Yucatán Magazine: at Home / No. 2 / The Serenity Issue

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Peaceful retreats amid the chaos Remanso de paz en medio del caos Ilona’s final masterpiece La última obra de arte de Ilona Pullout guide: Buy, sell and profit

serenity now Josefina Larraín Lagos: Peace, love and architecture

MEXICO $100 MN


We wouldn’t have survived this long in Mérida without them!” —Janelle Forsythe, homeowner


Relax.

Let us handle the details.


Director Lee Steele lee@roofcatmedia.com Gerente de Marketing Yesica Benitez yesicabenitez@roofcatmedia.com

Editor Carlos Rosado van der Gracht carlosrosado@roofcatmedia.com

Director Comercial Eduardo Vázquez evazquez@roofcatmedia.com

Consultor Editorial Pablo Arroyo Díaz pabloarroyo@roofcatmedia.com

Representante Cancún Jenny De Llano jdellano@roofcatmedia.com

Editor Web Verónica Garibay Saldaña veronica@roofcatmedia.com

Representante Ciudad de México Aremy Yrys ayrys@roofcatmedia.com

Editor de Proyectos Especiales Abraham Bojórquez proyectos@roofcatmedia.com

Gerente de Circulación Alejandro Pinto Tolosa circulacion@roofcatmedia.com

COLABORADORES Melissa Adler Maggie Cale Stephanie Carmon Craig Saunders Juanita Stein

CONTACTOS Suscripciones suscripciones@roofcatmedia.com Publicidad publicidad@roofcatmedia.com 552-128-0581 Información General info@roofcatmedia.com

yucatanmagazine.com yucatanathome

issuu.com/roofcatmedia yucatanmagazine

Yucatán at Home AÑO 1, NÚMERO 2 Todos los derechos reservados por Roof Cat Media S de RL de CV, Paseo de Montejo 475C, Piso 3 x 37 y 39 Col. Centro, Mérida, Yucatán, México. Prohibida la reproducción total o parcial del contenido sin autorización previa y por escrito de los editores. La revista asume que el material aquí presentado es original y no infringe derechos reservados de ley. Reserva de derechos de uso exclusivo del título. Yucatán at Home no se hace responsable por el contenido de sus anunciantes.


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índice SOURCEBOOK 6

Novaquatik’s underwater world

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Object Lesson: 5 creators

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Just Asking: Favorite things

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EN LAS CALLES Oh the treasures you find

BOOKS

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A gothic tale paired with something delicious

JARDINES 15 Smart choices for the garden space you’ve got

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COVER STORY

EN CASA

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A treehouse for the grownups

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Ilona’s final masterpiece

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An artist’s white-water retreat

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Zen masters find their happy place

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A sheltering garden in García Ginerés

An artist, designer and peacemaker

FRAMED 56 Juan Pueblo’s estudio es tu estudio

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Serenity now

Serenidad ahora

Mérida has changed but it still gives me “sparks of joy,” as Marie Kondo would say. The very miracle of Mérida, and I’d say much of Yucatán, is its capacity to calm the soul. Even in the middle of the Centro, with hundreds of other people clamoring away on your very block, I tend to sleep very well. I gaze into our garden and my blood pressure measurably declines. We did take steps, however, to facilitate that sense of serenity. When we built Casa Nana, we told the architects to mainly create a serene space. I think I used the term “monastic,” which looking back may or may not have been helpful. But we preferred emphasizing texture over color, space for plants and living things, and ample airflow. After that, we practically gave them carte blanche, and we never regretted it. They appreciated how restrained we were with our veto powers, and I think their team worked even harder to make it all materialize. The architecture firm of Salvador Reyes Ríos and Josefina Larraín Lagos built Casa Nana. For the home’s details, it was Josefina we worked with most closely. From the beginning, her calm and measured approach felt reassuring and purposeful. The way she combined materials and added surprising pops of color was astounding. She blended vestiges of the original house in an organic way that makes me feel connected to our home’s history. The garden design was naturalistic, not forced. She installed not one, not two but three fish ponds throughout our property — which is not a vastly enormous plot of land. To this day, just looking at my carp, guppies, and mollies makes me calmer. Naturally, it was Josefina we called when we first conceived our Serenity Now! Issue. The coverline Serenity Now is a bit of an inside joke for the television fans out there who remember “Seinfeld.” George Costanza’s dad used it as a mantra. A loud, aggressive mantra. Don’t we all wish we could summon serenity so easily? Here, in Issue 2 of Yucatán at Home, we have some other ideas to facilitate serenity, if not right now, then soon enough.

Mérida ha cambiado mucho, pero aun me da “chispas de alegría”, como dice Marie Kondo. Lo milagroso de Mérida, y de Yucatán en general diría yo, es su capacidad de calmar el alma. Incluso dentro del bullicioso Centro Histórico donde comparto la cuadra con cientos de personas, la verdad es que tiendo a dormir muy bien. Observo nuestro jardín y siento como mi presión sanguínea baja considerablemente. Pero claro, tomamos varios pasos para facilitar este sentimiento de serenidad. Cuando construimos Casa Nana, le dijimos a los arquitectos que buscábamos un espacio de serenidad. Me parece haber usado el adjetivo “monástico”, el cual en retrospectiva, tal vez no les fue de mucha ayuda. Preferimos enfatizar texturas por encima de tonalidades, espacio para plantas y cosas vivientes, así como el flujo de la brisa. Después de eso, básicamente les dimos rienda suelta, y nunca nos arrepentimos. Los arquitectos agradecieron esta libertad y el hecho de que rara vez vetamos sus ideas. Creo que esto resultó en que el equipo trabajase aún más duro para materializar la visión de la casa. Casa Nana fue construida por los arquitectos Salvador Reyes Ríos y Josefina Larraín Lagos. Para los detalles del interior, fue Josefina con quien trabajamos más cercanamente. Desde el inicio, su estilo mesurado y tranquilo nos hizo sentir muy seguros y cómodos. La forma en la que combinó materiales y añadió sorprendentes destellos de color fue asombroso. Combinó vestigios de la casa original de una forma muy orgánica la cual nos hace sentir conectados con la historia del hogar. El diseño del jardín fue muy natural, para nada forzado. Instaló no uno, ni dos, sino tres estanques de peces en nuestro terreno, el cual está lejos de ser gigantesco. Hasta el día de hoy, el observar mis pececitos me tranquiliza. Naturalmente, fue a Josefina a quien llamamos cuando concebimos hacer una edición de la revista dedicada a la serenidad. El título ¡Serenidad, ahora! Es un chiste de la serie de televisión “Seinfeld”, en la cual el papá del personaje George Costanza lo utilizaba como su mantra. Un mantra que repetía de forma agresiva y a gran volumen. ¿No quisiéramos todos poder invocar la serenidad tan fácilmente? Así que aquí está, el segundo ejemplar de Yucatán at Home. Esperamos que esta edición les ayude a desarrollar ideas para promover la serenidad, si no ahora, por lo menos pronto.

