Interiorssneak peeks

sneak peek: frederic coustols

by Amy Azzarito

Photographer Sivan Askayo is a freelance travel photojournalist based in New York City. (She has a great blog here.) This June, she was in Lisbon, on the hunt for the two most important things for a modern traveler: a bathroom and a WiFi connection. She stumbled into the Belmont Coffee Club, and while checking her email, she chatted with the friendly staff and the cafe owner, Frederic Coustols. One thing led to another, and Sivan found herself touring the Palacio Belmonte. Lucky for us, she brought her camera. If you aren’t planning a trip to Portugal any time soon, that may change after seeing this peek. Even if you don’t live in a palace, the colors, the simplicity of the furniture and the layering of textiles could be translated into almost any space. I know I’m inspired by that perfect blue. Thank you, Frederic! And thank you, Sivan, for the lovely photographs! — Amy Azzarito

Image above: The blue painting is by my wife, Maria Mendonca, while she was in China. The table under the painting is from an antique dealer in Monsaraz, Portugal, one of the most beautiful villages in the world. It’s from the 17th century, and I chose it for its simple, elegant lines that pair perfectly with the white lime-washed walls. The carpet is a 50-year-old kilim rug.

Image above: At the Belmonte, any room, any terrace or any tiny space in the garden can be transformed into the perfect spot for breakfast, lunch or dinner. The choice depends on one’s mood, the air, the colors, the views. If you’re in the mood for a noble setting, you might choose this room with its 25-foot-high ceilings, huge double white doors and magnificent views of the old city and the sea. The azulejos panels date to 1725 and are signed by one of the best Portuguese masters of the time, Manuel dos Santos.

See more of Frederic’s Portugal palace after the jump . . .

Image above: When we furnish a space, we try to use true Portuguese materials, furniture and colors.

Image above: We named this suite Ricardo Reis, the name of one of the 17 Fernando Pessoa (the great Portuguese poet) heteronyms. This yellow room is the suite’s sitting room, and the cameo portraits are figures of one of the Marquis and Marchionness of Belmonte. The floor was designed using jacaranda wood in the traditional pattern.

Image above: This room is so special, we won’t define it here. You have to come visit us.

Image above: The writing desk is from a 19th century Portuguese ship and has many secret drawers.

Image above: The frescos are so fresh that nobody could believe they were covered by 20 layers of paint and had been discovered by the electricians while digging to hide their tubes. Imagine discovering frescos beginning in the 19th century on the wall of your bedroom! Wouldn’t you jump to the ceiling?

Image above: Details are essentials.

Image above: Sometimes the best design comes from being able to mix complementary colors. Simple to say, but not so simple to do.

Image above: The view in this photo is part of the view you have from each room in the Palacio, from each of the seven terraces. It’s the view over the old city of Lisbon and the Straw Sea with light always changing, fresh air, and birds singing.

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  • Wow, Lovely and elegant, not overly designed which lets the original structure shine through.

  • what a delight for the eye! you made us homesick…..my husband, toni pais (cacais/estoril born) are longing to return…….

  • How kind this gentleman was to share his home of unusual beauty to be seen and photographed. How fortunate we can see it here. Thank you. ~Sparky

  • How great to see a traditional space that is grounded in its location, that doesn’t try too hard to be something other than it is. This is so natural, airy and homey. That’s hard to pull off in a place with 25 foot ceilings. Love it.

  • No offense my comment reflects my taste but the white table cloths and bed covers made it look sterile to me. Otherwise I liked it. That was the only thing I’d want to change.

  • AAAAAAAAaaaahhh! That home! The history, the warmth, the views…and the chandeliers! The red ones over the grand dining room…and my faves: the blue wall…hum…would they be called chandeliers or sconces? I’d kill for one of those…or two.

  • So cool, and so different from the usual sneak peeks. Very refreshing. I can almost smell this place – does that make sense? I don’t know why!

  • This one was so much fun to read! Especially the caption about the frescos and jumping up to the ceiling. He clearly has a deep love connection with this home.

