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“We must look to what people have, and create something for what they really need.”



Words and Photography

Saasha Burns

From the moment you step through the front door at Santa Clara 1728, you are welcomed into the owners private home. With only six rooms, the intimate property certainly feels more like a house than a hotel, located on a quiet cobbled street in Lisbon’s old town, Alfama. Hotelier and visionary, João Rodrigues of Silent Living, greets you personally in a relaxed manner and proudly shares stories of the hotels origins – from the Portuguese crafted interiors to the statement 18th century artwork he acquired locally from an antique store across the road. The grandness of the building, with its high ceilings and traditional stone archways is consciously balanced with clean, minimalist finishings by architect Manuel Aires Mateus. The dining room is a sanctuary designed for slow mornings grazing on freshly baked sourdough and cultured butter, and welcomes 14 guests to the communal table to dine at Ceia (‘supper’ in Portuguese), their fine-dining concept by night. The meeting place for many of our conversations with João, we discussed his connection to nature, his vision for Silent Living, and some of his favourite places to visit in Lisbon.

Lisbon, Portugal

Can you tell us a little about the story behind Silent Living?
All of our houses started as our family’s homes, and now they are open to whoever wants to experience them. They are part of our story and echo the importance of feeling at home. Along the way, we realised that we are not alone in the search for happiness and fulfilment, and thus it felt right to share our values and visions with everyone else — one house at a time. We named this search and sharing process Silent Living, and it has been the most amazing adventure of our lives, so far. By taking the time to hear each of our guests’ experiences, we found our own direction and path to realise our vision. Through our visitors’ empirical reflections, we finally understand the necessary ingredients to pursue Silent Living.

In search of a residence to welcome family and friends you discovered Santa Clara 1728, an enchanting 18th Century building atop one of Lisbon’s seven hills. What led you to running the property as a boutique hotel?
The guests from the previous houses always kept a close bond with us, and frequently asked where could they stay in Lisbon, in a place with the same deep care for them as we always had, and I didn’t have anything to tell them. So, it made sense to have a home in Lisbon, where I live, and I could welcome them as long time friends. I don’t see Santa Clara 1728 as a boutique hotel, rather as my home, where I can welcome whoever wants to visit, and treat them as a friend.

How did the philosophy of having less to live more influence the minimalist design and ethos of Santa?
The architect Manuel Aires Mateus is very minimal in his choices, and we always worked together since the first project. We both agree that all superfluous things must be left aside, in order to enhance not only the real important elements of the space, but also to provide a rich and valuable experience in each and every one of the houses.

At Ceia everything is considered; from the intimate communal dining table to chef, Pedro Pena Bastos’ profound sense of ingredients. What inspired this conscious approach?
It was vital that Ceia had the same ground values of Silent Living. The idea of sharing a meal is very familiar, and we aimed to create a unique moment that could promote new ways to see life and others. The profound sense of ingredients and respect for local producers came along with Pedro, he is very sensitive to that subject, and did a wonderful job turning our visions onto the plate, into reality.

What does originality mean to you?
We must look to what people have, and create something for what they really need, without even knowing it, sometimes. Originality is thinking outside the box, and hopefully improve somebody else’s life with your idea.

You have worked closely with local architect Manuel Aires Mateus, artist Romy Northover and designer Antonio Citterio to help bring to life your vision for the Silent Living portfolio. Can you tell us about some of the incredible creatives you have met on your journey?
There are many creatives I can think of, we’ve been working since the beginning with Anna Westerlund, our flower arrangements are made by KCKliKo, a very talented couple, and more recently we have been working with Studio Corkinho. Renée Kemps is a photographer and film maker, she has been Silent Living’s biggest enthusiast and she’s the author of the videos you can find on our website.

With just a few days in Lisbon, where would you recommend we visit?
Gulbenkian is a beautiful place to go, both to the museums and the garden. Nearby there’s a bookstore that I love, called Under the Cover, full of unique books and magazines you don’t find in your everyday quiosque.

What’s next on the horizon?
We are developing new projects in the farm where Casa no Tempo is, specifically Hortas no Tempo. It is going to be a place that is deeply connected to the farm; the animals, nature, where people can stay and bond profoundly with nature’s best gifts.

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