The Loaded Trunk was founded by Jonna Robison, an interior designer with a deep curiosity and passion for traveling the world, connecting with artisans in different cultures and sourcing unique and beautiful objets d’art. Published seasonally, the magazine features a curated collection of travel, lifestyle, nature, art and design inspiration for a life well lived.
inspired by nature
bring it home
The Beautiful Beaches of Laguna
A Luxurious Escape to the Sahara Desert
Swedish Strawberry Cake
With a passion for recovering world heritage, Portuguese stories and culture, husband and wife, Isabel Costa and João Tomás, came across a derelict factory, Lanífícios Império, while exploring the Serra de Estrela mountains. What had been a former weaving factory, established in 1942 to create the burel (traditional wool fabric) to weave traditional clothing for the shepherds in the surrounding mountains, as well as habits for the local religious order, was found in absolute ruins. Costa and Tomás saw this as an opportunity to create something new from this historical component of Portuguese heritage. At the time, more than 50% of the population was unemployed. They wanted to recover traditional mountain products, while creating new jobs. They set to work, rebuilding the factory and restoring the machinery (which dated from the 18th and 19th centuries), launching their new company, Burel Factory, in 2010 and saving this industrial heritage. Fast forward to today and Burel Factory is the largest employer in Manteigas.
This department produces a variety of beautiful and ingenious acoustic solutions, including screens, panels and the simple curtain which, I was told, absorbs 95-100% of noise. They play with modern-day versions of tangrams (the old Chinese puzzles), using simple geometric shapes to form a variety of fun and functional panels on walls. The possibilities are endless.
The burel wool fabric is woven on antique looms in 4 different densities for use in residential and commercial applications, as well as for the fashion industry.
With 20 stitch designs in burel wool in a spectrum of more than 80 colors, the 3-dimensional fabric is finished by hand and is customized for use as wallcovering, as well as used as cushion covers, rugs, furniture and home décor. Serves a functional purpose, as well as decorative, with its acoustic and thermal qualities.
Burel also runs two boutique hotels in the mountains above Manteigas, at an altitude of 1500 meters and 1250 meters, respectively. They are surrounded by hiking trails, beautiful mountain views and generously infused with a sense of peace, quiet and, of course, an abundance of burel wool.
Opened in 2006 in a converted sanatorium at the top of the mountain. The design is reminiscent of a mid-century ski chalet. It is abundant in warm wood, punctuated by the bold hues of many Burel pieces, including blankets, pillows, rugs, draperies and furnishings. Casa das Penhas Douradas
This design hotel was opened in 2018, converted and restored from a pousada (historic building). It exudes calm and understated luxury, with a simple Scandinavian vibe, in a subdued color palette. Walls, ceilings and headboards are upholstered in burel. Room numbers are stitched directly onto the wool walls. In the dining room, there are thousands of small stars cut from wool, suspended from the ceiling (there is a story in these mountains about the estrela, or star, signifying Christ’s birth). What a brilliantly effective and beautiful acoustic solution! Casa de São Lourenço
I visited with Isabel Costa during a visit to the Burel Factory in Manteigas, while staying at the lovely wonderful Casa de São Lourenço. Along with answering my many questions, she walked me through the factory, explaining the process of weaving burel, from raw wool to finished fabric. Read the interview below.
IC – Yes, we try to do that. We maintain some historic patterns from the region, but we are always creating new ones as well.
IC – Yes, in Portugal we have quite a bit of these kinds of examples in both patterns and handicrafts. We incorporate influences from the past but we are completely contemporary.
IC – We are inspired by the natural environment and by the past. It encapsulates the brand… handmade, steeped in nature and the mountains. We always try to maintain a concept that is simple and natural.
IC – We had shops opened within 18 months. It took us 8 to 9 months to rebuild the physical structure, sce it was completely destroyed, and to install all the machines and get them working again.
IC – Yes, the most important thing was that we had access to people who were alive, who were able to teach us how to operate the machines. You can have machines but, without the knowledge, which is most important, it would be impossible to start this company.
IC – We use both. The former factory only created burel in the natural colors of the sheep wool. We introduced color when we started our company and typically use synthetic dyes from Germany and Switzerland that have environmental certification. In the future we intend to use more and more natural dyes, from plants and flowers.
IC – Yes, we recycle 100%. We save all waste, then we destroy the waste material and begin creating the fiber again. This results in burel that has a heathered look.
IC – I work in the industry and João works more in hotels. We also have one other recently acquired factory one hour away.
IC – For Architecture products our largest clients are the Nordic countries. For fashion and garments, our main clients are in UK. And for home decoration, European countries are the primary clients, particularly Germany, France, Switzerland and Scandinavia. For online shopping our biggest client is the USA.
Burel Factory Chiado Interiors – Rua Serpa Pinto, 17 A, Lisbon
Burel Factory Chiado – Rua Serpa Pinto, 15 B, Lisbon
Burel Factory Architecture – Rua do Ferragial, 4, Lisbon
Burel Factory Porto – Rua de Mouzinho da Silveira, 83, Porto
October 29, 2022
The Loaded Trunk is a travel and lifestyle magazine founded by Jonna Robison, an interior designer with a deep curiosity and passion for traveling the world, connecting with artisans in different cultures and sourcing unique and beautiful objets d’art. Published seasonally, the magazine features a curated collection of travel, lifestyle, nature, art and design inspiration for a life well lived.