When I heard that one of the most elegant and imaginatively styled resorts in Europe was willing to sell its design I sat up to take notice. “Everything is for sale, everything!” they said. Intrigued, I made the short flight from the City to the very tip of Spain in Andalucia. I’d wanted to see this property for years and now was my chance.
Such claims turned out to be something of an exaggeration, but not entirely; the spirit is there, and the resort’s tranquil, spacious salons and courtyards are bursting with wonderfully eclectic decorative objects, antique furniture, handpainted wallpapers and contemporary fabrics. It is traditional, with a twist, and it may leave you too spoiled to stay anywhere characterless again.
I drive into a pretty cobbled courtyard of white-washed walls, fountain and pink geraniums – a country estate of 67 suites set in 525 acres of gardens, with a championship golf course, destination spa, three restaurants (including Michelin-star Japanese), bar and beach-club.
However, I am six years too late to meet the original interior decorator, Duarte Pinto Coelho, who died a year after the finca was built from scratch in 2009. This turned out to be his last project – he was 87 – having worked among the greats of the 20th century: Coco Chanel, Elsa Schiaparelli, Salvador Dalí, Truman Capote and Maria Callas.
Coelho, Portuguese by birth who lived in Madrid, was commissioned to decorate the public spaces and set about collecting antiques from Spain, Portugal, Morocco, the UK and beyond. I’m shown around by José Lumbreras, the owner’s right-hand man who currently looks after the construction and sale of the second phase of private villas. He says that guests are often asking about the things they see, so the staff try to source them.
The interior design of the suites was given to two sisters who work out of Bilbao, Ana and Christina Calderon (calderonbilbao.com). A discrete notice on my desk says: "The objects of decoration displayed in your room are sold by the hotel.”
Should I want to take something home, my oversize sculptural wire-work chandelier, for example, is by Marie Christophe from southwest France, and costs (a whopping) €6,000; the heavy bedspread set is by C&C Milano, at €710 (find them at Chelsea Design Centre). The sisters have just put swathes of botanical fabric on the walls, by Bennison Fabrics, of the El Jardin restaurant, and, a real favourite of mine, etched velvet-covered arm As the saying goes, every picture tells a story.
Finca Cortesin Hotel doubles, in which you can buy everything, from €464, including breakfast (fincacortesin.com)
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