Lee Steele Director, Yucatán at Home lee@roofcatmedia.com

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Sourcebook

Schools in session W

hen he’s not teaching his biology students, university professor Eduardo Garza Gisholt has other schools on his mind. The ones in his numerous fish tanks. Novaquatik is a wonderland of sea life. Glowing under ultraviolet lights, on one side are the saltwater varieties, and on the other side are the freshwater creatures. All contained in their individual little ecosystems. “They are like pets,” says Eduardo. Not just fish, but turtles, invertebrates, corals and natural plants. If it can live in a water tank, he’s likely to have it. For a beginner, there are goldfish and guppies. For the more advanced, a discus can be 1,600 pesos, but as they grow they display impressive colors. Keeping tanks of fish — exotic and otherwise — healthy and happy requires dedication. Some customers are more dedicated than others. “I have a customer who started with a small aquarium like this,” says Eduardo, pointing to a modest model, “and right now he has six aquariums.” Another is fighting with his wife who is apparently jealous of the time he spends on his immersive hobby, he said.

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Novaquatik is at Plaza Pozo in Temozón Norte. Visit Facebook @novaquatik where Eduardo posts videos of clownfish, condylactis anemone, Caribbean gobio and spider crabs that are looking for a forever home. Eduardo or his staff is available to assist with tank setup services and they respond to queries and service requests on WhatsApp.

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Sourcebook

Object lessons We’ve been keeping an eye out for sources that have elevated the art of interior design in Yucatán. Here are some standouts recently profiled by Verónica Garibay at yucatanmagazine.com.

DÉCIMA TALLER Décima’s team creates intricate portraits made from thread. To create their artwork, they use computer software that translates digitized portraits into a series of lines which then serve as a basic template. They are then weaved into a circular frame made out of Yucatecan wood. Once done, both the threads and their shadows draw out the shape of the person. The entire process takes about 12 hours and around 3,000 to 4,000 separate weaves to complete. Contact Daniel Avila at 938-383-7247 or decimataller@gmail.com; @decima.taller ÚUMBAH This downtown boutique specializes in hammocks, arts, and crafts made and designed in the Yucatán Peninsula, by local artisans. For their hammocks, their star product, Úumbah works with artisans from different municipalities. Depending on their craft and expertise, the creators work with different materials, from macramé and nylon to henequen, a premium hammock that has been neglected by modern artisans as it requires each fiber to be handmade. Plaza Carmesí, Calle 62 at 51 and 53, @uumbah SOSKIL Juan Cortés, the creator of Soskil, designs experimental textile pieces with natural materials, specifically raw colored yarns, and sisal fibers. The name of the project is the same as the Mayan name for the henequén or sisal fiber. His pieces are decorative, but also tell part of his story. For example, Luz Marina is a lamp named after Juan’s mother. Patterns created through the knots resemble the reflection of a lighthouse in the sea. Exhibition at Galería Caracol Púrpura Mérida, Calle 60 between 53 and 55, Centro. Instagram: @soskil. decotextil, @caracolpurpura

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SER ETERNO This restored-furniture retailer in Mérida was created by two young designers as an affordable second-hand shop that promotes neglected antiques. Their philosophy seeks to maintain the original essence of each piece while leaving the marks of their past lives. Most of their projects come through the restoration of woven fabrics, the application of fresh paint and varnish, and slight modifications in color or materials. Contact Daniel Góngora at 999-485-9455; @sereeterno ENSAMBLE ARTESANO This non-profit organization is looking to disseminate the different artisan paths that take place in Mexico. Ensamble’s online shop has become a catalog of cultures, techniques, and styles. For their first collection, they worked with over 2,700 artisans in 18 states, creating over 15,000 pieces in lacquer, woodwork, loom, metalwork, ceramics, weaving, and embroidery. Their Mérida showroom is a must when looking for a unique, socially responsible centerpiece. Taller Maya Santa Ana, Calle 60 417A, across from Parque Santa Ana, Mérida; @ensambleartesano

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Just Asking “1. My

pool bar obviously. 2. My hot tub!”

“Our outdoor kitchen.”

“My cozy rear patio with cactus, a view of palm trees, pink walls, and a small swimming pool always reminds me that I live in paradise even if I spend most of my days at my desk.”

Favorite things: What’s the one thing in your house that gives you the most sparks of joy?

“My patio-pool combo. Any time of the day I can sit out there or float in the pool and feel totally relaxed. Outdoor living here feeds my soul.”

New questions are posed monthly on Yucatán Magazine’s Facebook page

“My KitchenAid mixer, because I love baking and it’s so great to have a tool that helps me be creative in the kitchen.”

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“My pup sleeping on his bed near my feet in the living room.”

“Our crazy original pasta tile floors that no one else has or could ever imitate.”

