A Conversation with Veronique Polaert about Casa Mãe in Lagos

November 29, 2017

Veronique is the founder and creative mind behind Casa Mãe, a gorgeous boutique hotel in the Algarve tucked away beside the ancient city walls of Lagos.

A Conversation with Veronique Polaert about Casa Mãe in Lagos

“I fell in love with Portugal, its beauty, its simplicity and the kindness of its people…”
- Veronique, founder of Casa Mãe

You were born in Paris and you lived in London working in investment banking. Opening a boutique hotel had always been a dream of yours, why Portugal and more specifically why Lagos in the Algarve?

I fell in love with Portugal, its beauty, its simplicity and the kindness of its people when I first visited the country in April/ May 2014. In Lagos, it was the beautiful beaches, the sun, the life by the sea and the amazing farms and produce that decided me to do Casa Mãe there.

I wanted to find a place that I can call home – a place where life is sweet, where people take the time to grow their vegetables, to eat well, to get some sun, to go fishing, surfing but also a place with a strong identity, and a heritage.

When I found this abandoned estate with this beautiful romantic ruin by the old city walls, I knew that I had found it. Casa Mãe is more than a holiday place, it’s a place with strong values and another approach to life.

Casa Mãe in Lagos in 2015, an abandoned estate
Veronique found this abandoned estate house in 2015 - a dream project of hers.

We love coming to the Algarve in the winter, it’s sunny with mild temperatures and so peaceful. We think it’s really great that you are going to be open all year round, when a lot of businesses temporary close. Can you tell us a bit about the Winter Residence opportunity that you’re offering your guests?

Winter is also my favourite season in the Algarve. This sun that you get seems so precious, the air and the light are so pure, the landscapes so peaceful. Even nature seems on hold during the high season, plants start growing again, recovering from the season during the winter! Wintertime is the time for us to develop projects, to reflect and be creative.

We love collaborations and we try to promote Casa Mãe as a creative platform, during the winter we try to foster this sense of creative community by offering creative residences with the program share & stay – 3 workshops for 7 nights.

The idea is to invite creative people – be it a chef, a designer, a photographer, a ceramist, a filmmaker, and so on – to come over and hold workshops to share and mingle with our community and guests.

We also offer discounted rates for stays over 20 nights, we suggest freelancers rent their flat for one month and come and stay with us, enjoy a different lifestyle, and work in another environment.

“…a place where life is sweet, where people take the time to grow their vegetables, to eat well, to get some sun, to go fishing, surfing.”
- Veronique, founder of Casa Mãe

We love the minimal interiors, even though it’s modern you can really feel the Portuguese touches, it’s a lovely fusion. You worked almost exclusively with local artisans and craftsmen. How did you find them?

On the internet to start… but then by talking with people, Portugal is a small country and it’s so easy to ‘network’ here, it’s actually very natural. You can’t go out without bumping into someone you know, and people like helping out, connecting dots – community and solidarity go well together.

This is what I have experienced in Portugal, and why I’m so keen on developing further those community links with Casa Mãe.

four decorative rugs hanging on wall, by GUR
The stylish interiors are the result of collaborations with dozens of artisans focusing on showcasing the new generation of Portuguese craft such as these series of hand-woven rugs made with recycled cotton, a collaboration between the French designer Martin Blanchard and Porto based atelier GUR ran by Célia Esteves.
a bathtub and two ceramic pots
Pots by ceramicist, Ricardo Lopes, that are used to store the Oliofora bath treats.

What’s your favourite object at Casa Mãe?

That’s a difficult one… it’s the combination and the connections of all the objects that I very much enjoy.

One of my inspirational moments for Casa Mãe was a full-day workshop with the interior designer Isle Crawford when I was living in London and I remember her saying that the objects that people use the most are the ones in which they ‘invest’ the less in – the objects of the daily life shall be the ones that we prefer…

This is why we put so much attention into the ceramic pots in the shower, experiencing their simple elegance and texture is a nice routine to start the day.

But I also like very much the terracotta pattern tiles, the tote bag, the unique vases, the graphic rugs on the wall, the blue and white wool rugs in the cabanas, the solid oak stools etc so many pieces we created for Casa Mãe, and there is a story behind each and all of them so it is very difficult for me to pick one!!

“Each piece we created for Casa Mãe has a story.”
- Veronique, founder of Casa Mãe

With a project this big, we imagine it’s still early days for you to fully let your hair down and relax, but what’s your perfect day off in Lagos like?

I have my routine already, once a week my perfect day off in Lagos starts with a nice takeaway matcha latte with homemade almond milk. I’m really happy that we have this matcha now mastered by our barista! This whilst I watch that the breakfast is running smoothly with me, not on duty.

Then I go to the farmers’ market to get some flowers, chat with some producers, check what’s in season and buy some fruits we don’t have in our farms.

Then back at Casa Mãe, I pick some more greens and flowers from our gardens and I catch up with our gardeners. It’s so relaxing to see plants growing and collecting the produce.

Once all that is done, I take a big super green juice to go to the beach or I go sailing. I like to go to Meia Praia as I enjoy the clear horizon, the quietness and the long walks there, it’s perfect for a swim as well. When I go sailing we meet with some fishermen friends for some sunset with Vinho Verde and grilled fish. I also love going to the secret beaches, difficult to access next to Carrapateira, so wild and preserved there.

Meia Praia's white sand and blue sea
Meia Praia is a long sandy beach near Casa Mãe where Veronique likes to hang out on her days off.

What’s your favourite hotel worldwide?

I haven’t been travelling for the last two years because of Casa Mãe and I have a loooong list of hotels I would like to visit.

I guess that a favourite hotel is a hotel where you have special memories… I had a very special experience at Hôtel Particulier Montmartre in Paris, this small hotel is set in a very beautiful garden, it doesn’t feel like it’s in Paris but in some quiet and charming countryside. Like, in a place where time is somehow suspended and it’s the old way of living again…

I especially remember this long sunny breakfast in the garden, antique old fashion garden chairs, linen and tableware, so cosy and intimate. It felt so special, unique and authentic – and so comfortable.

A favourite hotel would be a place that manages to get you to grasp special moments and create beautiful memories.

The facade of Hotel Particuler Montmartre in Paris
Hôtel Particulier Montmartre, a small hotel in Paris that is set in a very beautiful garden.

Thank you very much for this interview Veronique

Thank you too!

Here's hoping you create new memories here in Portugal. Tag us on Instagram (we would love it if you do!) and let us know how it goes. 🤗

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Joana and Sofia

Check out our full report on Casa Mãe

© Photos by JO&SO and courtesy of Casa Mãe. 

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