Where to go in Brazil for vacation?
Lord knows it wasn’t convenience that inspired Anderson Cooper to build a home in the Brazilian town of Trancoso. Situated on the Atlantic coast in the state of Bahia, the village is a 14-hour schlep—including a flight change and a healthy car ride—from the CNN anchor’s base in Manhattan. Cooper first visited the idyllic hamlet in 2013 on a holiday with his partner, nightlife impresario Benjamin Maisani, and their friend Andy Cohen, the puckish television personality and Real Housewives sire. “Within a day I was fantasizing about buying a house there, ” the well-traveled journalist recalls. “Ben thought I’d lost my mind, and Andy, who is encouraging about almost everything, thought I was nuts, too.”
Still, Cooper describes that inaugural sojourn as an intoxicating reverie. “I put my bags down in the bungalow where we were staying, I walked out onto the porch overlooking the Quadrado, the town square, and I just watched for a couple of hours. In the late afternoon, the kids started playing soccer, the horsemen began to return from the fields, and the lights came on in the little fishermen’s cottages. It’s hard to explain the attraction, but I just sat there, spellbound, ” he remembers.
That romantic narrative might sound like a passage from an Isabel Allende novel, but Cooper is the first to acknowledge the poverty of language in capturing a scene of such unaffected beauty and soul. “People often talk about what a magical place this is. That word always irks me—I don’t trust it somehow, ” confesses the 60 Minutes correspondent and coauthor of The Rainbow Comes and Goes, the shared memoir he recently penned with his mother, Gloria Vanderbilt. “But I’ve worked in 70 countries and traveled to even more, and I’ve never seen anything like Trancoso. It’s a real place, not a Potemkin village for tourists.”
Bordered on the north and south by petite one-level houses dating back some 500 years, and to the east by a 16th-century Catholic church set on a precipice above the ocean, the Quadrado is the social and spiritual heart of Trancoso. “Most people want homes on the beach, but you can find beautiful beaches all over the world. The Quadrado is what makes this place so singularly compelling. I had to be there, ” says Cooper, who, on that first visit, soaked up the scene on the square from his perch at Uxua Casa Hotel & Spa, a resort made up of 11 discreetly fabulous guest cottages.
To immerse himself in Trancosan life, Cooper found the perfect cicerone, designer, and local real-estate expert in Wilbert Das, the co-owner and mastermind behind Uxua. Das arrived in Brazil seven years ago, after resigning from his role as creative director of the clothing brand Diesel. “A friend in Italy had mentioned this place, and when I got here, I somehow felt like I was home, ” says the fashion fugitive, echoing Cooper’s tale of enchantment.
1 / 18Anderson Cooper enlisted fashion designer turned hotelier Wilbert Das to build him a vacation home in Trancoso, Brazil. Dubbed Casa Anderson, the estate comprises four buildings. In the main structure’s living/dining room, a vintage Bahian cocktail table mingles with pequi-wood stools and pieces from Das’s Uxua Casa home collection, including the indigo-dyed throw pillows, woven-reed rug, and sectional sofa.
With Das’s guidance, Cooper secured one of the Quadrado’s rare vacant lots—a long strip of land peppered with a lush assortment of mango, cacao, jackfruit, banana, and açaí trees. Das devised a compound of four pavilions set along a meandering path that begins on the border of the town square and terminates in a stunning efflorescence of rain forest. The first cottage—colonial in style—contains the conjoined living and dining rooms, a kitchen, and a veranda for alfresco meals. The two center buildings are guest bungalows—one of brick, the other built using pau a pique (or “wattle and daub”), a process whereby clay is layered over a wood frame. The last structure, tucked away near the pool, is a two-story tree house of reclaimed timber planks that comprises a master suite above and an outdoor living room and bar below. Per local custom, the estate is known simply as Casa Anderson.
“We weren’t obliged to build in a purely historical style, but we felt it was important to create something attuned to the local culture, ” Das explains of the compound, which was constructed largely of materials salvaged from an abandoned Bahian farmhouse. The decor—a mix of vintage finds, items from Das’s Uxua Casa collection, and bespoke pieces crafted by local artisans—reflects his and Cooper’s predilection for unpretentious, authentic furnishings tied to the rich traditions of the region. Likewise, the artworks that adorn the walls include a collection of antique Mexican votive paintings and a group of Bahian shrines. There’s not a Damien Hirst or an Anish Kapoor in sight.
“I didn’t want the place to look fancier than the other buildings in town, ” Cooper says of his sublime retreat, which he describes as an ecosystem unto itself. “I’m not a big beachgoer, as you can probably tell from my pale skin, so I really enjoy moving from spot to spot on my property.” As for how often he is actually able to make the trek to Trancoso, the jaunty journalist remains sanguine: “I don’t get down there as often as I’d like, ” he admits. “In my New York office, though, I keep a picture of the Quadrado, which I find very meditative and calming. Just knowing that my house exists makes me happy.”