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En las Calles

Oh, the treasures A passion for the Centro Histórico’s streetscapes inspires a content creator and her online followers TEXT AND PHOTOS BY STEPHANIE CARMON

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I find S

ince I first arrived here 11 years ago, the streets of Mérida’s Grande, we can find buildings and houses that date back to the Centro Histórico have been where I find peace, healing, in1600s and were built with stones from the Maya pyramids. The spiration as well as a mix-match of architectural treasures. colonial architecture is characterized by high beamed ceilings, broad I personally use the streets of Mérida for exercise and windows, majestic archways, elaborate interior patios, spacious as my mental health “counselor” so to speak. Whatever hallways constructed with limestone blocks. That same limestone problem I might have, whether overworked, heartbroken, nervous, was mixed with paint to add vibrant colors to the building facade. In or just melancholy, the calles here make me feel better. They give Santiago, La Ermita, Santa Ana, and other colonial neighborhoods me a new perspective and a plethora of strange and new things to we can still see evidence of these traits. discover. Although there are many styles reflected in Mérida’s architecThese streets consist of layer upon layer of time passed that can ture, it was during the dictatorship of Porfidio Diaz from 1876 to 1911 be seen by the naked eye and felt through your sixth sense. As you — a period known as the Porfiriato — that brought some significant go for a stroll you can glance at the beautifully restored colonial influences to the architecture of the elite in all of Mexico, including houses and peek through the wrought iron gates of the derelict remYucatán. Made wealthy from a booming henequen industry, many nants of mansions in utter ruins. All on the same street! landowners built luxurious homes in Mérida, mimicking the royalty I was so intrigued, I created MID CityBeat and have and the wealthy bourgeoisie of Europe. This tendency built a large Instagram and Facebook following, many of changed the architectural landscape and you can see Footnote whom follow us because of the photographs I take of the it reflected in iconic buildings that remain on Paseo de old streets of Mérida. Montejo and throughout the Centro. *An alux is a For those who are looking to find ideas for a home, Venturing into buying or renting a home in Yucatán, sprite or spirit in all you need to do is take an evening walk around Mériit is important to get a good sense of the complex and the mythological da’s historic center and just observe — really observe. dynamic narrative of Yucatán and integrate it into your tradition of Maya Look at the details of your surroundings and try not to own history of the self. It is a great opportunity to design peoples from the get distracted by conversation or your smartphone. Just a space that stays true to you and that fits into this Yucatán Peninsula let the buildings and corners speak to you as they do to tropical ambiance. As is the story of Yucatán and all the and Guatemala. me. Notice specifics about the antique doors, frames, Americas, this land is a melting pot of cultures and ideas They are miniature iron gates, grand archways, pasta tile floors, and their and a place to let your creativity soar while standing people who are surroundings. Don’t be afraid to peer in through the firmly on the ground of living history.  usually invisible, window of an abandoned house. There are treasures to but they will make be found and maybe some ghosts or aluxes,* too! Stephanie Carmon is the founding editor of MID CityBeat, themselves presThe Maya was the dominating culture in the area for which highlights the region’s rich culture and arts, gastronomy, ent to play tricks around 3,500 years before the Spanish arrived. In 1542, tourism, music, and recommends local businesses. Follow on or communithe Spanish city of Mérida was built on the remains of @midcitybeat on Instagram and Facebook and visit cate with humans. the Maya city of T'hó. In the Centro around the Plaza midcitybeat.com.

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For the bookshelf Juanita Stein

»  Mexican Gothic

by Silvia Moreno-García

An isolated mansion. A chillingly charismatic aristocrat. And a brave socialite drawn to expose their treacherous secrets, set in glamorous 1950s Mexico. Noemí Taboada heads to High Place, a distant house in the Mexican countryside, to save her newlywed cousin from a mysterious doom. She’s a glamorous debutante, and her chic gowns and perfect red lipstick are more suited for cocktail parties than amateur sleuthing. But she’s also tough and smart, with an indomitable will, and she is not afraid...although, maybe she should be! The family’s once colossal wealth and faded mining empire kept them from prying eyes, but as Noemí digs deeper she unearths stories of violence and madness. And Noemí, mesmerized by the terrifying yet seductive world of High Place, may soon find it impossible to ever leave this enigmatic house behind. A New York Times bestseller. Paperback, 352 pages, 345 pesos.

»  Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat:

Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking by Samin Nosrat, illustrated by Wendy MacNaughton Master the use of just four elements — salt, which enhances flavor; fat, which delivers flavor and generates texture; acid, which balances flavor; and heat, which ately determines the texture of food — and anything you cook will be delicious. With charming narrative, illustrated walkthroughs, and a lighthearted approach to kitchen science, award-winning chef Samin demystifies the four elements of good cooking. Refer to the canon of 100 essential recipes — and dozens of variations — to put the lessons into practice. Featuring 150 illustrations and infographics that reveal an atlas to the world of flavor, Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat will be your compass in the kitchen. It is destined to be a classic. A New York Times bestseller and winner of the 2018 James Beard Award for Best General Cookbook. Hardcover, 480 pages, 760 pesos. Juanita Stein owns the Mérida bookstore Between the Lines, on the corner of Calle 62 and 53 in the Centro, where these titles are available. Visit facebook.com/BetweenTheLinesMerida 14

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ARCHAEOLOGY

WILDLIFE

FOOD & DRINK

The small but beautiful ancient city of Chicanná

Amazing animals, from tiny insects to the big predators

Hunting for hidden shopping and dining treasures in Mérida

When you live here, you’ve got the world’s most exciting home base for travel. Start with Archaeology Monday, which recently went to southern Campeche to explore the dazzling Rio Bec site of Chicanná.

From the jungles to your backyard, the Yucatán Peninsula is home to an array of wildlife. We tell you all about our region’s most amazing animals, from the solitary jaguar to the misunderstood opossum.

A quiet three-room hotel that takes walkins for brunch. A two-table restaurant where the Japanese cheesecake sells out before noon. A gift shop not for tourists. This are the finds we love to discover.

Don’t miss a headline! Click Free Newsletter on our home page to get news about Yucatán in your inbox.

