At the heart of the Douro Valley in Portugal, Quinta Da Côrte vineyard’s new wine store is Pierre Yovanovitch’s first architectural project. In addition, renovating the estate’s residence and transforming it into a guesthouse was the perfect exercise to show off his trademark style.
Pierre Yovanovitch poses in the Casa’s small living room, where it is customary to sit and sip the vineyard’s port production. His simple and elegant appearance is perfectly in tune with his designs: chic, distinguished and totally unique. His work is characterized by a minimalist aesthetic with a twist, a subtle dissonant touch that takes the project to another level entirely, guaranteeing its charm, character and necessary uniqueness. It boasts a bold architectural dimension in which extreme elegance is treated without ostentation and with a certain rigor in its lines, tempered by the gentle curves of a piece of furniture, the softness of beautiful and authentic materials, or an intriguing work of art. For the Quinta Da Côrte, Pierre Yovanovitch pushed his fondness for volumes to the very limit in what was his first actual building project. “The wine store was the first time I had actually built something from scratch. I didn’t know Porto, or the Douro Valley, but right from the start I was taken with the project’s human side and the idea of designing a guesthouse (and especially not a hotel). I liked the fact that my concept would be experienced by guests staying here and how the vintage aspect of the residence is juxtaposed with the radical, almost religious character of the wine store. All of that was very pleasing.” As we said, Pierre is a man of many contrasts.
The Quinta Da Côrte is located some 150 km from Porto—around two hours by car— but the journey is well worth the effort. Surrounded by vines and overlooking the Douro Valley, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, its ancient dry-stone walls hug the hilly landscape. One of the oldest properties in the region, it was bought in 2013 by Philippe Austruy (the owner of several exceptional estates, such as the Commanderie de Peyrassol in France that produces Côtes de Provence wines). After restoring the 24 hectares of vines and olive trees, the new owner tasked Pierre Yovanovitch—who he had met when he commissioned him for the Patinoire Royale, a contemporary art gallery in Brussels— with helping him wake this sleeping beauty. Perhaps the most amazing part is the way in which Pierre Yovanovitch approached the construction of the wine store, which is home to the tasting room and the estate’s red wine production. He imagined the entire three-storey building from nothing. Its ultra contemporary structure boasts spacious volumes and the large windows dotted here and there offer breathtaking views of the river and surrounding landscape of this wine-growing region. The cellar is a marvellous, no frills piece of design made up of a series of whitewashed ribbed vaults. The walls of the staircase, the veritable backbone of the building, are covered with local, handmade mauve faience tiles. In the wine store, you can also see some exclusive, bespoke pieces that Pierre made especially for the Quinta Da Côrte, like the black metal and blown glass ceiling light reminiscent of a cluster of black grapes that stands out in the otherwise all-wood dining room. This project represents the Yovanovitch touch in a nutshell: design, exceptional craftsmanship and creations that really hit the spot.
A decorator’s guesthouse
The interior designer and collector preserved the authentic feel of the Casa, the 19th century home of the former owners, with its old-fashioned shutters and small rooms that are full of charm. It’s as if the family were still living there. “The deal was not to touch the structure. We didn’t knock down any walls. We changed everything, but made it look like nothing had
changed”, says Pierre. The new version of the Casa has 12 rooms divided between the original house and two small annexes, a succession of small, cosy living rooms, a red brick library, as well as two small tasting rooms with painted ceilings and fireplaces. There’s also a pool with vines on every side.
To make the residence as good as new, the interior designer favoured local materials: azulejos, schist, wood, whitewashed walls, as well as parquet and earthenware floors, not forgetting the bathrooms tiled with artisanal Portuguese faience for a subtle retro vibe. For the furnishings, Pierre Yovanovitch went all out for a “family collec
tion” vibe with pieces found in antique fairs and flea markets, Portuguese antiques, a wide variety of various objects and French, Italian and Scandinavian designer pieces. Things from all over, like souvenirs telling a lifetime of stories, are mixed in with original creations: for example, the tiles on the top of the large communal table in the middle of the dining room feature a drawing made specifically for the establishment by artist Laura Carlin, whose naïve motifs tell the story of the Douro Valley. Above the table is a poetic, blown glass balloon ceiling light made by master glassmaker Matteo Gonet. Reminiscent of a bunch of grapes, it reminds visitors, should it be necessary, that they are in a vineyard after all.