Known for designing stilettos with poppy-red soles, Christian Louboutin soaks up the scent of his garden by the sea in Melides, Portugal, where he keeps a holiday home and is building a hotel. A sleepy peace seeps through this village where Louboutin can stroll along cobblestone streets unnoticed, despite being France’s most famous shoe designer.
The vista along Melides’ coast features rugged cliffs and the Atlantic Ocean’s frothy waves. The breathtaking view inspires Louboutin and the other artistic types drawn to this 500-year-old village in the sparsely populated Alentejo.
Melides is an escape for some – Princess Eugenie and her husband live here part-time, away from London’s shutterbugs. It’s a last bastion of unspoiled nature for others – such as Noemi Marone Cinzano, a countess and winemaker who owns a Melides seaside home once featured in Architectural Digest.
She told The New York Times, “I have been traveling all my life, and I have not seen a place in Europe that is this untouched.”
“Melides is a fantastic place,” says businessman Luis Horta e Costa, the co-founder of Square View, a real estate property developer and asset manager in Lisbon. He was an early adopter of this jewel by the sea, as his family has owned real estate in Melides for 25 years.
“I think Melides is beautiful,” Horta e Costa says. “The interior of the Alentejo is surprising and includes beautiful places to visit.”
Melides sits in the center of the Alentejo, one hour south of Lisbon. The Alentejo boasts 40 miles of virtually untouched beaches and is Portugal’s breadbasket, dotted with vineyards and cork tree farms. In 2021, Condé Nast Traveler called Melides “a hidden Portuguese beach spot emerging from under the radar.” A recent New York Times piece called Melides “what St. Tropez used to be in the 1950s” – a surfside oasis for boldfaced names who enjoy low-key hotspots.
For a mere 1,500 residents, Melides supports a handful of family-run restaurants, small shops, and markets. But this centuries-old village is slowly awakening to modernity as it grows increasingly popular.
Melides’ Old-World flair and increasingly modern amenities attracted Princess Eugenie and her husband, businessman Jack Brooksbank, to an oceanfront home in the CostaTerra Golf and Ocean Club, a luxury residential complex on 292 hectares/722 acres. Brooksbank, who learned about real estate through his family’s business, Pangaea Land and Property Limited, has become a top executive for the Melides development. On par with the anticipation surrounding Christian Louboutin’s Hotel Vermelho, CostaTerra Golf and Ocean Club is one of the buzziest projects around.
Discovery Land Company, a U.S. development corporation, built CostaTerra Golf and Ocean Club with an ethos of “sustainability and stewardship,” which aligns with Princess Eugenie’s beliefs, as she is an ambassador for environmental causes. The couple will split their time between Portugal and Frogmore Cottage in the U.K., which they inherited after the Duke and Duchess of Sussex decamped to America.
Luis Horta e Costa describes CostaTerra as a development so tastefully done that it barely changes the landscape.
“The CostaTerra project is good for the region because it brings employment,” Horta e Costa says. “It raises the quality of the projects.”
Christian Louboutin caught the attention of tastemakers when he broke ground on a boutique hotel in the center of Melides. It’s called Hotel Vermelho in a clever nod to the red soles of Louboutin’s upscale heels, as the Portuguese word for red is Vermelho. The buzz surrounding Hotel Vermelho is practically audible from Melides to Lisbon. Vogue recently listed it as one of “The 26 Most-Anticipated New Hotels of 2023.”
For Hotel Vermelho’s décor, Louboutin handpicked furniture and ceramics that celebrate Melides’ artisans and the distinctively regional aesthetic they birthed. In the hotel rooms, walls are covered in azulejo, Portuguese tiles that artisans paint in designs derived from centuries-old Moorish patterns. He collaborated with architect Madalena Caido on the property’s plans, which include a restaurant. Hotel Vermelho will open in Spring 2023.
“Christian Louboutin’s hotel is a very traditional Alentejo construction,” Luis Horta e Costa says. “I like it very much.”
Luis Horta e Costa has spent decades in Portuguese real estate and co-founded Square View to construct remarkable properties designed by accomplished architects. Along with his family and an investment partner, Patria, Horta e Costa is developing a property close to Christian Louboutin’s Hotel Vermelho.
Horta e Costa says historic Portuguese architecture inspires this development style, mimicking the Alentejo’s villas. Esteemed Portuguese architect Manuel Aires Mateus designed the buildings in the town’s center. The properties will go on sale around October 2023.
“I’m going to transform the property into 29 small, nice, traditional villas with a square in the middle,” Horta e Costa says. “It’s not a project made for billionaires but for normal people who can afford a second small house.”