Maria’s home truths
MY HOME IS... a fourth-floor apartment with a view of Lisbon’s ancient cathedral. My son Antonio and I have been living here for years and years.
IT’S BUILT ON SOLID FOUNDATIONS... My ancestors – an architect and an engineer – first came here just after the great earthquake of 1755, and helped to rebuild the city. And the area where we live now!
FAMILY MEANS EVERYTHING TO ME... I’m proud of my family’s history, and love filling my home with the photos, books, furniture and accessories I’ve inherited.
FOOD BRINGS US TOGETHER... Cooking is another thing that’s passed on down the family. My father taught me to cook, and I taught Antonio. Hopefully one day he’ll share what he’s learnt with his children.
IT’S ALL ABOUT SHARING... Hosting dinner parties, sharing traditional recipes, telling great stories – those are the things I love. Which is why I left my old job last year to start catering from my kitchen. I didn’t want to miss the chance to do what I love the most.
Surroundings that tell a story
As part of her new business, Maria hosts dinner parties for paying guests and friends in her living room, extending her table and adding extra chairs. And, to make sure conversation never falls flat, she has a secret ingredient – her picture wall. ‘Guests always ask about the pictures. Each one has its own story to tell – from Antonio’s first drawing to my father’s gastronomy diploma. They mean everything to me.’
Everything begins in the kitchen
‘The kitchen’s my favourite place,’ says Maria. ‘When my guests arrive, I like them to sit down, have a drink. And talk about food. Food makes everyone feel at home.’ So, for Maria, changing her life also meant updating her kitchen, with the help of a team from IKEA. ‘I wanted to keep the kitchen’s style, the old table and baskets... But add much more storage. Now I can cater events for 200 people from this room.’
‘My father – that’s his photo on the wall – used to be in his kitchen until the early hours, cooking and writing about food,’ says Maria. ‘A bit like me! His family cooked a lot, and now Antonio cooks with me.’
What you store, and how you store it, can add so much character to a kitchen. Consider keeping collections of wine, herbs, spices, plates – anything that looks interesting – on open shelves or racks instead of in closed cabinets.
Updating a traditional kitchen doesn’t mean it has to lose its original charm. Pick accessories in the same style so you get modern function and old style. Like Maria’s lamp that can be clamped to shelves or fixed to walls and lights up her coffee station in the evening.
‘My father wrote many recipes, and passed them on to me. He made me his sous chef when I was very little’
A library of one’s own
‘I read a lot; that’s how I relax,’ says Maria, who also uses her study to work from her laptop at the desk. ‘Before we got these BILLY bookcases, my books were piled all over the floor. Just imagine! Now they’re organised into categories: poetry, fiction, art, history, philosophy, science.’
A room with a view
There’s no window in Maria’s bedroom, but she’s created her own view. ‘With this picture, I have something to focus on,’ she says. ‘And I can give myself a new view when I need a change. I don’t spend a lot of time in my room but I do read in here at night. Having lights clipped onto the headboard is useful – it means I don’t have to strain my neck leaning over towards the bedside lamp!’
New bedroom beginnings
When Antonio started at university last year, he refreshed his childhood bedroom to make it a better space to study in and entertain friends. He slimmed down his storage – replacing a big, under-used wardrobe with an open clothes rack – to make his room feel more light and airy. Read more about Antonio’s bedroom
A front row seat
‘We have lots of religious processions in the old part of the city where we live,’ says Maria. ‘Antonio and I like to bring seats out to the balcony and take in the atmosphere.’
Step into Maria and Antonio’s cheerful apartment.
Making the best of old features
Maria’s fourth-floor apartment is long and narrow. To stop her dark wood furniture feeling too heavy in the space, she makes the most of the natural light that comes in from the balcony doors in the living room and second bedroom, as well as the kitchen by keeping her window dressings lightweight. Maria’s created space for extra storage by putting in floor-to-ceiling bookshelves in her study and refitting the old bathroom with a shower unit.