Image description goes here.


Joana Astolfi, an architect, artist, and designer, draws inspiration from a diverse array of found objects and artifacts. With a keen eye for narrative and a profound respect for history, she approaches architecture and design as a symbiotic dance between space and human experience, as showcased in our exclusive listing designed in collaboration architect Vanessa Ruivo, Chalet Guilhermina, with Fantastic Frank Lisbon.

Interview by Catarina de Almeida Brito.


Chalet Guilhermina exclusively listed with Fantastic Frank Lisbon, photos by Luis Nobre Guedes

Tell me a little about yourself and your work. 

I'm an architect, designer, and artist, working on three fronts.

I studied architecture in England, but I grew up with an architect father and a gallerist mother, always navigating between the worlds of art and architecture. I have always had a passion for drawing—it has been my way of finding solace, even as an only daughter, and still is today. I also have a penchant for collecting objects. Having travelled a lot around the world, I have been exposed to a wealth of visual information and spaces, form, beauty, and function.

I was torn between pursuing architecture and art. When seeking guidance from my father, he advised, "If you have an equal passion for both, choose architecture. It will provide a solid foundation. As for art, you already have that in you."

Architecture has opened many opportunities, as it involves not only spatial drawing but also encourages exploration into various creative fields—product design, photography, graphic design, and scenography. However, I quickly discovered that I really liked interiors.

I enjoy rehabilitating spaces, as I did with Chalet Guilhermina. My approach involves crafting a narrative based on the existing story of a space, seeking its truth, and transforming it. I particularly like blending contemporary elements with the old.


Art has always been a constant presence in my work. I initially focused on exhibition design, including a big exhibition for the 100th anniversary of CUF, I then collaborated with Avillez on restaurant design projects. I believe my greatest strength is creativity, which unfolds in these areas. Later, I ventured into showcase design for Hermès, a new challenge that allowed me to work within controlled spaces, crafting mise-en-scènes and integrating products into scenography.

My approach is very theatrical and scenic, characterised by playfulness. We experiment with a mix of materials and finishes, crafting unique pieces tailored to each project.

Currently, I oversee two departments: an art department located in a workshop in Graça, and a studio for architects and designers in Bairro Alto.

What are the characteristics of the place where the Chalet is located that inspired you? 

The proportion of the space is good, the floor plan is well-designed, and the house is bathed in light throughout. Situated in Monte Estoril, adjacent to Cascais where I grew up, I felt completely at home. With the sea right in front of you, it's a truly idyllic setting.

What are the stories that you imagined would unfold in the house? 

I always need my projects to have a sense of playfulness. Hence, I incorporated whimsical elements in the entrance, subtly echoed in the master bedroom and the kids' room with the in-built bunk bed. It's like curating a showcase, a mise-en-scène.

In the entrance cabinet, you'll find objects closely tied to Portugal—clay pieces, straw creations, and nostalgic items like old brooms and the crow figurine. Nearby the kids’ room there are vintage Portuguese toys, and on the other side, a boat and large clay vases from the Algarve. Additionally, two brass 'chocalhos' (cowbells) that I bought from Feira da Ladra, they are beautiful! Clogs from Northern Portugal, painted ceramics, and ceramic Ox heads, each telling a story. 

For every project we do, we tell a different story. Each varies in scale and always starts from a unique narrative.


Tell me a little about the round elements that are in the bedroom

With the oak arched doors, we celebrate and emphasise passages. You pass through the cabinet of curiosities to enter the room through an integrated door. We sought to replicate these curves in the headboard designed for the bed, which is upholstered in velvet, matching the turquoise green wall. We really like these lines and curves to play with some organic elements within the geometric design.

Who are the artisans and people who are in a way also part of the project? 

We worked with a construction company who has quality workmanship, Details Mind. They build very rigorously, including the production of the solid wood dining table.

We also worked with some skilled artisans. Mr. Pinote, an experienced carpenter who is almost retired, made the wonderful bunk bed and the staircase leading to it. I would even like to dedicate this house in part to him for his exceptional craftsmanship. We also worked with Vasco Águas who created the tapestry in the living room.


Where do you go to find inspiration?

It doesn't have to be a physical place; I spend a lot of time researching. As Andy Warhol said, ‘I don't read, I look at pictures.’ I'm a visual seeker, exploring all realms of products, art, photography, fashion—everything. This exploration creates a visual encyclopaedia in my mind. I've been travelling a lot since I was young, and I keep sketchbooks and notebooks where I write and draw. Sometimes, I rediscover ideas from five years ago. So, inspiration often comes from constant visual observation, travel, and urban cultural experiences.

Nature, the sea, and the sun help me feel grounded; they are my escape and relaxation.

Certain individuals inspire me a lot, and being around them teaches me many things. They are curious, a very important factor for inspiration. Every day, I try to surprise myself and, in a way, reinvent myself.

public uploads projects Casa Clement resized IMG 3011-1800x0

How has Lisbon changed since the studio started in 2009? 

The dynamics that have been evolving here, especially in the last 5 or 6 years, are very different from 15 or 20 years ago. There was a sense of ‘old schoolness’, which also had a romantic and poetic charm. But, I like the current dynamic, the cultural buzz, and the cosmopolitan hustle and bustle that characterise the city today.

Walking down the street, you hear many languages being spoken and come across people with diverse life experiences from all over the world, and that's wonderful. Then you start to see that the city is also being reborn.

For someone who doesn't know Monte Estoril, like me, what are your favourite places in Monte Estoril? 

‘Jardim dos Passarinhos’, because there are giant bird cages there with lots of birds inside. There's a kiosk where people gather to sit, drink, and enjoy the birds. This garden is a meeting point in Monte Estoril. Then there’s Avenida Sabóia, where the house is located, you'll find several beautiful ‘palacetes’ and ‘chalets’. Nearby, ‘Cruzeiro’ has recently reopened with new shops. There was also a restaurant there that I really liked, which still exists, which was the English Bar, now it’s called Cimas, facing the sea. Monte Estoril also has the connection with Cascais next door. 


Follow over to see the full listing and contact us to learn about Chalet Guilhermina.




More News

Read more
To top