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Article: Spotlight on: Claire Sá

Spotlight on: Claire Sá

Interview by Natalie Hughes
If home is where the heart is, we’d like our hearts to live anywhere that’s been designed by Claire Sá. The architect, interior designer and co-director of DE ROSEE SA is behind some of the most stylish spaces in London, Lisbon, and beyond – in fact, it’s very likely you’ve seen them in the pages of your favourite design magazines.
Sá founded DE ROSEE SA with her husband, Max de Rosée. The award-winning practice, which started out as an architecture studio but has expanded to include interior design, boasts offices in both London and Lisbon. Sá and her team work with clients on a case-by-case basis, playing to the residents’ unique passions and tastes via bespoke and antique furniture, artfully executed lighting and natural materials.
In other words, Sá’s art and imagination know no bounds. She has reimagined an elegant London townhouse for a fashion doyenne (Alison Loehnis, CEO at Net-a-Porter) and is currently working on a 32-bedroom, boutique hotel in Portugal, overlooking the sea.
Here at Mondo, we’re truly believers in fate. Sá tells us that the decision to study architecture was a last-minute one; she’d always loved the subject, but had originally set out to read psychology. It’s lucky for everyone the stars aligned – not least the owners of all the beautiful DE ROSEE SA-designed homes around the world.

Read on for our interview with Sá, as we chat design, style and perfect evenings in.


Please could you share a little about your journey to becoming an architect and interior designer? 

I’ve always loved architecture, buildings and basically any space you can inhabit. I used to rearrange the furniture at home when my parents were out, and inevitably I got in trouble and had to put it all back each time. I think I always felt there were better ways to design things. Funnily enough, I applied to read psychology at university and made a last-minute drastic change to architecture. I haven’t looked back since, and I think venturing beyond architecture into the world of interiors has given our studio greater flexibility and control of design projects. 

What first sparked your love of design? 

I have always loved anything relating to design, art, drawing, fashion and architecture. I used to draw a lot; I even convinced my mother to buy me a sewing machine so I could make my own clothes. I still make the odd piece of clothing, and waste tons of time doing so, but the creative process is addictive and so good for the mind. When you develop an affinity towards aesthetics and move with your eyes wide open, there is so much to absorb and inspire you. I think if you love architecture, you probably also love art, fashion and interiors. 

When and why did you first decide to set up DE ROSEE SA with your husband, Max? 

There was no real masterplan. We were both working for big practices; I started a project while on maternity leave with my first child and then I went back to work, so Max took over. Then another child came along, and it morphed from there. We now have a team of 22 in London and a growing office of seven in Lisbon. 

What has been your favourite project/s to date? 

That is impossible to answer as all projects have their own special qualities. One of the most exciting projects I am working on right now is the restoration and transformation of a 16th century farmhouse in Portugal overlooking the sea (@quintadevalmarinhainto a unique 32-bedroom hotel. It’s like designing a village and it couldn’t be more complicated, but the process is thrilling. The potential is huge, and it is an incredible opportunity to blend our architectural and interior aspirations. 

We adore the house you designed for Net-a-Porter's Alison Loehnis – tell us a little about that project and your favourite elements. 

Alison was great to work with as she had a great understanding of composition, colour and texture. We really were speaking the same language. Alison also has a wicked sense of humour which I so appreciate, and it definitely helped when you’re delivering a complicated build amid lockdown. My favourite spaces in her home are the bathroom and joint kitchen and dining room. I think the success of that project can be attributed to the fact that it immediately had ‘soul’ once it was completed. 

Who is inspiring you at the moment, and why?

I am slightly obsessed with Nick Cave. He is a musician and not a designer, but he is a creative, and maybe even more of an intellectual or philosopher. He has written a great book with Sean O’Hagan titled Faith, Hope and Carnage and answers questions on a blog called ‘The Red Hand Files’. Both are brilliant. He talks a lot about the creative process, and I find him very inspiring. There are so many great designers, it’s hard to pick just one! 

Who has great style? 

My Instagram account is full of fashion, architecture and interiors and pretty much nothing else. I love the interiors and beautiful atmospheric imagery curated by @pino3bravo; whoever is running this account has great taste. I also love clothes and fashion and have recently become fascinated with Kelly Rutherford and her look. As for a classic fashion icon, I have to say Jackie Onassis. 

What does the perfect evening in look like to you? 

My perfect evening is with anyone who doesn’t take themselves too seriously and with anyone who wants to laugh. My teenage children are great value at the moment; they tease each other non-stop and are so fast talking, it’s like sitting through a classic American romcom or TV show at the dinner table with them. In terms of music, I leave that to Max; he used to DJ at university and has much better taste in music than me! As for ambience, if the lighting is soft and low I’m happy. 

What are you currently reading? 

I’ve nearly finished reading A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. It’s a deep, moving portrayal of a group of young friends in NY and is centred around a main character with a heavy past. You know it’s a great book when at 3pm you are looking forward to getting into bed to devour a few more pages. 

Please could you share your favourite holiday destination, and why? 

Portugal, it will always be Portugal. It can be the Sintra coast, Comporta or the wild Alentejo. I love the sun and I love the beach. I have tried to venture to other holiday destinations, but I always come back to Portugal. It’s where I grew up; I miss the light, the sky and the sea. I am unashamedly biased.


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