António and Filipa Fortunato, co-owners of a boutique Lisbon hotel called Casa Fortunato, have always loved having a home full of people. It was only natural for them to create a space where guests truly felt like family. “We had the idea of sharing all these experiences and lifestyle with others,” Filipa says. “Preparing our home with rooms to welcome guests.”
They began by noticing all the simple but important details they loved when staying at hotels themselves: elegant designs, staff calling them by their names, the attention a concierge would give them as soon as they walked in the lobby. They were already in early planning stages for their “home hotel” when one day, António announced that his office was moving out of its space in a historic home. There was a pause in the conversation, and António asked Filipa, “Why don’t we keep the house to make our project? The building is beautiful, the spot is perfect, and with some work we can change it into our home. We could even adapt it upstairs and live in the attic!”
But there was much to do before the first visitors could check in. The owners refurbished the former office with a back-to-basics approach in mind, incorporating elements that were popular among Portuguese houses in the early 20th century. Out of respect for the building’s history, they used original materials from the 1910s and preserved as much of the original design as possible: French boiserie paneling, hand-made tiles with different designs for each room, original carpentry, a grand staircase that leads from the foyer to the guest rooms on the second floor. They also kept the main entrance in Liós stone—a Portuguese stone typically used in Lisbon manors—as well as the antique glass doors.
A feng shui study of the house helped the Fortunatos choose paint swatches from Farrow & Ball and wallpaper from Jupiter 10, assembling a beautiful palette of warm colors and geometric patterns varying from room to room. Next, they brought all the furniture from their former residence and vacation homes to Casa Fortunato. Since no two rooms have the same layout, they couldn’t have a mock-up. Instead, they dove into experimenting with different pieces in the various rooms and common areas, switching them around once they had a sense of the space and the light.
Filipa and António even spent four months trying the different rooms, living in each one for a week at a time to see what guests would experience. “The first one we slept in was room #3,” Filipa recalls. “And we said that this was the one. After, we moved to room #1 and changed our opinion: Room #1 was our favorite. Then we tried room #7 and stopped ranking the rooms. They are all so special and unique, we cannot say that we have a favorite one.” The couple continued making adjustments until the ambience felt just right in every single room.
The work didn’t stop after the building was ready to open in the fall of 2018. The co-owners and staff at Casa Fortunato put immense effort into each guest’s stay, making first contact over email before guests arrive to ensure the bedding is arranged to the guest’s preference (feather pillow or hypoallergenic, one king-size bed or two twins—basic but important clarifications). They also coordinate day trips and other services with partners outside of the boutique hotel. Their favorite part, though, is engaging with the guests in person.
They hold true to their manifesto: Come as a guest, stay as a friend, leave as family. “It all happens so naturally when we meet the guests!” Filipa exclaims. “Sometimes they are checking in and Joaquim, our 15-year-old son, is arriving home and helps carrying their bags to the rooms. Other times when we are downstairs at the dining room or at the reception area, the guests come down and we introduce ourselves, giving some tips and suggestions for places to visit.
“Sometimes we have a drink with the guests at the end of the day and have interesting conversations. Sofia, our youngest daughter [five years old], is always around and very curious about who is coming. Mercês, our 12-year-old daughter, sometimes joins the cooking classes with our guests, and Júlia, the oldest one [17 years old], is always giving tips about the newest spots to see. And we can’t forget Cacau, our black Labrador, the ‘concierge’ of Casa Fortunato.”
The family folds their lifestyle into the hotel stay and invites guests to participate as much or as little as they want. Each morning, an instructor leads a private hatha yoga class for guests and the family in a gorgeous, minimalist studio downstairs from the common area. Sometimes five-year-old Sofia joins the class, as eager to learn as any other beginner yogi. After the yoga session, guests find a spread of miso soup, seasonal fruits, gluten-free vegan pastries, oats, and fresh-squeezed juices, all prepared in the on-site kitchen by a dedicated chef and her assistant. Breakfast and dinner are served at a communal dining table in the open kitchen, where the owners will often sit with guests to chat about the meal or the day’s discoveries in Lisbon.
The family’s constant presence at Casa Fortunato is never overbearing and always welcoming. There’s nothing quite like greeting the black Lab on your way to breakfast, or walking into the lobby after a long afternoon of hiking up Lisbon’s steep cobblestone streets and hearing 15-year-old Joaquim playing piano, the music blooming from the study, through the common area, all the way up the grand staircase. When you stay at Casa Fortunato, you are home.