Christian Louboutin beach house was recently added to his collection of homes, in Portugal’s Alentejo coast. The Paris-based shoe designer usually designs his collection in this sunny country, in his compound of low-slung whitewashed bungalows is set off a dirt road outside of Melides, a beach village.
Louboutin has a confessed madness for acquiring property. He’s part owner of a château in the Vendée region of France that he shares with his longtime CEO, Bruno Chambelland. He also has a country house near Luxor in Egypt (along with a dahabeah to cruise the Nile), a place in Los Angeles, an apartment in Lisbon and one in Paris, which is his primary home. This compound in Melides is his latest real estate project, though it started as a happy accident about six years ago while he was renting a house in Comporta.
He was drawing when a deep paper cut—occupational hazard—sent him to the local hospital for a few stitches. “On the way back I popped by the road here and I thought, That looks nice, let’s have a look.” He discovered a small cottage on the other side of a rice paddy, and as soon as it became available to buy, he acquired it and transformed it into an atelier. Three other whitewashed structures have since been built on the 148-acre plot. All share a similarly low-slung, airy style and encompass guest rooms, his own bedroom, a kitchen and a living room.
With the help of his former partner, celebrated landscape designer Louis Benech (Louboutin is currently single), the property’s landscaping was designed to be colorful but natural. Bougainvillea and trailing grapevines lead the way to the house from the road.
In the living room, a ’50s Brazilian coffee table mixes with a blue Josef Frank couch, next to needlepoint tapestries by Alexander Calder. Also, green ’60s chairs by Hermès are next by a taxidermied tiger given by a friend and a chandelier bought in Portugal. If someone has any better ideas, Louboutin is open to them. “My trainer from Paris was spending his holiday nearby and came to have lunch. He looked at the living room chandelier and said, ‘It doesn’t make sense to have it here; you’ll hit your head.’ ” And so it was moved several feet back, requiring less-than-pristine housing for the wires.
A massive deck joins three of the structures, making Louboutin’s bedroom easily accessible from the living room and kitchen. Social life at the compound revolves around this outdoor space, where a long table seats 10 on rush-wrapped chairs, midcentury designs attributed to T.H. Robsjohn-Gibbings. His cook reigns over the outdoor grill, preparing local fish such as whole dorade. Wide steps lead down the hill from the deck, creating bleachers whose sole purpose is to make it possible to observe the changing colors of nature.
Also, it was Louboutin himself who designed the fire pit surrounded by grapevines. And of course, the pool has custom tiles, a very well-known tradition in Portugal. Part of the outdoors are embellish with designer’s personal collection of rocks and tree stumps from Tucson, Arizona. Mora magical than this, just the two iron rhinoceroses that once served as décor for the 50th birthday party of Louboutin’s friend, the Turkish business mogul Ömer Koç, who shipped the pair to Louboutin as a surprise gift after the event.
With the architect Tarek Shamma, who designed Louboutin’s Madrid and Luxembourg boutiques, he is also adding a fifth structure, called La Folly, a few hundred yards from the existing compound, on a separate plot of land nearer to the main road.
Before he establish in Melides, Loubotin used to frequent the resort town of Comporta, before it became a popular destination. Unlike in the Hamptons, even after Comporta was rediscovered in the later 20th century, new construction was strictly limited, preserving the area’s remote and rustic character. This enforced simplicity has drawn a growing cadre of international artists, designers, and jet-setters like Mario Testino and Princess Caroline, who come to the far-west corner of Europe in summer to unwind and disappear amid Comporta’s secluded coves and pine forests.
Once he was asked “If you could wake up anywhere in the world tomorrow, where would you be?” the short and assertive answer was “In my house in Portugal, in the summer”.
Portugal is becoming a must-go country for the world’s leading names in fashion and design field. Portuguese designers are now injecting contemporary verve into statement pieces, combining traditional craftsmanship skills with luxurious materials and a forward-thinking aesthetic.