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Jardines

Local knowledge

BY CARLOS ROSADO VAN DER GRACHT ILLUSTRATIONS GINA OSORNO

Y

ucatán is no different than anywhere else when it comes to requiring a green thumb. It’s just a matter of knowing how much water and light each plant needs. A little local knowledge also helps. Marlene Collí — daughter of Valladolid greenhouse proprietors Leidy Díaz and Guadalupe Collí — has some tips. Many plant species grow particularly well in Yucatán. Some of these include buganvilias, mangos and the famous ceiba tree. In smaller spaces, it’s typical to grow one or two medium-sized trees such as sour orange (naranja agria) or lemon. These trees are large enough to provide some shade and have the added benefit of producing fruit essential to the region’s cuisine. For the home cook who likes to grab fresh herbs, rosemary, basil, parsley and cilantro can be grown quite easily under a mesh cover called malla sombra. Many people in Yucatán also grow plants for medicinal use. One of the most common is aloe vera (sábila), which is used to treat burns. The chaya is a shrub widely used to treat diabetes and kidney failure, but it is also becoming increasingly popular in Yucatecan cuisine. Tradition in the region dictates that one must ask permission from the chaya before taking its leaves to avoid being pricked by the tiny thorns on its stem. Home gardening is a practice as old as civilization itself. For millennia, the Maya have been keeping compact home gardens called canche. “We may not all be farmers like in ancient times, but bringing plants into our home and growing our favorites like habanero serve to connect us with nature and our roots,” Marlene says. Vivero Colli sits outside of Valladolid on the highway from Chichén Itzá. The family has worked for over 25 years selling tropical endemic flowering, fruit, and ornamental plants. They also offer landscape and design services for homes and businesses, including hotels. Follow them on Facebook @vivero.colli and YouTube, where Don Guadalupe Collí has become a bit of a local celebrity. NEXT PAGE: A GARDEN SPACE PLANNER JUST FOR YUCATÁN

Bougainvillea

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Jardines

Flamboyan

Plan the space Tiny spaces

»  Habanero chile »  Aloe vera (sábila) »  Basil (albahaca) »  Chile max »  Coriander (cilantro) »  Rosemary (romero) »  Chives (cebollina) »  Cacti »  Lavender (lavanda)

Small spaces

»  Galan de noche (jessamine) »  Corona de cristo (adeniums) »  Xiat Palm »  Marigold (cempasúchil) »  Mañanita (rose moss) »  Lengua de vaca (sansevieria) »  Epipremnum (teléfono) »  Monstera (costilla de adán) »  Miniature rose (pinocho) Medium spaces

* Sizes are based on average, many of these plants can grow much larger if left unattended

Flor de Mayo

»  Flor de Mayo »  Citrus »  Kerpis Palm »  Bougainvillea »  Pitaya (dragon fruit) »  Hibiscus »  Yucatan Plum (ciruela) »  Beavertail (nopal) »  Despeinada (beaucarnea pliabilis)

Large spaces

»  Mango (manila) »  Avocado (yucateco) »  Mamey zapote »  Ceiba »  Royal palm »  Pich (acacia) »  Lluvia de oro »  Flamboyan »  Chaka (blasa) »  Balché (lonchocarpus)

Philodendron (teléfono)

Flamboyan Habanero chile

— Carlos Rosado van der Graght with help from Marlene Collí 18

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Cover story

Blessed is the peacemaker Living inside a tranquil home means embracing what's outside, says Josefina Larraín Lagos

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BY LEE STEELE 19 PHOTOS CARLOS ROSADO VAN DER GRACHT


“It has to start with the place itself, what it tells to you, it’s like a dialog.”

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his morning in Josefina Larraín Lagos’ own home, which she designed with architect husband Salvador Reyes, serenity would be a struggle for most people Men on ropes are rappelling from a tall mango tree, tasked with cutting back its branches. Limbs are falling left and right. The younger of her two sons is busy in the kitchen with a cooking instructor. And now a photographer and I have come in, demanding to talk about serenity. Now. We try to stay calm, concealing our concern that we get good photos while the sun is low and the natural light is filtered through the trees. Josefina is unfazed. She’s in the kitchen, preparing coffee for us in a French press. Her contemporary house, built 10 years ago on a spacious corner lot in Itzimná, was designed for moments like these. “Most people think that I’m very calm. Maybe I am very calm but I’m always thinking of many things, doing many things at the same time,” Josefina says. Josefina Larraín Lagos was a fine artist long before there was such an architecture firm as Reyes Ríos + Larraín. She has fulfilled every possible creative role in between. “In everything, I can see an opportunity to create, to get involved, to learn, to start from there and explore into a different area,” says Josefina. “Like when we started doing architecture, and then I explored interior design, and then into landscaping, but at the same

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time into object design. I love to explore, to wander down a new road and find something new and enjoy.” Josefina has said that she has design principles more than a design philosophy that facilitates harmonious elements. The best homes start with good bones, she explains: “Try to focus on the main skeleton and the main spaces and the little spaces come along with it, but that should not be the focus. So the skeleton needs to be very harmonizing, very clean and very clear.” She avoids the urge to overhaul a space to fit a preconceived plan. “Our approach to design always starts from what we feel, we see, what we learn about the space, what we learn about its history,” says Josefina. “It has to start with the place itself, what it tells to you, it’s like a dialogue.” Her sons were still children when they built their family home. “We wanted to have a small house,” she says. While the house isn’t tiny, it is dwarfed in comparison to an expansive yard that has filled in tremendously with greenery since we first visited a decade ago, or even with AD Mexico visited in 2015. The house has generous windows that fill it with light while keeping the gardens in view. “We wanted to be connected with the elements. We knew this would be our last large property, and we wanted our children to have a comfortable experience with nature and to be connected and aware every day of what is going on outside the house, and not a capsule ISSUE 2 | YUCATÁN AT HOME


with air conditioning where you don’t even know what reality exists — if it’s raining, if there’s a storm.” While we’re talking on the rear terrace — over coffee — we hear not only the chirps and squawks of birds but also the soft whistle of a street vendor bicycling by on the other side of the garden walls. Then later we could hear that familiar jingle/chant emanating from a propane truck making its rounds. The gardens could have lulled us into believing we were far from daily realities, we were indeed connected to the elements — natural and otherwise — as intended. But the space within the garden walls is still magic. Josefina has kept the space free from pesticides, letting nature take its course. “As soon as you give a surrounding of vegetation, you have butterflies, you have insects. In the morning, at night you have birds singing,” says Josefina. “We hardly have mosquitos because there is a balance here. We have a lot of birds, a lot of bats, a lot of insects, a lot of everything, organic — I never fumigate. We don’t fumigate anything because as soon as you interfere you disbalance nature. So our children grew up here listening to crickets and seeing butterflies, seeing possums climb the tree with their possum family. And the cats from the neighborhood have come by and some have stayed to live here, so it’s a wonderful connection to nature and to life.”  Online: reyesrioslarrain.com YUCATÁN AT HOME | ISSUE 2

