Baixa House Lets Travelers Be at Home in 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.
"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."
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.
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."
"Staying in Baixa House is just like having a friend in Lisbon with a beautiful apartment." -Ulecia
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."
Rates at Baixa House range from $162-$218 per night depending on length of stay. To book an apartment, visit the website.