When Roman Carel, a Parisian who lived in London with his pregnant Swedish wife Andrea, moved to Rio at the beginning of 2013, he had just completed a year-long renovation of their new home, on the sea-side of the Dois Irmãos mountain. “The house was a real abacaxi (Portuguese for pineapple) – a Brazilian expression for something that’s problematic and needs constant maintenance. But the silence, proximity to both nature and the centre of Rio, and the phenomenal view makes it all worthwhile,” he says.
Built by Brazilian architect Fernando Portuguese in 1955, the house was famously owned by Elisa Regina, one of Brazil’s most illustrious Bossa Nova singers. “The house seems to have this air of bohemian chic; there is a very peaceful vibe – we think it’s linked to the rhythm of the sea and the jungle chant,” says Andrea, holding Viggo, the couple’s strapping two-month-old son.
Once the exterior and the guts were sympathetically remodelled, the couple’s approach to the interior was to bung an assortment of favourites from Europe into a container and dash around Rio’s mid-century furniture markets, where a parrot-eyed collector can bag an original Sergio Rodrigues or a long-forgotten Harry Bertoia for a song.
Sitting on the veranda by the pool as the sun sets is a step back into the heyday that Rio is currently reliving. “Not only is Rio a magical place but it’s also thriving. Rio is coming back from its ashes. From a dismantled capital it is now reviving its past glory,” says Roman of his luck at living in the Marvellous City. “And we are able to pick bananas and mangoes from the garden in the morning.”
Artwork: The house is filled with Carel’s art and furniture collection.
Reception: The split-level reception leading into the living area and up to the bedrooms and the pool house above retains all the original features including marble steps and jatoba (cherry) flooring.
Sofa: Vintage Brazilian. Roman and Andrea source much of their furniture from the local antique markets.
Pool: A terraced deck and pool were added during the 1980s.
Entrance: Visitors are welcomed by a sheer rock-face and the requisite accessories of any self-respecting Rio resident – a bicycle and a surfboard.
Four-legged resident: Disco in his very own mini house.
Dining area: Dinner table and chairs by Way Design with the original hardwood, marble and mirrored wine rack and drinks cabinet built into the stone behind.
Windows: The veranda has stunning views to the Atlantic.
Living area: Furnished with Brazilian mid-century pieces, plus contemporary pieces from Finish, a store on Avenida Ayrton Senna. Swedish touches include Svenskt Tenn fabrics and vases from Kosta Boda. Artworks are by the UK’s Matt Jones and Troy and the photographs are by Arturo Zavala Haag, Malick Sidibé and Jeanloup Sieff.