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sta mañana en la casa de Josefina Larraín Lago, que construyó ella misma con su esposo y arquitecto Salvador Reyes, encontrar serenidad sería difícil para la mayoría. Hombres trabajando en la cima de un alto árbol de mango, pareciendo hacer rapel, mientras recortan ramas que caen por diestra y siniestra. El más joven de sus dos hijos está en la cocina con una maestra de gastronomía. Y ahora llegamos un fotógrafo y yo exigiendo hablar acerca de la serenidad. Ahora. Intentamos mantenernos tranquilos, ocultando nuestra preocupación por sacar buenas fotos mientras el sol nos favoreciera y la luz se filtra hermosamente entre los árboles. Josefina se encuentra en la cocina preparando café para todos usando una prensa francesa. Su casa de estilo contemporáneo, construida hace 10 años sobre un espacioso terreno en la colonia Itzimná, fue diseñada para momentos como estos. “La mayoría de las personas piensan que soy una persona muy serena. Tal vez sí lo sea, pero siempre estoy haciendo muchas cosas a la vez”, dice Josefina. Josefina Larraín Lagos era ya una artista mucho antes de aventurarse en el mundo de la arquitectura con la empresa Reyes Ríos + Larraín. Ha ocupado todos los papeles que existen entre ambos roles. “En todo puedo ver oportunidades para crear, para aprender, para empezar desde la curiosidad y explorar un área nueva”, dice Josefina. 21


The owners of architectural firm Reyes Ríos + Larraín designed their own home to keep their two children connected to nature.

“Como cuando empezamos a hacer arquitectura, me nació el interés por el diseño de interiores, y después el paisajismo, pero al mismo tiempo el diseño de objetos. Me encanta explorar nuevos caminos y encontrar algo nuevo para disfrutar”. Josefina dice que sigue sus propios principios de diseño más que una filosofía como tal, esto le ayuda a lograr la armonía entre elementos. Los mejores hogares empiezan con una buena estructura, “Intento enfocarme en el esqueleto principal, de esta forma los espacios principales y secundarios emergen de forma natural, pero este no debe ser el enfoque principal. La base tiene que estar muy limpia, ordenada y en armonía”. Evita el deseo de rediseñar espacios para hacerlos funcionar con un plan preestablecido. “Nuestra forma de ver el diseño siempre empieza con lo que sentimos, lo que vemos, lo que aprendemos del lugar y su historia”, dice Josefina. “Todo tiene que empezar con el espacio en sí, lo que te dice, es como un diálogo”. Sus hijos aún eran pequeños cuando construyeron su hogar. “Queríamos una casa pequeña”, nos cuenta Josefina. Aunque la casa no es chica, su gran jardín lleno de vegetación la hace ver diminuta. Sobre todo en comparacion de cuando visitamos la propiedad por primera vez hace una década, o incluso comparado a cuando AD México la visitó en el 2015. La casa tiene grandes ventanas que la llenan de luz y mantienen los jardines a la vista. “Queríamos estar conectados con la naturaleza. Sabíamos 22

que esta sería nuestra última propiedad grande, y queríamos que nuestros hijos tuvieran una relación cómoda con la naturaleza que los mantuviera conectados con lo que pasa fuera de la casa, no una cápsula con aire acondicionado en la que uno ni se da cuenta de lo que existe en el exterior”. Mientras tomábamos un café en la terraza de atrás, escuchamos no solo los sonidos de las aves sino también el suave silbido de un vendedor ambulante en su bicicleta, al otro lado de los muros del jardín. Un tiempo después escucharemos un sonido emanando de un camión de gas haciendo sus rondas. Los jardines pudieron habernos hecho pensar que estábamos lejos de la vida diaria, realmente nos encontramos conectados con los elementos, tanto los naturales como los cotidianos. Pero el espacio entre los muros del jardín aún es mágico. Josefina ha mantenido estos espacios libres de pesticidas, permitiendo que la naturaleza tome su curso. “Tan pronto como llenes un espacio de vegetación empiezan a llegar las mariposas e insectos. En las mañanas y en las noches se escucha el cantar de los pájaros”, dice Josefina. Casi no tenemos mosquitos porque todo está en equilibrio. Tenemos muchas aves, murciélagos y bichitos. Nunca fumigamos porque apenas uno interfiere la naturaleza pierde su equilibrio. Así que nuestros hijos crecieron escuchando el sonido de los grillos y viendo mariposas, el trepar de zarigüellas por los árboles con sus familias. Los gatos de la cuadra pasan, y algunos han decidido quedarse aquí para vivir. Es tan maravilloso tener una conexión con la naturaleza y la vida.  En línea: reyesrioslarrain.com ISSUE 2 | YUCATÁN AT HOME


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YUCATÁN AT HOME | ISSUE 2

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En Casa

Playground for grownups In Yaxkukul, the tree-hugging Casa en el Árbol has become one of Laar’s most famous projects

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BY VERÓNICA GARIBAY PHOTOS TAMARA URIBE

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a Casa en el Árbol — house in a tree — sits at the heart of Yaxkukul, a municipality in Yucatán’s interior. It is a retreat house for the owner, whose family lived for many years on those very grounds. The project draws inspiration from a solar, a traditional country Maya property. The design work was entrusted to Laar, an architectural firm based in Mérida. Their goal: to highlight the trees already on the site. “When the client told us what she wanted, the first thing we thought of was a playhouse, for her grandchildren or something like that,” says Diego, one-half of the Laar team. “But as we delved deeper, we understood what she expected from the space.” “We realized that it was not a playhouse, but a retreat, a place where she could enjoy nature and be herself. The challenge was to take the idea of a treehouse and transform it into a contemporary and livable home.” At ground level, an open-plan layout welcomes the guests. The blue patio is reminiscent of the home’s original floor tiling and is enclosed by the remains of the old walls. From there, stairs lead us to the top of the trees to arrive at yet another terrace, where treetops offer ample shade. The architects were particularly mindful in allowing for airflow in both open and enclosed areas. The heart of the second floor is a Maya walnut tree, whose canopy towers over the solar. “Simply put, inspiration came from the trees,” says Diego. “We understood that we were working for nature. Once we got to know the place, the trees, the location and the environment we started visualizing new possibilities.” The project’s design phase lasted about six months, from the moment they met the owner to the submission of the final draft. Construction went on for roughly two years. Today, the home stands as one of Laar’s most famous projects. Diego says that even though the home is private property, it has become part of the community’s identity. “The residents of Yaxkukul were so intrigued when we began building this unique project,” he remembers. “So many people stop to peek in and take a look. La Casa en el Árbol has become a local landmark,” Diego says. The project has slowly merged in with its surroundings, allowing nature to recover and for the house to fully integrate with the space. “Homes age just like we do, and the treehouse is aging beautifully, on par with nature,” says Diego. “It has slowly been wrapped by plants, and the trees are healthy and splendid again. It’s amazing to see how it gradually became part of the natural landscape.” Laar thinks of this project as a testament to the value of pursuing one’s dream. “We see it as a great representation of our philosophy, too. Good things take time, but we should never discard the dreams we keep. Some day, when the time is right, you will be able to achieve that which you desire, even though it may take 50 years.”  Facebook: laar.mx

