Designer Stories: João Matias and the Boca do Lobo Suite

Located in the heart of Oporto’s downtown, just off the Avenida do Aliados, the Infante Sagres is one of the city’s most iconic hotels with plenty of history and personality. Designed in the 50’s by architect Rogério dos Santos Azevedo, the hotel’s building is considered an architectural landmark within the city as it was built during a phase where the city’s buildings began transitioning towards modernism.

To celebrate a successful 5 year partnership, Boca do Lobo and the Infante Sagres Hotel embarked on a new project that saw the development of a suite curated by the distinguished Portuguese design studio. Taking the hotel’s best elements and blending them with the brand’s philosophy and design concept, they achieved a remarkable final result, with a unique aesthetic and feel.

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Boca do Lobo allocated one of their principal designers, João Matias, to champion the project, and converge the best of both the brand’s and the hotel’s world with the aim to deliver guests a true design experience. This instalment of Designer Stories takes us behind the scenes and get’s special insight into João Matias’ purpose and vision when working on this important project. Read on for the full interview:

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Hi João. How would you describe your style / concept design?

Our design is tastefully bold, yet simple, with great attention payed to detail. We also add a touch of unpredictability and irreverence to our pieces.

Where did you gain inspiration for this project?

We wanted to extend the hotel’s concept and give their suite the unique Boca do Lobo touch, paying attention to the finest of details, from lighting to the room’s scent.

What feel were you hoping to achieve?

The Infante Sagres Hotel welcomes people from various countries and cultures, and therefore we wanted to create an environment that could be enjoyed by anyone. Everything was carefully selected, from our furniture, down to the room’s finest details, ensuring guests enjoy a comfortable and homely feel, yet provide them with our unique Boca do Lobo design experience.

What do you hope guests will experience when they’re there?

We want to create an impact when anyone enters the suite, and leave our mark through the use of our furniture, and items from selected brands who’s work we admire. Yet, we seek to create a welcoming environment that “translates” Boca do Lobo’s taste and values, and passes it on the guests, making them want to return.

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What were the biggest challenges you faced when designing the space, and also when executing your ideas?

We wanted to preserve the bathroom’s original marble walls and floor, but weren’t allowed to intervene in the refurbishment process. However, we got as deep as we could in the interior architecture and decoration process, and are really pleased with the final outcome, with or without the original marble finishes.

Were there any particular trends que influenced your design? To what extent the trends influence your designs?

Our design isn’t really influenced by any particular trend at any given point in time. Although our country’s design and cultural heritage plays a big part when we develop new products and work on new projects, we tend to avoid creating “barriers” to in our creative process, and that shows in our pieces and projects. In fact, we have even been considered trend setters by trend forecasting agencies such as Nelly Rodi.

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Which aspects of Portugal’s rich history are most apparent in the suite?

We referenced the azulejo, Portugal’s traditional tile, which is a symbol of national heritage, bearing in mind that it’s an artisanal article widely used in other countries, like Gzhel artisan style in Russia, for instance.

All our pieces are hand made, using traditional skills and techniques, and respecting years of experienced craftsmanship. These ideals are becoming increasingly difficult to find and hold on to, but our intention is to maintain these values and techniques, and leave our mark on each individual piece we produce.

“We tend to avoid creating “barriers” to in our creative process, and that shows in our pieces and projects.”

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The Manueline style, which has inspired many architects beyond our national borders, and considered an international archetype. It is clearly visible in our parts, notably the Manu desk from our Coolors collections, which features lathed legs and handcrafted details, referencing Portugal’s renascence era.

What are some of your favourite parts of the suite or parts that you feel most proud of? Why?

We find that we achieved a really good balance between the suit’s divisions, creating a cozy and relaxing sleeping area with unique design references, as well as an inspirational work space, which is also very personal, yet with an imposing and commanding feel. “Everything was carefully selected, from our furniture, down to the room’s finest details, ensuring guests enjoy a comfortable and homely feel, yet provide them with our unique Boca do Lobo design experience”

When did the suite open to the public?

The suite was inaugurated in June, and we held a cocktail for our clients, friends and partners – Castelbel, lladro, Aldeco and Per Sono, who also have some of their products in the room which have been indispensable for the full Boca do Lobo/Infante Sagres experience!

How long did it take to bring this project from concept to completion?

It was a rather quick process, which took up 12 weeks from start to finish. But we see it as an ongoing project, as we are given a lot of flexibility to “curate” the suite, as well as constantly tweak it to improve it. Just last week we delivered a special 50 Shades of Grey / Valentine’s day gift back to guests staying in the suite throughout the week, and the feedback has been great!