The old house from the 40s was renovated, won architectural awards and is now filling up with people looking for rest.
It was a simple house, of simple people. Modest in character and, in this case, also in name. It was near Olhão, in a rural area overlooking the Ria Formosa, that Carlos Fernandes’ great-grandparents built a small house where three generations would grow. Built in the 1940s, it was also modest in size.
“It had a living room, a kitchen and two bedrooms. It seems a lie when I say that there could be two rooms there, but the beds were also narrow”
There lived the great-grandparents, the grandparents and, until 1999, Carlos and the brothers, Vânia and Pedro — the three responsible for giving new life to the old house, which opened as a hotel in 2016. The start could not have been better.
The following year, Casa Modesta was elected by “Condé Nast Johansens” as the best environmental hotel in Europe. Later, another distinction would come, this time with deserved praise for the architecture of the buildings: it was the choice of the jury in the Architizer A+ awards, in the hotel category.
It was the boost they needed to draw in much of the audience they envisioned the day they completed the project. But beyond the distinctions, what Carlos really wanted was for guests to be able to “disconnect from the city” and “enjoy nature”.
Casa Modesta delivers on its promises. The simple and minimalist features of the architecture and decoration — Vânia Fernandes was also one of the architects of the project, idealized by Par, with decoration by The Home Project — anticipate the simplicity of the rooms and common spaces. No decorative excesses, raw colors and materials, simple. All in tune for such a seamless disconnection.
The House was born with the extra objective of keeping alive these bread-making traditions — the building was demolished and only the oven was kept, which today serves as a stage for bread workshops — but also of bringing people together again.
The highly praised project was born out of an in-depth study of the region’s architecture and construction methods. From the original structure, only the house built in the 40s and the wood-burning oven remain. It was not possible to make expansions due to existing restrictions, as it was located in the middle of the Ria Formosa natural park.
“We used clay bricks from Santa Catarina, made a few kilometers from here. Cork was used as insulation and the walls are all whitewashed. Brass, wood, cork and clay are the materials used and they are all made near here”, explains Carlos Fernandes.
In addition to the living area that serves as a reception, a dining room with a communal table and an oven kitchen that also has an honesty bar, there are nine rooms with different types — but all of them are small and are located between 18 and the 22 square meters.
The decoration also found inspiration in the creations of grandfather Modesto, who was also a builder of wooden boats and creator of small pieces that served as the basis for the other pieces that dot the rooms. There are few, even because the family intended to “leave only the essentials”.
“It’s all very simple, but it has everything to do with the identity of the place, the Algarve. It was from the objects left by the grandfather that others were created and only the essentials were left, which made sense, to be as minimal as possible.”
There is another particularity in the rooms, all of them built with a wardrobe in the middle, which hides, between two accesses, the bathroom in a peculiar format. Among the three types, there are simple options, others with a private terrace of 35 square meters above the room and a premium room, the largest of all, on the first floor with a view of the sea.
Breakfast is always included in the stay. In the evening, for dinner, Casa Modesta revisits the family’s old cookbook to prepare typical Algarve meals — always under reservation the day before and served at 8 pm for all guests — from cataplanas to fish, to the freshest seafood in the region. laugh. At the moment, everything is served in the room or on the terrace, while the pandemic does not allow guests to enjoy the communal table again.
There is more to discover among the immaculate white walls of the house. Outside, a pool that is a pool—or is it a pool that is a pool? — with clear water without chemical or salt treatment, as it is also used to water the garden. Inside an old cistern, the walls resemble a gigantic clay hive. Instead of honey, another nectar: it’s the wine cellar that keeps only regional wines for guests.
To turn off, activities abound. You can lie down and read in one of the hammocks, stroll along the estuary’s ecovia, take one of the interpretive tours or, if your idea of a holiday is to learn, take advantage of one of the many workshops organized by Carlos, Vânia and Pedro — which give lessons that they range from basketry to Grandma Carminda’s famous bread.
Spending a few days at Grandpa Modesto’s house comes at a price. Prices start at €120 per night, in a double room, in low season; and go up to a maximum of €260 in a premium room in high season.
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