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En Casa

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ace más de 50 años nació la idea de una casa en el árbol. Una mujer de Yaxkukul pasó su infancia trepando por árboles y ramas en una vieja casa de mampostería. Con el paso del tiempo, sólo quedó el paisaje que conocía. Años después, se dio a la tarea de transformar la propiedad en una casa que resalte los árboles que ha conocido durante toda su vida. La Casa del Árbol se encuentra en el corazón de Yaxkukul, un municipio al interior del estado de Yucatán. Es una casa de retiro para la propietaria, cuya familia vivió durante muchos años en esos mismos terrenos. El proyecto se inspira en un “solar”, una tradicional casa de campo maya. El proyecto se encargó a Laar, un estudio de arquitectura ubicado en Mérida, Yucatán. Su objetivo: resaltar los árboles presentes en el terreno. “Cuando nos dijo lo que quería, lo primero que pensamos fue en una casa de juegos, para sus nietos o algo parecido”, cuenta Diego, una mitad de Laar. “Pero a medida que profundizamos, entendimos lo que ella esperaba del espacio.” “Nos dimos cuenta de que no era una casa de juegos, sino una casa de retiro, un lugar donde pudiera disfrutar de la naturaleza y ser ella misma. El reto era tomar la idea de una casa en el árbol y transformarla en una casa contemporánea y habitable”. En la planta baja, una disposición de planta abierta da la bienvenida a los invitados. El patio azul es un homenaje al suelo original de la casa y está rodeado por los restos de los antiguos muros. Desde allí, una escalera nos lleva a la parte superior de los árboles, donde llegamos a otra terraza, en la que las copas de los ofrecen amplia sombra. Los arquitectos tuvieron muy en cuenta la circulación del aire tanto en las zonas abiertas como en las cerradas. El corazón de la

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segunda planta es un nogal maya, cuya copa se eleva sobre el solar. “Simplemente, la inspiración vino de los árboles”, dice Diego. "Entendimos que estábamos trabajando para la naturaleza. Una vez que conocimos el lugar, los árboles, la ubicación y el entorno, empezamos a visualizar nuevas posibilidades”. El diseño del proyecto duró unos seis meses, desde que conocieron al propietaria hasta la presentación del proyecto final. La construcción se prolongó durante unos dos años. Diego dice que, aunque la casa es propiedad privada, se ha convertido en parte de la identidad de la comunidad. “Los habitantes de Yaxkukul estaban muy intrigados cuando empezamos a construir este proyecto único”, recuerda. “Mucha gente se paraba a echar un vistazo. La Casa del Árbol se ha convertido en un hito local”. El proyecto se ha ido fundiendo poco a poco con su entorno, permitiendo que la naturaleza se recupere y que la casa se integre plenamente en el espacio. “Las casas envejecen igual que nosotros, y la casa del árbol está envejeciendo maravillosamente, a la par que la naturaleza", dice Diego. "Poco a poco ha sido envuelta por las plantas, y los árboles vuelven a estar sanos y espléndidos. Es increíble ver cómo poco a poco se ha ido integrando en el paisaje natural”. Laar considera que este proyecto es un testimonio del valor de perseguir un sueño. “También lo vemos como una gran representación de nuestra filosofía. Las cosas buenas llevan su tiempo, pero nunca debemos descartar los sueños que conservamos. Algún día, cuando sea el momento adecuado, podrás conseguir lo que deseas, aunque te lleve 50 años”. Facebook: laar.mx

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“Los habitantes de Yaxkukul estaban muy intrigados cuando empezamos a construir este proyecto único ... Mucha gente se paraba a echar un vistazo. La Casa del Árbol se ha convertido en un hito local”. YUCATÁN AT HOME | ISSUE 2

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En Casa

Ilona’s final maste A Connecticut couple moves to Mérida and turns a blank slate of a property into a what would become a living memorial

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erpiece

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En Casa

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BY CRAIG SAUNDERS PHOTOS CARLOS ROSADO VAN DER GRACHT AND LEE STEELE

e first came to Mérida in 2004, our second trip to Yucatán, the first having been devoted to Chichén Itzá, Tulum, Puerto Ventura and Isla Mujeres. This second trip was a circumnavigation of the Peninsula and began in Mérida, which we used as a base for exploration of Uxmal and other archaeological sites to the south, some of the convent towns and north coast and the bird sanctuaries at Celestún. We stayed in the master suite at the Casa del Balam, charming but impossibly noisy. The hotel featured a most beautiful colonial-style courtyard (still there) and allowed dinner service in the courtyard next to the fountain, catered by the in-house restaurant (still does). We loved the feel of the part of Mérida centered around the main square cathedral and Parque Hidalgo with its magnificently decorated church, where we saw several society weddings. The rest of Mérida seemed dusty and neglected. The magnificent Paseo was dark and proliferated with brooding, abandoned houses. The only restaurant on the entire Paseo was the Impala, which must have emerged around 1958, the year its eponymous Mark was introduced by Chevrolet. It

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is possible that the ice cream shop near Calle 41 also existed at that time. So we stayed our few days, then pushed on through Campeche, Edzna and its Hacienda Uayamon, Calakmul, Bacalar, back to Tulum (a delight then) and eventually home, not giving Mérida much more thought, even as a retirement option. Fast forward 12 years. Ilona had contracted a rare form of cancer and that combined with cardiac AFIB (a side effect of her first very major operation) made New England ISSUE 2 | YUCATÁN AT HOME


Above, personal photos of Ilona Saunders capture her playful spirit. They were on view for guests of her memorial celebration, left. Opposite page, top: Two love birds perch on the Saunders’ thatchedroom gazebo. Bottom: Ilona and Craig Saunders are given an unexpected greeting by government officials to mark the inaugural Atlanta-Mérida flight briefly offered by Delta Air Lines.

