The Portuguese village of Melides still feels like a well-kept secret. Despite being just an hour and a half south of Lisbon, and 20 minutes from its buzzy neighbor Comporta, the sleepy hamlet appears as if frozen in time from the 19th century. At its center is a cobblestoned square, where a whitewashed church spire looms over tiny family-run restaurants with outdoor terraces and rows of terracotta-roofed cottages with wrought-iron balconies. On a warm spring day, it’s entirely deserted—as is the beach, a golden, windswept slice of the Alentejo coast, that’s only a 10-minute drive away.
But change is afoot. Wind down the town’s meandering lanes, past orange trees and closed shop fronts, and you reach an imposing door carved out of dark wood. Behind it is a hive of activity, as the final touches are put on a property that is guaranteed to draw in a stylish new crowd and slowly transform this region into one of the hottest destinations in the country: Vermelho, the first hotel from the legendary shoemaker Christian Louboutin.
The designer, who’s owned homes in Lisbon and Comporta since the ’90s, stumbled upon Melides just over a decade ago. The story goes that he’d had an accident and was driving back from a local hospital when he noticed the picturesque town, bordered by lush forests and an expansive lagoon. He bought a fisherman’s house on its shores soon after and continues to return twice a year, both to work and unwind (his now-extended compound includes an atelier with panoramic views of the water). Louboutin’s hope, with Vermelho, is to share the raw natural beauty of his surroundings with visitors who might previously have bypassed this province in favor of Portugal’s largest cities or the Algarve—but he’s equally keen to preserve the tranquillity that brought him here in the first place.
To that end, his newly built boutique lodgings contain just 13 rooms and its exterior is designed, with the help of Louboutin’s friend, the Portuguese architect Madalena Caiado, to blend seamlessly into the environment with its powdery blue and white walls, gently sloped roofs and delicately carved chimneys. Once you go through the doors, though, it becomes decidedly more eclectic: while there are a wealth of distinctively Portuguese details, from the coffered ceilings to the stunning azulejo mural that faces the reception, the interiors also pay tribute to Louboutin’s French and Egyptian heritage, as well as the extensive travels that have inspired his countless collections.