x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Marrakech-inspired living by the lake in Portugal

Moroccan-inspired house designed by Maria do Rosario Gabriel in Portugal.

It is almost impossible to put your finger on the formula for the perfect family holiday home, but this laid-back, colour-saturated property in Portugal comes pretty close. The house is set beside a lake in the centre of the country, a perfect spot for the whole family to enjoy waterborne activities such as fishing, sailing, swimming, canoeing and water skiing, as well as cycling and walking on the beautiful nearby trails.

There is a lovely garden and an extensive decked area on the ground floor, which leads directly to the lake, plus a much-used swimming pool on the first floor. The outside spaces - sparsely furnished and with lean architectural lines - offer the same tranquil air as the interior, but interpreted in a much more neutral style. "The family occupies the house at weekends, particularly during the summer," explains Maria do Rosario Gabriel, the Portugal-based interior designer who was responsible for the decor of the property.

Inspired by the culture and dazzling jewel tones of Morocco, she has imbued it with a relaxed spirit, not least in the kaleidoscopic interior, where the spaces flow effortlessly from room to room. "This was my house before I sold it to the family," Rosario Gabriel goes on. "When [my daughter] was about seven, I frequently used to take her with four or five other children to the house. That's the reason for all these spaces."

Built 15 years ago, the six-bedroom house is roomy enough to easily accommodate a large, bustling family and guests, being set over three levels with an extra mezzanine at the top, creating the impression of a fourth storey. The Moroccan vibe is evident as soon as you step through the front door. The powerful red and green hues of Marrakech shimmer on the walls and ceilings, while ornate lanterns, interesting sculptures and silver-leaf accents are dotted about the rooms.

The ground floor includes two of the children's bedrooms (as well as opening up to the deck and beautiful grounds) offering the youngest members of the family their own private bolthole away from the adults. These are vivacious, inspirational spaces: the four-bunk bedroom is like a funked-up ship's cabin with custom-built beds painted fluoro green, striped bed linens and flashes of clashing fuchsia pink.

"The spirit reminds me of Morocco and a bit of India too," says Rosario Gabriel. The house continues the same colourful, laid-back tempo with a rustic tiled floor and rich red walls offering a warm and cocooning backdrop to comfortable, unpretentious sofas and simple wooden tables. In the first floor living room slim shelves are sprinkled with vintage treasures and one-off finds. Then, as you move up to the second floor, the Moroccan spirit becomes even more apparent. In the kitchen-dining area a domed aperture in the wall (designed to link the spaces seamlessly) is reminiscent of the beautiful domes so characteristic of Moroccan architecture, while flashes of sky blue paintwork and twinkly jewelled panels add exoticism.

On the top floor mezzanine Rosario Gabriel designed a hideaway studio, a chill-out space for kicking back at the end of the day and listening to music. It is an enveloping space, furnished simply with floor cushions in vibrant tangerine and hot pink, with subdued lighting. This is a house that has been thoughtfully and painstakingly decorated, thanks to Rosario Gabriel's creative eye and love of Moroccan culture. For the owners, it is a perfect getaway for warm sunny days spent swimming and canoeing on the lake, or simply taking in the glorious views and doing absolutely nothing. Bliss.