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En Casa

By early summer we had sold the house and were ridding ourselves of 30 years of prized possessions and, bibliophiles that we were, hundreds of books. In early September, in the final throes of packing and organizing, tragedy struck. A recurrence of Ilona’s cancer. winters unendurable. I would leave each day and return from work to find her wrapped in a blanket, huddled by the gas fire in the garden room. Ilona loved our Connecticut house and the gardens she developed there over 33 years, but it was time to move on. Sometime around 2014, we made our last trip to Vieques, which we had been exploring for perhaps 10 years as a retirement option. We loved the secret beaches and the central spine of mountains and thought to avail ourselves of Medicare there. The entire medical structure was not up to Ilona’s needs. In fact, we were concerned the entire time we were there that a situation might arise that the local resources couldn’t cope with. We also seemed bombarded with HGTV programs advocating the charms of Mérida and the reasonable cost of renovated housing. So in late winter of 2014 we rented 32

our first house in Mérida for a month. I was working 30 hours a week in architecture at the time and another 15-20 hours teaching in the graduate program in architecture at the University of Hartford. I could, however, get time off between about Dec. 15 and Jan. 25. And so to Mérida we came. Over the course of three years, we rented three houses of different styles in several neighborhoods. We loved it; the cheery “buenos dias” in the morning, the local markets, the plethora of choices in restaurants, the parks, museum specialty shops, the whole magilla. In April of 2017, the last of our golden retrievers died, leaving Ilona free to plan for a new life outside of Connecticut and outside of the US where the political situation had become untenable. By early summer we had sold the house and were ridding ourselves of 30 years of prized possessions and, bibliophiles that we

were, hundreds of books. In early September, in the final throes of packing and organizing, tragedy struck. A recurrence of Ilona’s cancer. This time in the form of two small lesions on her liver (the most common form of recurrence of this cancer). As a demonstration of Ilona’s spunk and determination to move to Mérida, she was operated on Nov. 3, and we arrived in Mérida on Dec. 1, 2017, we took the first direct (but shortlived) flight from Atlanta to Mérida. We were greeted by the governor, a brass band and our pictures were on the covers of all the local newspapers. We had prearranged to rent a house while we searched for a property to suit us. On the third day there, while on my walk, I came upon a house with a large for-sale sign. I asked my agent about it and was told I wouldn’t like it. The owner was difficult and the layout was quirky but it had a very large ISSUE 2 | YUCATÁN AT HOME


garden and pool. Initially we thought we would buy something similar to what we’d always rented in Mérida, the proverbial two-bedrooms, two-and-a-half bathrooms, $250,000 with a large enough garden and real dirt to plant things in the ground, not in pots. Dream on! We found many Mérida houses shared a predictable sameness — guest bedroom in the front (with traffic), a tight galley kitchen that also acted as primary circulation, and while the rear of the house adjacent to the garden often exploded with architectural hijinks, the interior and front of the houses were murky and dark, often due to INHA regulations. As many Mérida houses are conceived as short-term rentals, actual closet space and any kind of long-term storage were virtually non-existent. We quickly discovered that houses that were perfect for a month-long get-away were impossible as long-term housing. One or more bedrooms would have to be given over to closets and storage. Gardens were an even bigger issue! Ilona wanted to grow indigenous materials in indigenous soil, such as it is. Our search for a house took us to between 30 and 50 properties. We saw none with usable open space with natural soil for gardening. Oh sure, there were two-footwide strips that could have had indigenous soil but more likely concrete eight feet or so down. We looked at wonderful houses by renowned architects, but all their outdoor spaces were totally concreted over. We were told that locals and gringos alike preferred to garden in pots. As an aside, free-draining soil gets rid of excess water at two inches an hour.“Bah humbug,” said Ilona. “I want layers and waves of planting.” To be fair, a few contemporary architects also understand gardening. Reyes Rios and Larraín come to mind. After all, we were living in a house they designed. However, none of their houses were available and with Ilona’s poor health we were wary of a ground-up new house or extensive renovation. The idea of the rather large house with a large garden that I had seen on a very early reconnaissance began to gather appeal. A new agent showed us the house, and to our surprise, none of the issues the previous one had objected to were deal-breakers. Some of the design choices that were objectionable we thought we could address with a minimal outlay of funds. Consequently we made an offer (on the low side) and it was accepted by an owner motivated by a planned return to Europe. The eyesore was ours! The property is 60 by 150 feet, enormous by Mérida standards. The footprint of the house is 50 by 50 feet with a 13-foot-deep loggia across the south-facing garden. The YUCATÁN AT HOME | ISSUE 2

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garden measures 50 by 100 feet, half of which adjacent to the house is dominated by lawn, or at least the ubiquitous crab grass that is a stand-in for lawn in the Yucatán. Beyond the lawn is a very large pool 21 by 42 feet, flanked on the east by a bodega housing pool equipment and the laundry and on the west by a reasonably wide swath of crabgrass. At the southern end of the property stands a large palapa, 20 by 45 feet, which contains a seating area, bar, and summer kitchen with an adjacent full bath plus an outdoor shower. The primary design issues to resolve were capped by the fact that the house, the pool and the palapa were separated by lawn. The only acknowledgment to connective circulation was a stepping-stone path through the grass to these primary features. Typical rainy-season afternoon monsoons, let alone running the sprinkler system, would turn the stepping stones into a muddy bog. Clearly an architectural plan had to be developed to supply the necessary architectural linkage between the garden’s physical elements. As Ilona more succinctly phrased it, “There’s no there there! Grass is boring!” Prior to starting the architectural changes which were still in development, however, we began to address the unremitting blandness of the garden’s walls and structures — a totally uninspired medium beige providing 34

