Ray of Light: A Boldly Designed Dream Home in Porto
The effortlessly elegant Porto home of interior designers Jacques Bec and Artur Miranda seamlessly combines high design with laid-back everyday living.
The first time Jacques Bec and Artur Miranda visited their house in Porto, they discovered what they consider a sign of good fortune. ‘Everyone dreams of finding a four-leaf clover, and there were millions in the garden,’ recalls Artur. ‘It was like Alice in Wonderland.’ The duo, who run the locally based interior design firm Oitoemponto, had had the property on their radar for some time. Built in the late ’50s, it is located just a few blocks from the ocean and they would often drive by on their way to the beach.
‘We were always intrigued by it,’ says Jacques, ‘because it was almost hidden.’ They liked the fact that it was a single-storey structure, even if it was not particularly in their style. ‘It had pink walls covered with ivy and looked almost English,’ says Artur. Then, one day in early 2010, Jacques was passing by in his vintage Jaguar XJS cabriolet when he spotted a For Sale sign. As he recalls: ‘I slammed on the brakes, took a photo and sent it to Artur with the message, “We have to buy it!”’
The process ended up taking a little longer than they had anticipated. After the death of its former owner, the house had been inherited by five of his children and it took a year to negotiate the sale. The construction work would last a further four years. When they removed the vegetation from the exterior, they discovered problems with rising damp and it transpired that the house had been constructed directly on the earth. In order to give it foundations, they had to dig down more than a metre into the ground. Then half the roof blew off during a storm in 2011. But all this did not prevent them from celebrating their marriage in the house on 11 November of the same year. The temporary decor for the event consisted of black walls and all-red furniture. ‘It looked a little like a cabaret or a brothel,’ recalls Artur with amusement.
The couple met back in 1993 and, since joining forces, have completed numerous interior-design projects, including three Berluti boutiques in New York, Paris and London; the Quinta do Pessegueiro winery in the Douro region of Portugal; and sumptuous residences in Angola, Sao Paulo, London and on the Portuguese Algarve. Here, they totally transformed the look of the house, enlarging both windows and doorways and reducing the number of bedrooms from six to two. They also added a glazed corridor to link the kitchen to the dining room and created a carport inspired by the architecture of Palm Springs International airport in California.
The house’s two former garages became a sleek dining room clad in cashmere and iroko wood, and an extremely stylish gym. As well as the mandatory free weights and exercise ball, it includes a João Louro wall sculpture and a Hans Wegner Flag Halyard armchair. As for the garden, it was reconfigured with the aid of landscape architect Brian Skillman, with the addition of carp pools, a mirrored wall and an oversized sculpture of Bart Simpson.
Jacques and Artur opted for a limited palette, dominated by cognac and caramel tones, with a few black accents and a splash of teal in the master bedroom.
Jacques and Artur readily admit they didn’t immediately see eye to eye on the style of the interior. ‘We had quite a few arguments,’ laughs Artur. ‘We wanted to integrate far too many colours and materials.’ They ended up agreeing on a more limited palette, dominated by cognac and caramel tones, with a few black accents and a splash of teal in the master bedroom. Much of the furniture and artwork had already been accumulated over several decades: one of the Vanessa Beecroft photos in the hallway had been sitting in a crate for some 10 years and Artur had first spied the Mark Brazier-Jones chairs in a dressing room in the ’80s.
The rest of the seating runs a happy gamut of styles – a sofa and armchairs created by the 18th-century cabinetmaker Georges Jacob; a set of dining chairs by Gustav Siegel, whom Artur considers to be a forefather of the Bauhaus; and a pair of quirky chairs in the living room designed by Brazilian Modernist architect Lina Bo Bardi. The artworks include pieces by blue-chip names such as Keith Haring, Gilbert and George, and Robert Longo, as well as a photo of style maven Daphne Guinness by Mario Testino and a faceted sculpture by Xavier Veilhan, entitled ‘Sophie’, that is screwed directly into the floor. Standing guard in the living room, meanwhile, is a stuffed tiger bought at auction. ‘We fell in love with his expression,’ says Jacques. ‘In the catalogue, it said that he died in a zoo of old age.’
One the most impressive spaces is also one of the most intimate – the dressing room, with rack upon rack of meticulously arranged clothes. Both men are fashion fans, with Jacques in particular displaying a quite exuberant sense of style (he came to pick us up at the airport for this shoot dressed in a bright red cape). ‘It’s something our clients expect of us,’ he says. ‘We’re trendsetters for the home and need to adopt a similar attitude to fashion.’ Up in the attic are a further 50 linear metres of garments. ‘It’s a little crazy,’ admits Artur.
Their lives, on the contrary, have become less manic thanks to the proximity of the house to their design studio. They come home daily for lunch, which is often taken in the garden, and Artur now spends a considerable amount of time on the lemon-coloured sofa near the pool. ‘It’s quite ironic,’ says Jacques. ‘We created the most beautiful interior we could imagine, but have ended up spending most of our time outdoors.’