A story dating back to 1884 and a contemporary outlook inspired by three continents. In conversation with Ingrid Koeck, one-third of the Torel 1884 team, on how the Porto boutique hotel came to be
Torel Boutiques is a collection of five guest houses and hotels in Portugal. It all started in 2013 when Joao Pedro Tavares decided to create a new project — he rented an abandoned villa on top of the Sant’Ana hill, in the heart of Lisbon, and transformed it into a bed and breakfast. One year later, Barbara Ott traveled to Lisbon and stayed there as a guest — she decided to leave her home in Austria, settle in Portugal, and become a partner of Torel Palace. In the autumn of the same year another Austrian, Ingrid Koeck, arrived. When she met Barbara, it was only a matter of time before she became the third partner.
The story of this hospitality business started with two encounters and continues between cities, spreading from Lisbon to Porto. There, Torel has two properties: Torel Avantgarde and Torel Palace Porto. The former is the last one to be opened, in February 2019, among the boutiques of the brand. It has twelve Suites as well as eleven apartments in a separate building. «The concept of Torel Avantgarde — tells Ingrid — is based on art, design, and architecture with a strong Portuguese touch whereas Torel Palace Porto (opened in 2017) celebrates Portuguese writers». Joining hands with NN Arquitectura and Nano Design, both Porto-based studios, they developed the design concept of this boutique.
Torel 1884 Suites & Apartments is located in Rua Mouzinho da Silveira, in downtown Porto, in a neoclassical palace built in 1884 to house a bank. «The name is a reference to the origins of the building. Our objective was to take advantage of the structure of the original palace, renovate it with care and transform it from a bank into a hotel. We honored its history by maintaining features like the high ceilings, doors and windows», Ingrid specifies. When converting the bank into a hotel, the objective was clear: «We wanted to create an exoticness reminiscent of the environments discovered by the adventurers of the past».
The past corresponds to a journey towards origins. «We wanted to capture the origin of things, with nature and its colors and materials providing the foundation. This is our ‘hardware’. The second element of our Torel Boutiques philosophy is our ‘software’ — our staff. We take pride in catering to the needs of each client», Ingrid continues. This luxury accommodation becomes in this sense a journey to Africa, Asia, and South America — while still remaining in the heart of Porto. The design concept is indeed based on the voyages of Portuguese explorers, the lands they reached, and the materials they found.
The three floors are divided by theme, each dedicated to a continent. «Each room, suite and apartment was designed to fit a theme. They carry names such as pepper or porcelain, sugarcane or silk, tea or tobacco. All materials are of natural origin, like wood, leather, glass, marble, silk, linen, and cotton from Portugal. Wherever possible, elements such as curtains or lights are handmade in Portugal».
Torel 1884 Suites & Apartments shows devotion to details. For example, typical Portuguese handicraft techniques such as Sirgarias or Palinhas are featured inside. Wallpaper used in the rooms and bathrooms is also made of natural materials — banana leaves, wood veins, cane — and depict animal prints or exotic birds.
The Torel gem is the antique vault with its safes, now transformed into a wine-tasting cellar. In order to achieve their goal, the owners combined design and architecture with art. «Art helped us enhance the ambiance. We worked with two Porto artists, each piece of art is aligned with our concept. At the entrance, an installation by one of them, Joao Pedro Rodrigues, who was inspired by Luis de Camoes´ Lusiads, depicts the duality of the material and the ephemeral with the juxtaposition of sculptures of heads of Nature goddesses and humans».
At Trel 1884, the elements of design and architecture find their fulfilment in two places. The first one is the library «under the stars». Located in the top floor, clients can find there a claraboia (skylight) – a typical feature of Porto townhouses. «The library is an exclusive space designed to remind of visits to foreign lands. It houses three thousand volumes from antique stores, old maps, ‘collector items’ such as vases, hats and baskets, and a Honesty Bar in a leather travel case», Ingrid illustrates. In a way, reaching the top of the building represents the pattern of discovery that binds together all parts of the hotel.
The same goes for Bartolomeu Bistro & Wine «which reflects the theme of Portuguese discoveries and is named after Portuguese explorer Bartolomeu Dias». Located on the ground floor, inspired by Africa, the bistro evokes the ambiance of the African jungle and invite the client on a safari with its animal prints. «The dominants are natural colors such as the green of the jungle and natural materials such as wood and linen. In our ‘wine-safe’, we kept the original security door and placed zebra-striped stools for our guests to sit on while tasting Portuguese wines», Ingrid concludes.
Rua de Mouzinho da Silveira N 228