If you could live anywhere, where would it be? For one well-traveled British couple (he’s a frequent-flying businessman; she’s in the hospitality industry), it’s the tropics of Mexico. They moved to the colonial city of Mérida in 2007, beguiled by the “wonderful weather and Yucatan lifestyle,” he says. Now that they’ve transformed a derelict 100-year-old building in the heart of the historic district into an eclectic and airy home, there’s nowhere else they’d rather be.
“Mérida is an interesting city of arts and culture, comfortable in its own skin,” says the homeowner. The same could be said of their historically sensitive remodel, which was overseen by local architecture firm
Taller Estilo Arquitectura. They retained the original footprint, room proportions, and many of the original architectural details but added a new modern addition to the rear. They also chose to keep the concrete exterior’s faded patina. From the busy street, the single-story structure blends in with the other time-worn buildings; inside, it’s a quiet sanctuary, artfully updated for modern life.
“The overall restful atmosphere of the house and the secluded garden make it feel as if the house is not in the middle of a thriving city,” he says of his home’s dual nature.
Below, he gives us a tour of their self-named Casa Cool.
Apertura Arquitectónica, courtesy of Taller Estilo Arquitectura, unless otherwise noted. Above: The couple chose to keep the faded facade of Casa Cool, though they had to have a new door built: “We had the original doors copied exactly in local cedar wood and painted a pale shade to keep the overall appearance light and airy.” From the street, the building blends in with the rest of the historic buildings. Above: The front door opens into the vestibule. From here, guests can, in one straight view, glimpse the living room, dining room, kitchen, and patio. Above: Just off the vestibule is a small study, the highlight of which is the original pasta tiled floor. Next to the doorway is a trio of Scottish portraits in wooden frames made from the original cedar door. “This adds interest and provides a small link to the history of the house,” he says. Draped on the chair is a vintage Moroccan Beni Ouarain rug, a prized possession. Above: The couple decorated every room themselves with antiques, local finds, treasures from their travels abroad, and furniture appropriate to the tropical climate. (“In one word, ‘eclectic’ ” is how he describes their style.) “The secret was to keep the design simple and functional with everyday practicality,” says the homeowner, who made this trestle desk from local hardwood. Photograph courtesy of the homeowners. Above: Several rooms, including the study, living room, and guest room, have access to a small courtyard, a traditional feature in many of the colonial homes in Mérida. Above: The foyer opens into the living room. “The end result was very much like we had envisioned from the very beginning: light, lofty, and airy, with all the doors open, providing natural light and breeze.” Above: Tying the historical portion of the home and the new addition together are new floors of white polished cement with locally made pasta tiles laid out in a diamond pattern to mimic their beloved vintage Beni Ouarain rug. Note that while the original structure has traditional ceiling fans, the new addition features modern white fans. Above: New floor-to-ceiling windows and sliding doors offer access and views to a patio and pool. Mexican granite was used for the counters and blacksplash. Above: Across from the dining area is a guest room. On the walls throughout the home are “watercolors, pastels, oils, and etchings—mainly 19th and 20th century English and Scottish art in various styles,” he says. “I counted them once. There are over 80!” A laundry basket “purchased from a dim, dusty shop in Mercado Galvez, a city market,” was repurposed as a planter. Above: Just across from the kitchen is a “secondary kitchen,” used as a bar or a fruit/vegetable prepping area. A washer/dryer is concealed in the closet on the left. Above: Among the DIY touches are homemade wall lights. The one on the right is in the guest bedroom and has a child’s sombrero, trimmed to size, for a shade. Photographs courtesy of the homeowners. Above: A wall of glass allows for ample light in the hallway that leads to the main sleeping quarters. Above: The outdoor flooring is white cement left brut, so that it’s non-slip and easy to maintain. “We planted the garden ourselves thinking that after the organized interior of the house, it might be a reasonable contrast to step into a slightly chaotic jungle garden,” he shares. “This seems to be coming to fruition!” Above: Double doors from the covered dining terrace to the main bedroom. “It’s a very peaceful room. You can lie in bed and listen to birdsong.” None of the exterior doors were salvageable, but the couple had copies made from the originals. Above: The en suite bathroom features a Brazilian marble counter and a shuttered window that looks out onto the pool. Above: Like many other properties in Mérida, “the water for the pool is brought from the water table by our own well and pump. All rivers in the Yucatan are subterranean, so if you drill down about 15 meters, you find good, clean fresh water,” he says.
For more tropical inspiration, see: