There is luxury in simplicity – this is a message that rings loud and clear at São Lourenço do Barrocal. A member of both Virtuoso and Small Luxury Hotels of the World, São Lourenço do Barrocal is clearly not lacking in premium touches, and yet with its position nestled into the arid and vast landscape that is the Alentejo region of Portugal, this hotel is more farm-stay than swanky vacay. The restrained interior somehow manages to make ‘simple’ feel incredibly luxurious, and you get the strong sense that this pared-back style has been completely and utterly thought out, down to every last detail. Each space finds the perfect balance between just a little too much adornment and decoration and not quite enough, creating an ambience that is consistently fresh and calming throughout the hotel.
The rugged, untouched and surprisingly unpopulous Alentejo, with its vast open country, makes up almost one third of Portugal, and yet it retains the quiet, country charm of a small village. In the nineteenth century, the property, set in the foothills of medieval Monsaraz and nearby the Alqueva lake, was a thriving and self-sustaining small farming village with its own chapel, schoolroom and, would you believe, bullring. Having been in the same family for over two hundred years, the new generation wanted to bring this sense of tight-knit community back to the land, and embarked on a careful and loving refurbishment of the entire estate to create a farm retreat. The result is the epitome of understated luxury, and a place where guests can feel as at home there as its historic community had once been.
Nature is at the very heart of São Lourenço do Barrocal, with ancient holm oaks, olive groves and vineyards fringing the man-made feats of architecture and design, and this environment’s energy quietly yet persistently pulsates through every part of the boutique hotel. Its surrounds are thriving with local birds and local flora, and the hotel also makes good on its ‘farm village’ title, functioning as a working farm with its own unique beef herd of pedigree cows and sheep living on the grounds.
Inside, each room is very close to perfection, with lots of airy space working to ingeniously bring the outside in, and design touches mimicking the environment beyond its four walls, consistently reminding the guest of where they are in the world, and of its beauty.
The interior design expresses modern comfort and a rare sense of retreat, with whitewashed walls warmed up by wooden furniture in both traditional and modern styles. It is overwhelmingly farmhouse-like, but with more white, light and space than the provincial styles of yesteryear. The walls are mostly bare, and the floors leave plenty of space for your feet to feel the naked stone beneath – just another detail to bring the hotel’s guests back down to earth, literally.
There are fabric armchairs and chesterfields just waiting for someone to sink into them, and quintessentially ‘country’ black wooden dining chairs propped up against a long, farm-style wooden dining table. Haphazardly stacked plates adorn the kitchen shelves, while painted ceramics peppered throughout the communal areas complete the picture of ultimate comfort and retreat. The bedrooms are restrained simplicity at its most beautiful – an overwhelming sense of light and air reminding its inhabitants to stop, look around, and breathe in the moment. The dining room, meanwhile, is decidedly playful, and takes the farmhouse style to the nth degree so that you can’t help but smile.
Back outside, cobblestone paths are softened by lush green grass, while the swimming pool is slick and contemporary, just as a luxury hotel pool should be.
If you find yourself in need of a respite, turn your attention to seeking out this wild corner of Alentejo, where São Lourenço do Barrocal’s emphasis on connecting with nature is enough reason alone to check in. Here, you’ll find not just a sense of modern luxury, but plenty of creature comforts as well as that thing you can’t quite put into words – that feeling of ‘home’.
The walls are mostly bare, and the floors leave plenty of space for your feet to make contact with the naked stone beneath – just another way to bring the hotel’s guests back down to earth, literally.