Plenty of established architects’ client lists happen to be studded with more than one recognizable name, but it’s rare that such interiors experts and their celebrity clientele become genuinely close friends. That said, like any unspoken rule, there are exceptions, and Academy Award-winning actress Julianne Moore and AD100 Belgian architect Vincent Van Duysen are paving the way for friendship between famous creatives. In fact, the pair (and their partners) are vacationing in the architect’s 14-acre Portuguese hideaway near Comporta. The extremely minimalistic clay-colored space, dubbed Casa M, nearly blends in with its warm natural surroundings, which, of course, was Van Duysen’s intention.
The gravel-covered courtyard that puts some space between Casa M’s 4,520-square-foot U-shaped main house and the garage and pool house almost appears like a stage before the actors and props are brought on. Its gently-distressed walls, railing-less stairs, and lack of windows perfectly exemplify the architect’s style: complete simplicity. Though it isn’t exactly ornate, the vacation compound, which sits at the end of a long dirt road in Melises, took three years to construct and just in time for the COVID-19 pandemic. And after a year and a half of on-and-off lockdowns and worldwide travel restrictions, the pair of friends hadn’t seen each other in nearly two years, so they decided to reconnect at his beloved Casa M.
Like any friends who have been close for years (she even authored the foreword in his Thames & Hudson Vincent Van Duysen: Works 2009–2018), the two can’t remember how they met, but it’s fair to say that their relationship stands on solid ground. After all, that’s what happens when people join a mutual admiration’s society. Moore has admitted that Van Duysen is her all-time favorite designer and that his highly texturized interpretation of modernism serves as inspiration for her and her own spaces. As it happens, his take on modernism represents a sharp departure from the architectural movement that people have come to know—his version is even more pared-back and refined. He’s vocally expressed his distaste for the word “minimalist” because there’s an untouchable, detached coldness often associated with it, and he considers his project—Antwerp’s August hotel and the Aesop store in Hamburg—a bit more approachable and, in some senses, softer. Moore appreciates her friend’s warm approach when it comes to design. She even copied his signature oven hood in her Manhattan townhouse.
Moore and Van Duysen didn’t wait long before posting a few sweet photos to their Instagram accounts. Standing beside their partners, producer, director, and screenwriter Bart Freundlich and Argentine model Mateo Bou Bahler, the couples posed against the concrete sanctuary wearing big, toothy grins. Moore also posted a few stories with her friend in his exceptionally high-ceilinged living room. In one, they’re sitting in a pair of circa 1958 Lina Bo Bardi chairs, and in another, on a custom sofa by Van Duysen behind a long Atelier Carlos Motta peroba rosa wood table. Though not visible in the photo, several of the living room’s walls are glass panels that fold into one another, opening the expansive space onto a central columned yard-like area. Unlike a traditional yard, however, there’s no grass. In fact, there’s no greenery at all. The only moments of color appear in the collection of native pines in the distance.
It wasn’t exactly up for debate, but Van Duysen has decisively proven that a home doesn’t need to be outfitted in saturated hues, playful patterns, and a collection of potted plants to feel warm and inviting; it just needs a thoughtful design that celebrates the surrounding nature. And Moore, his enthusiastic house guest, would tend to agree. It’s unclear how long she and Freundlich will be staying at the elegantly restrained Casa M, but hopefully, there are more stylish Instagram posts to come.