Room Service: Serenity and style in the Algarve

Fazenda Nova, Portugal

"It was going to be a simple, rustic guesthouse – wooden chairs, cotton curtains, whitewashed walls ..." Hallie Robinson told me as I ran my hand over cool polished concrete, coveting every design accent on display: Bamileke feather headdresses, woven cowhide armchairs, framed vintage Portuguese food labels, little antique tin robots and battered straw hats. "But an earthquake changed that," she finished. The seismic event one night in 2010 meant that the early 19th-century farmhouse that she and her husband, Tim, had recently bought (on sandy foundations, it turned out), had to be almost completely rebuilt. It was no longer just a lick-of-paint job – the walls and roofs had to be reconstructed and the family had to move out.

That set in motion a comprehensive restoration that has seen the old farmhouse transformed into a small, stylish country house hotel that opened last September. Fallen shutters were re-purposed as headboards and cupboards, trees were brought back to life as outdoor tables and chairs, terracotta floor tiles were commissioned to match the 1959 originals still intact and flea markets were scoured for quirky treasures. The phrase "labour of love" could be bandied about here, but Hallie and Tim have been fastidious in every detail of the project, from the height of skirting boards to the dining room tables, which were assembled using salvaged wood from Biggin Hill Airport in Kent.

A keen eye for aesthetics isn't surprising, given Hallie's background in fashion PR. The Londoner at first found it hard to uproot to this sleepy corner of Portugal, but childhood summers spent with her parents at their holiday home in the Algarve, and then years later a minor heart attack suffered by Tim meant the decision was made.

However, they haven't come here for a quiet life. Even now the hotel is up and running, Tim and Hallie are unremittingly enthusiastic about the future of Fazenda Nova: bottling their second olive-oil harvest this autumn, then perhaps adding geodesic rooms to the grounds or finding a beach house on one of the nearby islands for guests to use during the summer.

A septuagenarian lady, tending to a luxuriant rosemary bush, waved to us. "Ola Giuliana!" Hallie waved, then explained: "She lived here from the age of six to 54. She was so pleased to find out the house was being restored that she came back; now she helps us with the gardens." She also bakes mean pasteis de nata, which are delivered still warm to the breakfast table. Later in the day the small kitchen, complete with its 200-year-old bread oven, offers a concise menu that might feature battered salt cod and chips, cataplana (a local fish stew) or salad with José sardines.

Tim, Hallie and their three children are now firmly rooted in the Algarve, living in one half of the farmhouse with their four dogs and they make Fazenda Nova feel as much your home as theirs.

Location

The house is half an hour's drive from Faro on an olive grove surrounded by implausibly pretty countryside that will challenge your preconceptions of the hurly-burly of the Algarve. The nearest town is sleepy Moncarapacho, around 10 minutes' drive. The coastal hamlets of Olhao and Fuseta are about 15 minutes south, and the Roman city of Tavira, with its Moorish architecture, is around 20 minutes east. Hallie and Tim are enthusiastic about sharing their love of the rural eastern Algarve – each day Tim would draw us a map directing us to another idyllic spot. Our favourite was Ilha Armona, an unspoilt island that's part of the Ria Formosa nature reserve.

Comfort

There are 10 suites, arranged in the main farmhouse and outbuildings, including two suites with kitchenettes in the old olive press. We were in room 6, which opens on to a private garden with a huge carob tree. The rooms are painted a pale shade of olive, with terracotta brick floors and sleek dark wood furniture created by ex-Lombok designers. Rustic touches include rattan stools, salvaged-wood tables and oversize hide rugs, but that's where the uniformity ends.

As with the rest of the house, each room has its own collection of flea-market finds, vintage posters and antique mirrors, and most have their own garden; one with a marmalade orange and lemon tree, another with the original water cistern re-fashioned as a seating area with a fire pit. There's a cool infinity pool at the heart of the fragrant gardens.

Travel Essentials

Fazenda Nova, Estiramantens, Tavira, Algarve, Portugal (00 351 281 961 913; fazendanova.eu).

Rooms *****

Value *****

Service ****

Doubles start at €155, including breakfast.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Guru Careers: International Project Coordinator / Account Coordinator

    Circa £26,500 DOE: Guru Careers: An International Project Coordinator / Accoun...

    Guru Careers: Plumber / Maintenance Operator

    £25k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Plumber / Mainten...

    Recruitment Genius: Travel Customer Service and Experience Manager

    £14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing travel comp...

    Recruitment Genius: Network Executive - Adrenalin Sports - OTE £21,000

    £19000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you looking for an exciting...

    Day In a Page

    Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

    US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

    Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

    'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
    The male menopause and intimations of mortality

    Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

    So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
    Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

    'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

    Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
    Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

    Bettany Hughes interview

    The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
    Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

    Art of the state

    Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
    Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

    Vegetarian food gets a makeover

    Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
    The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

    The haunting of Shirley Jackson

    Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
    Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

    Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

    These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
    Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

    Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

    A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
    Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

    Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

    Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
    HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

    The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

    Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
    Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

    'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

    Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
    Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

    The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

    Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen