Vermelho Melides, Alentejo, Portugal
Audacious Christian Louboutin steps off the catwalk and into hospitality to create a design sensation.
Fashion designer Christian Louboutin’s first hospitality project opened its doors to guests in April. Operated by Marugal Hotel Management, the intimate 13-room hotel is set in the village of Melides, deep in Portugal’s Alentejo region, just inland of the west coast, south of Comporta and Lisbon.
Louboutin first discovered Melides 12 years ago on his way back from hospital after cutting himself badly while sketching a new collection at his retreat in Comporta. Mesmerized by the dreamy atmosphere of Melides’ sand pine forest and the unique beauty of the sunlight on the lagoon, he decided to restore a small fisherman’s shack and has returned every June since to design his winter collection.
With a passion for arts, crafts and cultures of the world, and nurturing his curiosity by surrounding himself with artisans, artists and craftspeople, Louboutin began to imagine a hotel in Melides, which is home to a flourishing creative community. The area boasts vineyards, rice fields, white cobbled squares and endless views of the Atlantic Ocean.
The new property’s name, Vermelho, meaning red in Portuguese, is the perfect homage to Louboutin’s signature colour and the design is a tribute to the unique natural beauty and heritage of the region.
The interior is a showcase for his eclectic and maximalist aesthetic – intimate, warm and vibrant. He has personally sourced the furniture and collected the art and ceramics, incorporating and celebrating Portuguese talent and traditions.
To bring Vermelho to life, he called upon the talents of Lusitanian architect Madalena Caiado, with whom he had previously worked on his Lisbon house, as well as long-time friend Carolina Irving, who acted as an advisor on textile creations and overall decoration.
Patricia Medina, Louboutin’s friend from Seville, connects Iberian artisans with a unique and secular savoir-faire to contemporary architectural visionaries. French landscape architect Louis Benech designed the hotel’s gardens to sit comfortably within the wider landscape in seamless harmony.
“I realized many people have the fantasy of designing or owning a hotel. I like to make my dreams a reality. That is why Vermelho is born. This project allows me to empty my storage full of antiques and objects I have purchased over many years! Furthermore, it is an opportunity to show the excellence of many artists and artisans I admire,” said Louboutin.
After seeing the one-of-a-kind ceramic fountain that Giuseppe Ducrot created for Sirenuse Hotel in Positano and for La Galerie du Passage in Paris, Louboutin gave the Italian sculptor carte blanche to decorate Vermelho’s facades. Ducrot has created a gigantic bespoke décor imagined as a promenade in a baroque or renaissance garden, including elements that are integrated into the architecture itself, his frescos referencing imaginary goddesses and caryatides for a spectacular mise en scène.
Greek artist Konstantin Kakanias painted rooms on the second floor of the hotel. His friendship with Christian Louboutin has spanned several decades and places around the world. Last summer, they co-created Greekaba, a collection of bags and other accessories, inspired by and celebrating Greek civilization.
Konstantin said: “Collaborating with Christian for Vermelho is an amazing experience of learning and creating at the same time. Although his vision for the hotel is based on classical Portuguese design and rules, he is able to push the limits and break the boundaries, incorporating influences from all over the world and history. The suite that I painted for Vermelho is basically inspired by the famous Villa Kerylos in the south of France, but also pays tribute to 17th and 18th-century frescoed Italian villas and imaginary places that I would have liked to visit. Like Christian himself, it is a mosaic of memories, feelings and desires.”
Over the centuries, the glazed ceramic tilework that decorates Portuguese palaces, parks, convents and public buildings has become the most emblematic decorative element of Lusitanian identity. Fábrica de Azulejos de Azeitão continues this tradition, making clay ‘azulejos’ that are hand-painted tiles with natural dyes. Azeitão’s artisans were commissioned to create Vermelho’s red tile floor pigmentation and tile panels for the bedrooms.
A gigantic green and gold glass-blown mural-style chandelier from Klove Studio dominates the reception area. Klove uses traditional glassblowing, which supports the local artisans of India who create handmade pieces.
Throughout the hotel, a sense of the comfort, warmth and rustic cosiness of country houses permeates thanks to items selected carefully by Vida Dura. Located in Melides, Vida Dura was founded by Rui Freitas, Carolina Irving and Christian Louboutin, three friends passionate about craftsmanship and design. From tableware to lighting and flower design, it curates handmade works by local and international artisans.
Louboutin commissioned Sevillian goldsmith Villarreal to create a unique bar covered with hammered silver leaf for the hotel. It was the second time the designer has worked with them, after previously commissioning a silver-leafed palanquin for an exhibition in Paris in 2019.
Also at Vermelho, Pierre Yovanovitch has furnished the Indian lounge with his Asymmetry armchairs and sofas in a subtle gradation of powdery hues. And Louboutin worked with rattan furniture specialist Maison Gatti to design a chair for the hotel’s restaurant. Together they imagined a bespoke style for the hotel with the Vermelho chair inspired by a 19th-century design from the Maison Gatti archives. The company also experimented with new uses for its iconic canework, applying it to closet doors in some rooms and communal areas.