On a quiet street under the terracotta rooftops of Silves, Portugal, a former stable has been reimagined as an eye-catching, multi-tiered contemporary home. The rebirth began as the creative vision of studioarte architect Joana Dalmau Pinto, and it has continued as a deeply personal project for its Belgian owners, artist Ingrid Van Oekelen and content marketer Hans De Loore.
The architecture speaks for itself, but what adds to the appeal of Casa Joana (as it's now known) is the art within its walls – art which, it turns out, takes both practical and decorative forms. We were delighted to discover, for example, that the graceful, handcrafted dinnerware in the kitchen was created by Ingrid, an accomplished ceramicist.
As she tells us, she has always had a passion for making something tangible out of nothing, and ceramics allow her to do exactly that. For Casa Joana, she created a collection of dishes to fit the pared-down architecture of the house. "In my work," she explains, "I am always looking for simplicity, pure lines and soft colors. Smooth or rough surfaces of unglazed clay in combination with subtle glaze, ton-sur-ton colors.
"Drinking coffee from a nice cup, aperitifs with nice bowls, oven dishes in beautiful shells, eating from fine tableware with a colorful bunch of flowers on the table was always very important to me," she adds. "Cozy dining at a beautiful and uniquely set table really makes the food taste better."
We definitely share that view, and it's this attention to detail that sets Casa Joana apart.
Moving from the sublimely practical to the purely aesthetic, we discovered that most of the paintings in the home are the work of Dutch artist Narouz Moltzer, whose work the couple stumbled upon in the shop Gosto Interiors in nearby Boliquieme.
The original piece they found remains at their house in Belgium and, as Hans tells us: "We'll cherish that there a bit longer before bringing it to Portugal!" But in the living room, you'll find a striking portrait of Vincent Van Gogh with a courtesan that echoes the artist's obsession with Japanese culture as well as his famous painting "Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear".
In one of the bedrooms, a figure holds a brightly colored bird, and high above the living room is another bird, black and white this time. Perhaps most imposing, however, is the glittering piece that sits at the top of the stairs, entitled rather fittingly "Stairway to Heaven".
Since discovering Narouz's work, Ingrid and Hans have visited him in the Netherlands and become good friends, so much so that the two artists plan to collaborate on a forthcoming project. "His paintings on my ceramics," Ingrid explains, "but it is in an early stage!" Given their diametrically opposed styles, it's an intriguing concept. But given that this combination works so well in Casa Joana, it's also an exciting one.
Find out more about the art at Casa Joana by booking a stay here. And if you find it hard to say goodbye to Ingrid's ceramics at the end of your stay, you can place an order to recreate the look and feel at home.