Baixa House Lets Travelers Be at Home in Lisbon

Baixa House Lets Travelers Be at Home in Lisbon

By Jenny Xie
Blending old and new, an 18th-century building is transformed into a bed-and-breakfast inspired by the gardens of Lisbon.

A coastal city built on seven hills, Lisbon’s charm is undeniable. Portugal’s capital is the second oldest in Europe after Athens and offers historic treasures ranging from the Moorish architecture of the Alfama district to the pastéis de Belém, a custard pastry whose recipe is known by only three people in the world. Nestled in Lisbon’s downtown, the 13 apartments of Baixa House match the city’s charisma, providing travelers a more authentic experience of living in Lisbon. Each unit takes its name from a garden in the city and features a photograph of the garden by landscape designer and building owner Jesús Martín. Vintage patio furniture, custom rugs, and traditional Portuguese touches lend each apartment a distinct personality, and the manager María Ulecia creates a home environment with daily homemade breakfasts and cleaning.

Alorna, a one-bedroom apartment, faces the south and enjoys plenty of light. The 19th-century tiles were removed and carefully cleaned before being reinstalled; they also provided the color inspiration for the Mizette Nielsen rug.

Ulecia and her staff deliver homemade breakfasts and leave a linen bag with fresh bread at the door every morning. The traditional Portuguese crockery found in each kitchen was designed by Bordalo Pinheiro and features a water lily motif.

"The idea came after my sisters—two and four kids each—complained about how much work they do on holiday," says Ulecia, "so we try to make it easy for families, friends, or solo guests."

The iconic tram 28 runs right in front of Baixa House, which is within walking distance of attractions like Praça do Comercio, Praça da Figueira, and Praça do Rossio.

After Martín purchased the 18th-century building in 2010, he reached out to Ulecia, whom he knew from her previous hospitality projects, for a proposal. Together, they developed the concept for Baixa House. Martín commissioned José Adrião Architects to conduct a renovation that would respect the building’s history. Done in the Pombaline style, which arose after the devastating earthquake of 1755, the prefabricated structure exhibits anti-seismic design with its flexible wooden frame and open, well-ventilated spaces. The bathrooms and kitchens needed the most work, but Baixa House kept its original floorboards, ceiling beams, internal and external tiles, and window frames and doors. The restoration won the 2011 Vasco Vilalva award from the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation for its achievement in preserving Portuguese heritage.

A one-bedroom apartment, Estrela features garden furniture alongside pieces from the '50s and '60s. The coffee table can be wheeled aside to allow for the sofa bed to expand.

Vintage decor characterizes each apartment. The wooden shelves are from a demolition site, and the iron brackets are from Lisbon's Feira da Ladra, a flea market.

Martín and Ulecia also recruited UGO, an interior design firm, to oversee the furnishings while Ulecia trained the staff and tended to other logistics. The firm collaborated with Mizzete Nielson of the famed Wool Factory of Alentejo to create a custom carpet for each apartment, providing a color scheme and centerpiece. "From that starting point, we all searched for vintage furniture, choosing the most original pieces we could find," says Ulecia. "The result is a bright interior design that makes the apartments really unique."

Campo Grande, a two-bedroom on the fourth floor, has a long balcony that curves around the corner of Rua dos Fanqueiros and Rua da Conceição.

"Staying in Baixa House is just like having a friend in Lisbon with a beautiful apartment." -Ulecia

"My favorite apartment is Eduardo VII," says Ulecia. "The color scheme is perfect in blue, white, and green. Also it has a little balcony facing Rua dos Fanqueiros, perfect for breakfast in the morning. The bedroom faces the back patio, so it's quiet for sleeping, and has a white wall in front of the window, which brings lots of light inside the room." 

Of the apartments, Ulecia’s favorite is Eduardo VII, a two-bedroom unit dominated by white, kelly green, and a deep cerulean blue. A wraparound balcony holds a small table and two metal chairs salvaged from the local flea market, a perfect setting to take breakfast and people-watch over Rua dos Fanqueiros. It’s experiences like this that differentiate Baixa House from other hotels. "Staying in Baixa House is just like having a friend in Lisbon with a beautiful apartment: he will meet you upon arrival with a warm welcome and lots of recommendations, mixing his experience with your personal likes," says Ulecia. "Most of our guests immediately call their apartment ‘home,’ and this is what makes us happiest."

Ultramar is the largest apartment in the building with three bedrooms and two bathrooms. The original wooden beams were left exposed and painted white, and the skylights were restored to allow for natural light.

From the main bedroom, guests can look out over the Baixa skyline, which features the Madalena church and the rooftops of Alfama and Se Cathedral.

Rates at Baixa House range from $162-$218 per night depending on length of stay. To book an apartment, visit the website.

Ulecia, pictured here with her dog Lola, strives to make Baixa House a personalized experience from the personally arranged flowers to the well-stocked kitchens in every apartment.


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