Cover The living area is layered with authentic antique furnishings that are either from the homeowners' collection or sourced by Viterbo from all over Portugal and Europe

If you love the amazing interiors on set for Netflix hit series Bridgerton, you’ll certainly love this formerly abandoned palace's amazing transformation by Viterbo Interior Design

Steeped in history and glamour, this sprawling mansion built in the 19th century was restored to its former glory by Portugal-based interior designer Gracinha Viterbo. Tucked amidst other historic buildings in the cosmopolitan Chiado neighbourhood in Lisbon, the property’s historic shell formed a perfect backdrop for a dramatic transformation. 

Think the stuff of Bridgerton dreams—a glamorous, exuberant and colour aesthetic that is reminiscent of modern takes on period dramas, including the aforementioned Netflix hit series.

“The clients contacted us after they purchased this completely abandoned and half-destroyed palace,” recalls Viterbo. “With a river as well as a castle view, it needed complete restoration and renovation, and they knew we were experts in this area. We were assigned the full project, and we followed through from A to Z, from full interior architecture to interior design.”

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Viterbo, who helms her namesake design firm, believes that “every client has a style and every project has a story”. “We have worked all over the world and experienced diverse cultures,” she explains. “We’re also adept at listening to our clients and working with them to elevate every moment in their homes.” 

The clients, who are art and antique collectors with a passion for design, desired to have spaces where they could host conversations easily, as they often entertain and host guests. They also specifically requested a hairstyling corner, a wine cellar, and a pantry area where they could store extra dinnerware for their large parties.

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When the designer first took on this project, the large estate was in a poor condition. “Nothing that you see in the current photos [of the home] existed prior to our renovation,” she recalls. “We recreated all the rooms from scratch. Everything was designed by us—from the floors to the ceilings, doors, bathrooms, wall treatments and lighting. Even the Portuguese tiles and stones—except for those in the entrance hallway, which we found in an antique tile shop and another destroyed palace—were intentionally antiquated to fit the mood.” 

The goal was to restore as much of the classic original elements as possible and to imbue the three-storey home with a classic Portuguese spirit, while incorporating modern details and technological conveniences for the homeowners. 

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The home’s colour palette was mainly inspired by Portuguese blue, a calming hue often found in azulejos, or glazed blue ceramic tiles, in Portugal. “This blue is very present in Lisbon and can be found throughout the city’s architecture and interiors. It is a Portuguese identity, and the clients were searching for that,” explains the designer. “We balanced the blue with other complementary colours.” 

Besides the blue hue, another recurring theme throughout the home is the heavy use of art, whether it’s large paintings or huge tapestries that make a design statement.

“One of the intentions after talking and interpreting the client’s lifestyle was to give [the home] a twist by using contemporary art,” notes Viterbo. “Our client loves art, and thus we integrated artworks by well-known artists into every room.”

Taking the homeowners’ love for hosting guests into consideration, Viterbo composed the two living rooms within the mansion as stylish spaces for socialising. The rooms, each full of sophistication and drama, are connected through two open doorways that allow for large gatherings; it's easy to imagine a Bridgerton-worthy dining scene coming to life here in this home. 

Bathed in golden light that streams in from the large windows, the large living rooms feature flourishes of pattern and colour that convey vibrant glamour. The designer layered the spaces with an abundance of details to feast one’s eyes on, whether it’s the mix of antique furnishings or the glittering chandeliers that hang from the ornate ceiling.

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“Interesting, the ceilings in the two living rooms were the only original elements of the home that we could preserve. They were initially hidden behind very dull low-plaster ceilings,” Viterbo reveals. “When the construction team was going to replace the high ceilings, we realised that the classic authentic frescoes were hidden and in perfect condition—they only had to be cleaned and lightly restored. All the other frescoes you see in the other rooms were developed and painted by master frescoes artists to fit the classic timeless mood.”

Also connected to the living rooms is a home office library, tucked at the end of the second living room. “There was a clear intention of having these three rooms in enfilade, meaning to have a suite of rooms with doorways in line with each other—a common feature in historic interiors,” explains the designer. “We wanted to give balance and continuity to the flow of the design, from the office to the two living rooms, as they are very much connected through the circulation of lined up doors.”

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The dining room, surrounded by a forest fabric wallpaper that dominates the walls, offers a refined air with gleaming gold accents and personalised furnishings. The space also leads to the family’s breakfast room, which was formerly a circulation hallway between the dining room and balcony that was cleverly converted by Viterbo.

“We created trellis arches by overlaying wallpaper and antique see-through mirrors,” she recalls. “This is one of the most special rooms of the house, and one of the ones the clients most prefer.”

Downstairs, the kitchen is clad in vernacular-style patterned tiles and Portuguese lioz and azulino Cascais stone flooring, while deep blue cabinetry line the walls. “We ensured that Portuguese crafts such as handmade tiles, stucco features, frescoes and decorative paintings were included to fit the building’s history,” notes the designer.

The requested wine cellar can also be found on the same floor, alongside a pantry that holds the homeowners’ excess party paraphernalia and dinnerware. 

The eight ensuite bedrooms within the mansion flawlessly continues the home’s elegant design narrative with the careful selection of fabrics, wallpapers and fitted furnishings by the design team. Each bedroom is decorated with a classic style, but “they each have their own special identity”, Viterbo emphasises.

Some of the bedrooms feature frescoes, others have upholstered walls or hand-painted beautiful wallpapers from De Gournay or Iksel, or are dressed in an ethereal mix of classic fabrics with French and Italian silks, brocades and damasks.

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Having faithfully replicated the historic aura, the home enthrals with its striking new elements that faithfully maintain the identity of the old. While it was a challenging journey to integrate modern comforts such as lifts and technology into a historic project, Viterbo is ultimately pleased and proud with the result. “I love to experience every room as we enter it. It really is a very special project where our eyes can travel in time, but it also fits perfectly in our current time.”

The clients are equally delighted by the final results. “They have many homes around the world, but to date, I believe this is their favourite. They were delighted to accompany the process and to see the master craftsmen working on their home,” enthuses Viterbo.

“We always have a wonderful relationship with our clients and we listen to understand who they truly are. Thus, when our clients walk into a finished project by us, they know the dedication and work put into it and so they’re truly proud of their investment, and they feel at home.”

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