  • i just shared this with my portuguese husband…..SIMPLY SMASHING!

    P.S. did you happen to play futbal on fishermans’ or conceicao beach (cacais)
    during the 1960’s and 1970’s? we live in the states….we are yearning for portugal.

  • So many of the creative inspirations in my life have been older people – so nice to see this breath of fresh air, and to be inspired anew. Down to earth and to the moon (those frescoes!) all at once. Incidentally, would anyone be able to say what is the aqua floor covering/treatment?

  • Gorgeous, magical, European, and simply amazing!! Now I’m dreaming of Europe, and the colors, and the culture and the illuminating people.

  • The colors and use of textiles are inspiring. I’ve really enjoyed looking at this and reading the descriptions, and have bookmarked it for future reference. I usually abhor chandeliers and sconces, but the ones in this palace are breathtaking. Can anyone enlighten me as to their origin?

  • What a wonderful job you did! I lived in Lisboa in the Barrio Alto and in Castelo da Vide. I appreciate how you kept the beauty of house. I love Portugal. I was fortunate that my dear friend, an Eca Queiroz, showed me around.

  • I think I’ll stay here the next time I’m in Portugal, and not with my inlaws. The colors, the lighting, the details, all are gorgeous.

  • There are countless interiors like this all over Lisbon, although sadly neglected and in a very poor state. The baroque aesthetic of the blue-and-white tiles is not to everyone’s taste but most people end up gaining a new appreciation for it in the city. It’s quite a unique feature of Lisbon and found everywhere from ordinary façades to church and palace interiors. A good guidebook points out the most noteworthy ones but the best part is discovering them on your own.

  • Oh dear…..what a magical place!

    So fresh and lovely, I can fairly sense that gentle breeze meandering its way through the rooms, ruffling the white linen here and there….

    Absolutely stunning place. And I love that he simply could not describe one room, and refused to ‘define’ it with words.

    Yes, I’d love to visit a place where words are just not enough.

    Thank you for this delicious peek ~


  • What a great post! This interior is so inspiring and colourful. Nice to see some variety in the sneak peeks, there should be more posts like this!

  • My heart literally started racing as I scrolled through this home tour…and then the balcony shot just put me over the edge. So beautiful.

  • Than you everyone for the great comments. Palacio Belmonte is indeed, one of the most veiled secrets in Lisbon. I’m glad I had the opportunity to walk through its halls and catch a piece of history of Lisbon. When looking at these pictures I sometimes think it was all just a dream, a beautiful one.

  • My husband and I stayed here on our honeymoon to Lisbon… it truly feels like you’re staying in someone’s amazing home rather than a hotel. What a wonderful surprise trip through the memories. It’s a very special place.

  • Lisbon still seems somehow unspoiled–such a beautiful, evocative city. Great photographs–love the perspectives!

  • We were in Lisbon last month, and I have to agree with John in Lisbon, a lot of the buildings and interiors we saw all over Portugal looked neglected and in a terrible state. It’s refreshing to see something so beautiful. Wish we could have toured the palace ourselves. It’s funny because we have countless photos like the one in this Sneak Peek with the view where Portugal just looks gorgeous, but when you look up close (especially in Porto) everything looks abandoned and decaying. Hope there’s a revival soon. It’s a country with a lot of potential.

  • lovely, thank you. will be returning to Lisbon (and Malaga, Tangier, La Coruna, Palma, Cartagena & Valencia) soon, any new Portuguese or Spanish city guides in the offing?

  • The furnishings are not exactly my style, but this is easily one of the best spaces I’ve ever seen. There is a design lesson in every shot. The play of colors is incredible. Nothing is understated, yet nothing is overdone, and so every element shines on its own. This palace is poetry and is itself a destination. Too bad it’s way out of my price range :-) I’m glad to have learned about Monsaraz, though. I’ll make sure to visit it if ever I’m in Portugal.

  • From Lisbon to the world. This is what we have to offer, great light and color.
    Lovely home. Thanks for these photos.

  • Without doubt one of the most beautiful and serene homes I have seen. Thank you for the visit.