Cover The open-plan living room is a cosy space with plenty of natural light flooding in from the full-height windows

Portugal-based multidisciplinary design studio Maison Amarande uses art and colour thoughtfully to add a contemporary edge to a historic apartment in Lisbon

“Our design philosophy is to craft a unique and bespoke space that perfectly reflects the client's expectations and personal taste,” says French designer Laurence Beysecker of her Lisbon-based design studio that she co-founded with her partner, Xavier. “We use the verb ‘craft’ because we love collaborating with local artisans to create bespoke pieces that showcase the traditional crafts from the region or country.”

Established in 2017, Maison Amarande’s creative ethos boasts an unpretentious authenticity with an effortlessly stylish aesthetic. The design studio spans several disciplines; in addition to interior design and architectural solutions, the firm is also an established turnkey project provider, often seeking out properties in ideal locations and transforming them so that their future owners can procure them with seamless ease. 

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One such example is their latest project, a refurbished apartment in Lisbon, Portugal, conveniently located in close proximity to Gulbenkian Park. Housed in a beautiful early 20th century building, the classic property immediately caught Beysecker’s interest; they were hired to renovate the apartment as a turn-key project, to entice a new buyer to acquire the abode; this successful year-long project was immediately snatched up upon completion. “The young Portuguese lady who bought the apartment really fell in love with it at first sight,” shares Beysecker. “She will be moving in pretty soon.”  

“We saw great renovation potential; the space had been partitioned but we knew that by knocking down a few walls we could create a nice layout,” explains the designer. “Our intention was to transform it into a family residence with a large open living space and clear divisions between the social and private areas.”         

By demolishing the partition walls, the team created a large and airy open-plan living area. Seeking to retain aspects of the building’s traditional architecture so as to preserve the aura of rich history, they retained historic elements such as the beautiful ceiling moulding and trimmings, the original wooden flooring, and the iron balustrades as it is. “Preserving the traces of a building’s past as much as possible is a prerequisite in all our projects, as it largely contributes to the charm of the apartment,” says Beysecker. 

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To complement the existing features, the designers expertly infused contemporary elements through various furnishings and curated artworks. The living room exudes a warm and cosy ambience with a tactile combination of natural textiles and materials, complemented by an injection of colour from the deep orange rug. Adding layers to a space is Beysecker’s design signature, where she uses “colours, textures, and refined materials in a subtle balance to create a dialogue between all the elements of the interior design”. 

Considering art as a key element to help define the personality of the house, Beysecker aimed to highlight Portuguese artists such as Jorge Feijão, Daniel Blaufuks and Jorge Santos with a selection of their artworks and paintings. “We always try to create a strong connection between the pieces depending on the colours, the subject, the texture,” says the designer. “Our favourite piece is the powerful charcoal drawing in the living room, done by Jorge Feijão.” 

As the partition walls were knocked down to expand the apartment's sense of space, the team had to segment the open-plan space into different zones without disrupting the flow between the connected spaces. A divider crafted from light wood separates the dining area from the kitchen; the slats allow a subtle division between the two spaces whilst simultaneously letting natural light from the living and dining area to flow into the kitchen. 

The kitchen, composed of a mix of materials ranging from the terrazzo floor to the refined splashback made of Japanese tiles as well as the wood and lacquer for the cabinets, displays the designer’s deftness at combining materials to create a unique space. The tangerine orange cabinetry also adds a sunny touch to the space.

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Connecting the living areas and the different rooms together is a 22m-long corridor. Transforming the lengthy passageway into a key design feature was the biggest design challenge for Beysecker and her team. “We first focused on opening it up by eliminating some of the existing walls,” says Beysecker. “We then built a few arches to create a pleasant pace, and afterward finished by a fluted curved glass door at the end.” With the arches adding drama and elegance within the interior space, the result is a hallway that establishes a memorable first impression. 

As per the living room, the ceilings of the master suite and other bedrooms were left mainly untouched for a classic look. The bathrooms, however, add a contemporary edge to the home with vibrant tiles. These colourful tiles bring to mind the sight of tangerines and avocados; fruit-inspired colour schemes that result in a fresh look for the bathroosm.