The story of Casa das Penhas Douradas Design Hotel starts in the village of Manteigas, down the mountain hills of Serra da Estrela in Central Portugal. What used to be an abandoned building of the old Imperio Wool Factory, is now known as The Burel Factory. The factory is owned by Joao Tomas and Isabel Costa, who are also the owners of the hotel.
Joao and Isabel, a couple in business and life, found the building (originally from the 19th century) which used to be a wool factory but was going through a bankruptcy. They seized the opportunity and bought the company with the existing machines (some of them are also dated back to the 19th century) and turned it into what it is now, The Burel Factory.
They opened the factory in March 2013 and managed to combine the old tradition of machineries with the young and up to date designers and artists, who work with them on various wool projects. It is quite unique to use traditional machinery and equipment, especially from times when the industry was mostly hand-crafted. With lots of thought and care, both Isabel and her husband managed to keep the past, reinvent and adjust it to the current needs of the market, but also think globally and look for ways of exporting the products outside of Portugal.
Among the products you can find colorful blankets, shawls, scarves, hand bags, hats, upholstery of furniture (hand made and hand stitched) most of them are used in the hotel Casa das Penhas Dourades, and also acoustic panels used in offices and public areas to reduce sound. Some of these colorful acoustic panels are well used in Microsoft Headquarters in Lisbon.
Once you understand the story of The Burel Factory, the next stop should be driving up the hills and visit Hotel Casa Das Penhas Douradas.
The hotel is located at an altitude of 1500m and surrounded by an extensive mountain landscape and an unspoiled Nature. Due to this special location, the hotel is influenced by its surrounding and 'communicates' well its designed concept; Rediscovering the beauty in simple things, just as with Nature. This is why the Architect, Pedro Brígida, kept using natural materials such as cork and wood alongside vast raw concrete walls. The cosy atmosphere was in the warmth of the wooden panels, the rawness of the wool, the comfort and ease of the chairs, the softness of the curves throughout the hotel, all in a discreet luxury.
The Living Rooms:
There are some living rooms in the hotel, all are birch paneled and furnished with wooden chairs with colorful wool patterns straight from The Burel Factory. Fire place in every room, wool stitched rugs (also made at the factory), shelves filled with books, colorful retro lamps and comfortable armchairs, all to give you that inviting feeling of a space where you can watch your favorite movie, read your book or just make you want to sip that warm chocolate drink while it is snowing or raining outside.
The Dining Room:
This might be one of your favorite areas in the hotel as it was accessible for guests 24 hours. If you fancy a tea or a fresh cookie early in the morning before breakfast is served, you can find it on one of the tables, neatly displayed. You will notice the simplicity in the dining area, the comfortable chairs, the colorful watercolor pictures on the walls and the place-mats made of... well... wool of course.
The hotel's chef consultant is Luís Baena, one of the most important and well known Portuguese chefs. The dinner is a candle-lit dinner, quiet and relaxed even though the dining area is busy with other diners. The food is considered a gourmet cuisine, using local products for the various dishes.
The hotel has 17 rooms and a suite. The rooms are also birch paneled (same as the rest of the hotel) and have large windows and terraces with deck chairs and footrests. The rooms are facing the breathtaking views of the mountains, and the suite has these great ceiling windows, allowing more light to come through.
The rooms are very comfortable and keep the warm atmosphere throughout the hotel; Each room has a duvet, down pillows, central heating, dressing gown and slippers, free wi-fi, DVD and iPod Players, fruit basket and water. And yes, the blankets, the rugs, the furniture fabrics, are all made of wool, hand made and hand stitched at the Burel Factory.
It is great to see the final product so handy and useful, incorporated in the hotel and its designs, knowing that the Burel Factory gives work for lots of families in Manteigas, and at the same time, keeping the Wool trade alive.