This Moody Boutique Hotel in Porto Highlights a Global Palette of Materials
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This Moody Boutique Hotel in Porto Highlights a Global Palette of Materials

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By Alia Akkam
The petite, 12-room Torel 1884 illuminates Renaissance-era Portugal and the Age of Exploration.

A one-time palace dating from the late 19th century is the home of Torel 1884, an intimate, 12-room hotel that also includes 11 apartments located in an adjacent building. With high ceilings, soaring windows, and a traditional skylight piercing the roof, the property combines modern design with storied architecture in the charming coastal city of Porto, Portugal.

Artist João Pedro Rodrigues enlivens the hotel's entry with an installation of fantastical heads.

Artist João Pedro Rodrigues enlivens the hotel's entry with an installation of fantastical heads.

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Torel 1884 is the latest venture from Portuguese hospitality brand Torel Boutiques, joining a small collection that includes Torel Palace Lisbon, Torel Cliff Surf & Golf Óbidos, and Torel Avantgarde, another Porto retreat, with forthcoming plans to expand. 

The original staircase leads up to the library, which is crowned with a skylight. Known as a claraboia, it is an architectural hallmark of numerous Porto townhouses.

The original staircase leads up to the library, which is crowned with a skylight. Known as a claraboia, it is an architectural hallmark of numerous Porto townhouses.

Local firm NNArquitectura ensured that much of Torel 1884’s original features, including granite, tiles, and cornices, were well preserved. Even door handles from the period were incorporated into public bathrooms and the restaurant Bartolomeu’s own glass doors. The old wooden floor, crafted from Portuguese pine, was salvaged and enlivened with a walnut-colored veneer. 

Fans, textiles, and illustrations behind the reception desk, adjacent to the palace's original staircase, transport guests to far-off lands upon entry.

Fans, textiles, and illustrations behind the reception desk, adjacent to the palace's original staircase, transport guests to far-off lands upon entry.

Highlighting such vintage architectural details was pertinent to the hotel’s evocation of 15th- to 17th-century trade routes. For the interiors, Francisca Navio, cofounder and interior designer at the locally based Nano Design, also conjured this past by melding walnut, brass, marble, iron, ceramics, and terracotta with cooling textiles including linen, cotton, silk, and raffia. 

"Malagueta," meaning chile pepper, is the name of this down-to-earth room with the freestanding bathtub.

"Malagueta," meaning chile pepper, is the name of this down-to-earth room with the freestanding bathtub.

"The wallpapers used are materials such as real banana leaves, wood veins, and cane," says Navio, pointing out that the color palette is equally earthy, mixing the likes of neutral sand and saturated ocean blue. 

The "Suleiman" room, on the ground floor, nods to African-inspired design through touches like the traditional woven baskets peppering the expansive bookshelves.

The "Suleiman" room, on the ground floor, nods to African-inspired design through touches like the traditional woven baskets peppering the expansive bookshelves.

All the guest rooms bear names like "Silk," where bamboo-lined wardrobe doors are among the one-of-a-kind details. Burlap graces "Coffee," an antique settee welcomes relaxation in "Porcelain," and a fringed stool catches the eye in "Tapestry." 

Bold, whimsical wallpaper covers the "Exotic Birds" bathroom.

Bold, whimsical wallpaper covers the "Exotic Birds" bathroom.

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Parachute Waffle Bath Towels
Parachute Waffle Bath Towels
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Gubi Circular Wall Mirror
Offering simple elegance that serves to brighten up any room, the Gubi Circular Wall Mirror adds the illusion of space.

To create a harmonious connection between these different spaces, Navio embraced nature as a thread: "Hence walls are olive green, and there are huge plants on all floors." 

A deep emerald hue, calling to mind tobacco leaves, fittingly wraps the "Tobacco" room.

A deep emerald hue, calling to mind tobacco leaves, fittingly wraps the "Tobacco" room.

Like the reception area, which displays a motley gallery wall, public spaces reveal an equally thoughtful design scheme. At the bistro Bartolomeu, the centerpiece is the wine cellar with a stone-clad arched ceiling in what was the palace’s old vault. 

Light, ethereal tones dominate the "Sugarcane" room, which showcases elegant details including handmade tassels adorning the wardrobe's doors.

Light, ethereal tones dominate the "Sugarcane" room, which showcases elegant details including handmade tassels adorning the wardrobe's doors.

For a more hushed break there’s the "library under the stars," as Navio describes it, an upstairs hideaway filled with vintage books and an honesty bar fashioned out of a retro steamer trunk. 

The blue-and-white "Porcelain" room features a canopy bed and a mix of velvet, brass, and wood.

The blue-and-white "Porcelain" room features a canopy bed and a mix of velvet, brass, and wood.

Art is another major aspect of the design narrative, "as we use it to amplify the ambience," she points out. Throughout Torel 1884, large-scale paintings by Porto artist Jorge Curval grace the walls, but a quirky tone is set immediately at the entry. 

Bartolomeu, Torel 1884's bistro serving French-inspired cuisine made with Portuguese ingredients, conjures a safari vibe.

Bartolomeu, Torel 1884's bistro serving French-inspired cuisine made with Portuguese ingredients, conjures a safari vibe.

Here, another local artist, João Pedro Rodrigues, created an installation based on Luís Vaz de Camões´ Portuguese epic poem Os Lusíadas. Six yellow heads of female goddesses depict Mother Nature on one side, while on the opposite wall 13 brown, oxidized versions were installed to "represent the material world—our different characters, personalities, and with them, our limitations," Navio explains.

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Project Credits:

Architect of Record: NNArquitectura

Interior Designer: Nano Design

Builder/General Contractor: Dualarte