"Chaos is not the opposite of rhythm but the milieu of all milieus"
Deleuze & Guattari

Thursday, 19 August 2010


Friend of Coco Chanel, Salvador Dali, Maria Callas and Elsa Schiaparelli, interior designer Duarte Pinto Coelho surrounded himself with talent and beauty for the best part of the twentieth century. Before his death last month at the age of 87, he applied his eye and knowledge to the Finca Cortesin hotel in Andalucia, his last project.

Fenced off from the horrors of the Costa del Sol, the Portuguese decorator's experienced hand lifted what could so easily have been another bland 5-star out of ubiquity and elevated it to an atmospheric space with treats tucked into the corners and spilling from the plasterwork.

Highlights (above) include wooden millinery blocks, faded tapestries and embroidery, Manuel Canovas fabrics, an Arabian-style cut and painted ceiling, a leather-topped cards table with mother of pearl inlays, numerous well-worn grey-painted wooden doors and lampstands, and a jolie-laide miniature crystal totem on a polished gemstone table.

Duarte said he learned his trade by observing the grand Parisian homes of Baron Alexis de Redé and Barons de Rothschild in the 1940s, from which he picked up the conventional style that won him contracts with the Spanish royal family. He later worked on the restoration of artworks and ceramics for the National Museum of Decorative Arts, Madrid, and was awarded two medals for his contribution to Spanish artistic culture.

He started early, as he explained to the Portuguese magazine Faces, “When my parents went out, I would change the house, moving things here and there, and when they returned they never scolded me, because the changes were always for the better ”.