Portuguese architect Dino Gonçalves has created his island refuge in Madeira, drawing inspiration from fashion and filling the spaces with objects that tell his personal story
Some people are born to be entrepreneurs. They know what they want, they follow their ideas, and they make them work. Their free spirit and determination guide them. Dino Gonçalves is one such person. An architect, an interior designer, a flower designer, a window dresser, and a painter — he is all simultaneously. At the helm of his eponymous studio, Gonçalves has already worked for prestigious brands such as Selfridges, Harrods, and Hermès, and decorated events for Prince Albert of Monaco, Queen Letizia of Spain, and the Dukes of Kent, among other notable names. Currently based in his native Portugal, he has done several projects in the Middle East, for the Armani Hotel in the Burj Khalifa, Dubai, and for members of the royal family in Bahrain. Reaching this level of success, however, didn’t happen overnight.
At a young age, Gonçalves dreamt of being a painter. He moved from Madeira — where he was born and raised — to Lisbon to study architecture at university. “I didn’t like living in the capital and longed to return to my magical island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean where majestic cliffs, rocky beaches, and green mountains are the daily backdrop,” he shares. But he had to wait for a few years before making his dream a reality. The turning point in Gonçalves’s career occurred in the early 2000s when, after being initially rejected to participate in the annual interior design platform Casa Decor, he didn’t give up, insisting on showcasing his talent. Persistence paid off and he was ultimately contacted one day before the event to replace one of the designers. Since then, Gonçalves has been invited to several editions of Casa Decor, built his network, developed business connections in many parts of the world, and established his practice.
Now, Gonçalves has found the right balance in his busy life that he splits between Lisbon — “A place I’ve grown to love,” — and his island abode Madeira where he bought a second home during the pandemic. The year-long sunny weather, the presence of his family, and the fact that he frequently has work on the island all served to convince the architect that it was the right choice. He chose a 270-square-meter apartment located in Funchal, in the luxury condominium building the Savoy Residence Casa Branca, where modern architecture is characterized by taupe tones and exposed concrete prevails. Oriented south, the space offers an abundance of natural light and sublime Atlantic Ocean views. Situated on the same level as the apartment are the pool, the spa, and green areas. Inside, the kitchen, living room, and dining room are all inviting while each one of the three bedrooms has its own bathroom and closet. Large windows constantly link the interior and the exterior.
“My inspiration for the apartment came from an off-white dress by fashion designer Hervé Pierre,” says Gonçalves, who focused on this single color, with different textures, creating ton sur ton throughout. Construction and decorative materials are intertwined and create continuity between the different spaces. Lighting was also key for the architect, who opted for low and soft lamps to transmit serenity, comfort, and elegance while also placing all the fixtures in such a way that they illuminate the artworks as if placed in a gallery for an exhibition.
Gonçalves imagined every detail of his home with a specific ambience in mind that he wanted to reflect through the design. “Imagine a large candle with several wicks burning in a house decorated in beige-white in Mykonos, where the sunset, the smell of lavender, and the sea mingle,” he describes. “This is the lifestyle of this home — a home that is elegant, sophisticated, practical, and timeless, while its livability is its greatest characteristic.”
It took Gonçalves one year to decorate every nook, little by little, until achieving the perfect atmosphere. The upholstery in bouclé and cotton fabric comes from French and Italian brands. Most of the furniture was designed by Studio Dino Gonçalves while some, such as the central table from the ’80s in the living room, was sourced from Denmark. A few outstanding pieces, like the lamps in the suite or the large map board in the kitchen were purchased at auctions. Most of the ceramics — also designed by Gonçalves — are from Southern Italy. The Murano glasses are from the architect’s trips and combine with wood pieces from the north of Portugal, as well as bamboo creations and canvases specially painted by Gonçalves for this home. Made in the country, the 100% linen curtains help to delimitate the different areas. With every detail carefully considered, Gonçalves wanted to shape a relaxed yet refined atmosphere. “You come home, change clothes, put on a comfortable linen outfit, light the candles, perfume the home with mandarin and basil scent, open the windows, feel the ocean breeze, and smell the trees of Funchal in a perfect rhythm,” he describes.
Before this final version of the home, Gonçalves had already decorated the apartment. But when one of his clients fell in love with the design after seeing the pictures on Instagram, he sold it all and started again from scratch. “Every time I design a home, I do it as if it were for me,” says Gonçalves. “Whether it is a personal or a client’s project, there is a lot of my taste and aesthetic, as well as the proportions and scale I like. I always put my soul and signature, so the essence of my work is present.” With so many ideas in his head, Gonçalves is always up to a new challenge and ready for what’s next. For now, enjoying this beautiful home in Madeira is part of his summer plan.
Originally published in the July/August 2023 issue of Vogue Arabia