Text and Photography: Emily Claire Hughes
One year ago today, I first laid eyes on the apartment that has now become my home. Portugal was the last leg of an epic roadtrip through Europe, and the final destination for my boyfriend, Kris, as he prepared to settle into a life in Ericeira. He’d been working for years to make his dream a reality, and he arrived to Portugal as most dreamers do, with a van full of stuff, and nowhere to live… Oh, and a girlfriend. Luckily, Kris already had a few friends living in Ericeira, and they gave us a place to shower (ladies and gents, please appreciate your hot showers today) and feel like humans again, after seven days in a van.
Our first afternoon in town, we were introduced to a friend of a friend, who was looking to rent out an apartment in her home. Having lived solely in New York apartments for the entirety of my adult life, I was beyond curious as to what a Portuguese flat would look like. There’s an interesting mix of modern and ancient architecture in Ericeira, but everything in the heart of town is definitely the latter. To be honest, I think the town looks like the set of “Mamma Mia’“ but I’m an ignorant American, so don’t take my word for it because Portugal isn’t Greece… but it sure is pretty!
quite possibly, the most beautiful tiled house I’ve ever seen
So we meet Sofia, a tall, lean woman who oozes glamour and sophistication. (At this point, I was really happy with our decision to shower.) Sofia leads us into, quite possibly, the most beautiful tiled house I’ve ever seen, located on a quaint cobblestone street, thirty meters from the beach. Passing through two sets of old wooden doors, we’re dumped into the front hall of the flat, which leads to a small kitchen in one direction, two bedrooms in another, a back terrace with stone walls, and finally, the bright, sun-filled living room with French doors that open onto the street. Cue me, “Oh my goodness! It’s beautiful! It’s perfect! We want it!” (Keep in mind, in this moment, I had an apartment in New York, so I had literally no right and/or money to have strong opinions about Kris’ future home. But I’m an excitable person, and holy moly, this place was giving me all the feels.)
Two minutes later, we’d moved in our suitcases, as Sofia insisted we “try it out” for a few nights, to get the feel of the place. Two days later, Kris signed the lease (duh), only after Sofia gave us a tour of the upper levels of the house, and told us every detail of the immense history her family has in this town. (Talk about hostess with the most-ess!) What I love about this flat, is the walls are seeping with character and stories. You can feel the history as soon as you walk in the door.
So, uh, I guess it’s no shocker of a surprise that I moved in this year?
And while I’m quite in love with my little Portuguese nook, it’s taken some time to get used to. It ain’t New York, folks. It’s been quite an adventure trying to bring a bit of mine and Kris’ modern style into this ancient home. Let me show you what we’ve done so far.
Starting with my favorite…
The Living Room
Every morning, my post-coffee routine consists of walking into the living room and opening the French doors, to let the light and fresh air come flooding in (as seen in the picture top left). By 8am, the town is already buzzing, and my favorite cafe, The Mill, is cranking out espressos and avocado toast, right across the cobblestone street. If it’s a particularly great morning, Diogo (server extraordinaire from the Mill) will reach through the French doors to deliver a flat white to our coffee table. This is not a drill.
Sorry, enough about coffee.
Back to the flat! On my recent trip to the US, I brought back an entire suitcase containing my antique camera collection, and other random home decor items I somehow deemed important, like a golden paperweight in the shape of a hand. I’m aware it’s a bit ridiculous. But I’m also aware of the tremendous pride I feel when looking at the cabinet filled with pieces of Kris’ and my life, complete with the cameras that survived customs (pictured bottom left).
This is the room where Kris does his studying, where we have conversations through the French doors with friends passing by on the street, where we sip gin & tonics on the couch, and where we plan our adventures. It’s the epitome of what I think a living room should be, and I sure do love living in it.
While we’re very lucky to live in a furnished flat, I have to admit I struggled for a bit with the huge, dark furniture pieces filling our home. I like Scandinavian simplicity, and the giant ornate bedframe pictured above, is kind of the opposite of simple… So I took to the internet for inspiration, because it’s the year 2018 and the internet solves everything (ha.). A few days later, I had a beautiful, bright white duvet cover from Zara Home (complete with tiny red tassels), some retro lamps from my new favorite store, Casa, two succulents because the Internet told me so, and suddenly the bedroom was coming together. I added a few too many pillows to the bed, and voila! I had a comfy, cozy, inviting space to welcome me into a deep sleep every night. During the day, the bed is also where I do a lot of my blogging, with the help of said pillows and a nice breeze from the corner window. It’s not Scandinavian, but hey, I live in Portugal now. I’d say this room has an Ameri-Scandi-Portian vibe. Why have one scheme, when you can have three?
This is where the magic happens. We’ve got an elf-sized stone sink, enough decorative fish plates for the whole town, and approximately zero counter space, and yet, this is still where the magic happens. This is where I butchered a chocolate cake so badly it was inedible, where Kris and I first made original “Schwäbische Spätzle” (say that five times fast), and where the idea for our dinner club was born. Adorned with delicate Portuguese tiles, this room is stuck in time, and I’ve just let it stay that way. It has a life of its own, and after a few months, the gingham table cloth kind of grows on you!
Countless friends have sat around the circular table/countertop/everything space, to enjoy a coffee, beer, or even some banana egg pancakes. Kitchens are the heart of every home, and ours is no different. It just looks that way…
The other nooks and crannies of our Ericeira nest hold more ornate tiles, an incredibly large bathroom (by New York standards), a guest room, and the world’s best breakfast spot, also known as the terrace.
And that’s our home
I’m so grateful to this town for welcoming me into it’s heart
It isn’t huge, and it’s full of quirks (don’t you dare shower at the same time somebody else is doing the dishes), but I couldn’t imagine a better place to call home for my first year in Portugal. I’m so grateful to this town for welcoming me into it’s heart, literally and figuratively. Every day, I wake up in a small piece of history, and look out the French doors to see surfers, families, and coffee-drinkers all going about their lives on the cobblestone streets. This flat has fostered my creativity, my relationship and my confidence in a new country, and that’s something far beyond what I imagined one year ago today, when I was passing through as a visitor. 365 days later I can tell you, it sure feels good to be home. Now if you’ll excuse me, there’s a flat white from The Mill calling my name…