A former farm turns boutique art retreat in rural Alentejo

A former farm turns boutique art retreat in rural Alentejo

Portugal’s rural Alentejo region, best known for its wide plains punctuated with whitewashed medieval hilltop towns and olive groves, is now home to a unique, art-filled boutique hotel, Dá Licenca.

It comes courtesy of Victor Borges and Franck Laigneau, who met 12 years ago in Paris, where Borges worked as director of textiles and silk at Hermès, and Laigneau as a gallerist. The pair came across the site, a cluster of 19th-century former agricultural buildings, while searching for a holiday home in Borges’ native Portugal.

Arriving as the fierce Alentejano sun set on the surrounding cork, fig and olive trees, they fell in love with the place. No matter that it was too big for a simple private retreat; the couple decided to up sticks, abandoning their Parisian existence in order to bring the buildings back to life.

Once the farm owned by nuns from a nearby convent and later used by an olive oil cooperative, the buildings were transformed and extended by local architects Procale. The main house now contains three guest rooms, while the nearby outbuildings have been turned into five spacious suites, two of them with private pools. A series of terraces and two further swimming pools complete the project, and offer prime spots for stargazing on dark Alentejo nights.

Borges and Laigneau designed the interiors themselves, complementing the dark granite floors with limewashed walls and hand-carved basins made of the local pale pink marble. Laigneau’s extensive collection of art and furniture, mostly drawn from the Scandinavian Jugendstil and Rudolf Steiner’s Anthroposophic movements, is dotted throughout the hotel and showcased in the former olive mill, which is set to open as a restaurant in spring next year. The eclectic selection includes pieces such as an antique Norwegian wooden cupboard sculpted in bas-relief by Lars Kinsarvik, a metal sculpture by contemporary Portuguese artist Rui Chafes, and a Steiner-influenced table by Hans Itel. §

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