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Joana and Marta Aranha

«The essence of our work is storytelling»

With 40 years of experience in interior design, Joana Aranha felt great joy when her daughter Marta, who has a degree in architecture, joined her studio Joana Aranha Arquitetura e Design de Interiores, not only for the continuity of the brand, but, above all, for the contribution she could offer for projects carried out from scratch. In incredible sync, they develop proposals throughout the world, finding inspiration in the many cultures they come across, creating remarkable environments in houses, offices and many other buildings. Despite excelling in the luxury segment, it is the small details and the pieces manufactured by artisans that reveal the authenticity of their work. The use of local materials and the concern for sustainability is also present in their projects. But bringing happiness and comfort to those who come to them is the greatest reward for this duo, who set no limits to their projects. Their huge capacity to create and reinvent is incomparable. If they have to scour the world for a detail, they will, always with the certainty that what they do is the very best for their client.

 

When was the concept for the studio formed?
Joana Aranha (JA) – At a certain point in my life, I decided to make a go of it on my own and had the great fortune of having my daughter Marta come to work with me. It was the highest point in my professional life. I am immensely proud that we have been on this extraordinary journey for more than ten years. I think it was only to be expected, because Marta has always been with me - at the age of 3 she would go with me to fairs and markets in many countries where I went to work.
Marta Aranha (MA) - My earliest memories are of sitting on a staircase while my mother was talking to clients or having meetings with them, and I also remember how the houses looked after the work was done. Today, those clients are still with us and it is very interesting to be here and work with those people.

What contribution has Marta brought to the projects?
JA - Apart from the great joy of being able to work with my daughter and seeing that there is a continuation, she has brought us the ability to create much more in any part of the world. I realised that Marta is an excellent architect, she accompanies the entire project from start to finish, and I lacked this technical side to designing buildings. She has also brought all the content, which she has been learning by watching me work, of interior design, and all of this has been wonderful.
MA – A house is not complete if we don't do it right to the end, it can be very beautiful in architectural terms, but then you have to add the comfort. We bring this side of life to the projects and we end up complementing ourselves and enriching the company. We have come to realise that we think the same way in countless situations, we have a very healthy complicity.

"We have a very healthy complicity"

What reveals the essence of your work?
JA – It’s much more than decoration or interior design. We don’t just arrive and put the pieces in place, nothing like that. We create a concept, but, before any work goes ahead, we do a lot of research, we observe the people who have hired us to get a feel for what they’re looking for. Then we build a narrative. The essence of our work is storytelling, but it’s also a lot of love and a lot of passion for each project.
MA – I have been learning from Mum to observe and listen to people, to capture their essence and the purpose of the use they want to give to the building or renovation we are going to do. The day-to-day life of our clients and their personality are very important for our storytelling. We have to soak in the essence of each one, get involved until we feel deep down that we are ready to move forward. Beforehand, there are many meetings, we take risks until we find perfection and, when we present a concept, we are sure that it is correct.
JA - There are families that have paintings they cherish, or are passionate about certain pieces they have at home; our knowhow has to fit these objects and blend them into the concept created so that everything results in lightness and balance. And when we finish a project, we place candles, incense and ambient music so that people feel the space to the full. Our high point is the phone call they make afterwards, it’s a huge feeling of mission accomplished, because we may not be there, but we can feel they’re happy. 

"We work a lot with people’s identity"

You have projects in India and Africa. Do you use regional materials in these places?
MA - In our work, we always use local materials and the enhancement of them. The most iconic projects we have now are in India, where we are building an office building; a penthouse in Africa; a house in Lubango, Angola; and we are about to start a hotel in Guinea-Bissau. The building in India is made with so-called ‘donkey bricks’, which are used a lot there, these bricks are made of sun-dried earth, and, as the temperatures are very high, we turned a blind façade towards the south so that it has protection and we opened calculated holes to filter the sunlight and create a sense of Jali. It feels ethereal, as mum says. I am lucky enough to have got to know India very well, which fascinates me with its colours, people and smells and where anything is possible. The craftsmen are extraordinary and, even if the pieces have imperfections, they are beautiful.
JA – I have an emotional relationship with Guinea-Bissau, I have always loved using gourds, and Marta’s wedding had some that came from there. Now, we were invited by the person who brought them to go and make a hotel. For us, it was a tremendous luck that this door opened up, not only because of the possibility of work, but also because I know we will meet invaluable people, the local artisans do beautiful work that, together with our vision, will produce an amazing result. 
MA - The best work we have with the use of local materials is in Brazil, where we made a house from scratch. We have projects in almost every continent. Even though we love working in our own country, when we leave it, we get bigger because of the experience we gain from absorbing the various cultures.

AFRICAN PENTHOUSE
AFRICAN PENTHOUSE
PENTHOUSE ESTORIL
PENTHOUSE ESTORIL
CABANA HOUSE
CABANA HOUSE
BRICH HOUSE
BRICH HOUSE
PENTHOUSE ESTORIL
PENTHOUSE ESTORIL
ATELIER
ATELIER
Cristina Freire
T. Cristina Freire
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