It’s a short ferry ride from São Sebastião to the stunning shores of Ilhabela, an archipelago of islands and islets and a thriving nature reserve off Brazil’s east coast. The beautiful main island is entirely different to Ibiza and yet shares some historical similarities – pirates among other things – and now both islands share a more modern connection via a new Blakstad project.
When the owners of the plot started planning this 12-room boutique hotel, they went where all budding designers go – Pinterest. As their tastes and inclinations began to emerge through their searches so did a recurring name from another small island – Blakstad Design Consultants. Unfazed by the distance, the owners enlisted the Blakstad team utilising the available technology to create a design completely remotely. The brief developed over a handful of video calls; it was to be essentially Mediterranean by design but with a Brazilian twist.
“The local building methods are very similar to Ibiza,” said Rolf Blakstad. “The differences we had to contend with were the climate and local legislation.” Ilhabela is tropical for the most part but contends with a varied climate profile depending on where you are at any given time. The mountains fall into the Oceanic climate spectrum with high humidity, low-hanging clouds and cool summers. Just moments away, it’s steaming hot and wet for most of the year.
Dense reports arrived in the Blakstad inbox detailing trade wind activity, hourly temperatures, humidity, average precipitation and the trajectory of the sun across the seasons. This information along with videos and photos presented a clear picture of the location, which in turn informed the direction of the design. “In Ibiza, summers are lived outdoors so our designs incorporate an easy flow between inside and out,” says Blakstad. “In Ilhabela, life takes place outside even more frequently so the transitions between the interiors and exteriors were even more prominent.” Slowly, a majestic building started to take shape, whitewashed and sparkling, rising from the deep greens of the Atlantic Forest and overlooking the deep blues of the Atlantic Ocean.
The Blakstad imprint is noticeable in the white walls, exposed stonework, custom wood cabinetry with iron bolts, niche seating and elegant water features. Regal arches lining the façades diverge from the usual Blakstad style, lending a sense of prominence – a calling card to guests stamping the building’s status as a luxurious and exclusive hotel located not in the Med but in Brazil. Guest rooms overlook patios facing the ocean as well as opening to private swimming pools and secluded terraces soundtracked by bubbling water features. The interiors are simple in their luxury, plush beds facing enormous glass pivot doors, bespoke wood furniture, and rain showers placed in the centre of bathrooms boasting views for miles. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are taken on a dining terrace from which the vistas reach all the way to the mainland. And a sunken, covered lounge patio features a stone ramp sliding effortlessly towards the infinity pool.
Design-wise, the project was a joy to work on, with the owners trusting the process implicitly and solid in their desire to build something special on an island not known for its architecture. “It was very satisfying to work in an area that is still developing its own stylistic voice,” says Blakstad. “The owners were not only interested in building something beautiful but also in setting an example of what can be done, pushing for higher quality standards both in design and sustainable practices.”
Known for its gorgeous tropical landscape, myriad waterfalls, lush hiking trails through diverse flora and fauna, and exceptional diving spots, Ilhabela is now also home to the world’s very first Blakstad-designed hotel. Its first guests will be surrounded by the tropics and deeply ensconced in luxury with the knowledge that the owners of this grand property are making a difference.
Interest in sustainable practices has moved from a trend to a given across all aspects of the architectural world but what keeps surprising is the number of projects that have their beginnings on the pages of social media. “Increasingly new clients are coming to us through our social media platforms,” says Blakstad. “It’s very visual obviously, and immediate. The technology available permitted this project to go ahead even though we never met the client in person. It’s a remarkable development in our working patterns.”
As more and more projects develop outside of the usual paradigm, the Blakstad team are keen to embrace clients wherever they are in the world. Eager and early adopters of new technologies, it’s comforting to know that a good conversation is still the foundation of any creative endeavour whether that happens in a boardroom, a café or over a video call.