale floor – against pale peach walls – was applied to reflect the ceiling’s black detailing. ‘We opted for Pele de Tigre, which is a local Portuguese stone that has distinctly dark veining,’ explains Gail.
A freestanding cast-iron bath was a must-have in the scheme, with plenty of space surrounding it so that guests would feel relaxed in the light and airy room.‘We could have made this into three or four standard-sized rooms, but we wanted to maintain the spaciousness people would have had when this was a family home.’
The master suite has a calm and elegant feel to it, with light flooding through large windows from both sides. ‘The window nearest to the shower overlooks the beautifully landscaped gardens,’ says Gail. ‘It really is a serene place to be.’
A labour of love, after several years of renovating and decorating, the hotel is set to open in late May.
Q&A with Miles and Gail Curley, owners
How did you plan the layout? It was always our intention to maintain the original features of the house, so we had to work around them. We wanted to create a feature of the bath, which is placed in the middle of the room where a piano used to be. We raised the floor in the bathroom to add heated flooring, which also helps to distinguish the area from the bedroom. The shower and toilet are hidden for privacy.
Where did you draw inspiration from? Over the years we’ve lived in Madrid, Singapore, London and now Lisbon, and we’ve tried to bring what we feel is the best from each place. I don’t believe you can beat the bathrooms in Britain, so that’s why we went to Drummonds. All of our bed linen, furniture, wardrobes and stone has been sourced locally from various specialists in Portugal. And we learned about service from our experiences in Asia: you are well looked after there and that’s what we aspire to achieve.
Any challenges along the way? It took time to get all the planning permission we needed, and there were restrictions we needed to work around. For example, the ceilings are so high that we were unable to put pipework up the walls, so all of the water, electrics and air-conditioning systems had to come up through the floor.