I never thought I’d begin to think of hot pink as a neutral background, but to the vivid green of the Yucatán, it is. absolutely no articulation or celebration of the forms of the practical structures of the garden. Our guide was a monograph on Luis Barrigán, a Mexican architect who achieved international recognition in the 1960s during my years as an architectural student. He was renowned for his fearless use of intense color. Using his inspiration, we painted the bodega magenta, the back bathroom purple, the wall between them a sharp pink and the rear wall under the palapa a golden yellow. Ilona’s response was, “not enough” (color that is) in what we had begun to think of as our Mexican village. We added intense color to all the remaining walls including the loggia and rear of the house. I never thought I’d begin to think of hot pink as a neutral background, but to the vivid green of the Yucatán, it is. A contour survey would show virtually no contours here, but the property contains

one enormous natural feature in the form of one enormous ceiba tree, perhaps as much as 100 years old, 100 feet tall and with a girth at its base of between six and seven feet in diameter. This monster tree stands at the western edge of the property against the wall. It is a significant focal point because of its enormous size, elegant structure and 70-feet diameter shade canopy 40 feet above the ground. It was not positioned such as to be able to be incorporated into the garden plan except as an enormous piece of elegant sculpture that is a focal point because of its size and beauty. The purpose of hardscape in our minds was to provide clean, raised access to the palapa at the rear of the property and the small attendant structures in between. It obviously had to be attractive and produce a balanced graceful architectural solution. There is no evidence that any thought was ever given to the architectural relationship between the pool and palapa and the house; no alignment of architecture or structure, no axiality, no recognition of one by the other. In addition we agreed that there ought to be a terrace adjacent to the loggia to support sitting or dining under the stars or even dancing. There also needed to be terracing adjacent to the pool broad enough for lounge and occasional seating. We also felt a water feature referencing hacienda watering systems or elegant ISSUE 2 | YUCATÁN AT HOME


En Casa

Craig Saunders’ rendering shows how pathways and a fountain water feature connected the backyard’s scattered elements. Softening the hardscape are Ilona’s plantings, which emulated the layered effect she perfected in Connecticut.

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En Casa

early Mérida great houses was important, especially for the sound of water. The softscape combines Ilona’s aesthetic vision with our gardener Jorge Lara’s intimate knowledge of plant materials, soil (such as it is), sun, shade, and water requirements. To my knowledge, Ilona never made a drawing of the garden. She designed by intuition, feel for color, texture and combinations with an uncanny eye for putting together unexpected combinations that somehow worked. Her drawings were done with a sharp stick to indicate to Jorge and the workmen the geometry of a bed she was planning, guided in part by Svetlana Aleksandroff’s Plants of the Mayan World. Despite her delicate health, Ilona made innumerable trips to the local viveros propped on a pillow to protect her sensitive backside 36

from the exposed springs of Jorge’s truck. Ilona believed, rightly so, that a garden once begun was not a static thing; that as she continued to plant and adjust, the garden itself was morphing and adjusting and evolving its own plan. She was like the conductor of an orchestra, but one who delighted in deviations from the score. Case in point: the enormous elephant ear plant, the seed for which came hidden in the soil of a lovely variegated plant placed behind a bench on the terrace, a very beautiful variegated specimen that is now dwarfed by a factor of 10 by its unintended neighbor. Ilona didn’t tear out the elephant ear, but rather celebrated it by creating a special place for it in her plan. The wandering juxtaposed bands of dark green fern and the variegated shrubs. The bright red ginger flowers. The illumiISSUE 2 | YUCATÁN AT HOME


nated traveler palms. The palms that aren’t supposed to grow in the sun but do. The sprightly foxtail that delightfully fulfills its role as centerpiece of the main bed. The dark red dracaena that shouldn’t compliment the magenta bodega but somehow do. The lobster claws that reflect in the right light-like Japanese lanterns in the pool. We continued Ilona’s vision after she was gone. The purple Petunia Mexicana that stood in a bucket rooting by the outdoor shower now forms a beautiful bed there. The bright yellow golden druanta which we bought at the Slow Food Market the weekend before she died is not only planted but has offspring. The jasmine also not planted when Ilona died is now in a pot outside the French windows to the master bedroom providing a delightful scent. My favorite time in the garden is sunset just after a violent late thunderstorm. The light is eerie. The colors of the walls and plants intensify dramatically and the garden is iridescent. She named our Mérida house Villa Aventura because she wanted it to be her last adventure. It was.  Ilona and Craig’s yard in Mérida manages to tie together restful seating areas, including lounge chairs and a vine-covered gazebo, as well as a palapa that was put to use by caterers when friends gathered to celebrate Ilona’s memory.

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Craig Saunders had a 50-year career as a Connecticut architect, where he was involved in many outstanding projects, notably the Sport & Medical Sciences Academy High School, Loomis Chaffee School Richmond Hall, and the historic renovation of Noah Webster Elementary School.

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En Casa

La última aventura de Ilona

POR CRAIG SAUNDERS FOTOS CARLOS ROSADO VAN DER GRACHT Y LEE STEELE

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os trazos de una ávida jardinera, en el patio trasero, dejan a su esposo un recuerdo viviente del amor de su vida. Ilona y yo nos conocimos en una fiesta en una villa cerca del Lago Starnberg, a las afueras de Munich en 1973, en donde me encontraba trabajando como arquitecto. El día después de la fiesta nos mudamos juntos y empezamos una relación que duraría 47 años, y durante la cual rara vez estaríamos lejos el uno del otro. Un salto al 2017. Después de rentar varias casas en Mérida nos preparábamos para mudarnos a la ciudad permanentemente, cuando nos llegó una trágica noticia. El cáncer de Ilona había regresado. Demostrando la tenacidad y determinación de Ilona de mudarse a Mérida, llegamos a la ciudad el primero de diciembre, tras su operación del tres de noviembre. Habíamos rentado una casa, la cual pertenecía al erudito director de esta publicación, mientras buscábamos una casa propia. En nuestro tercer día en la ciudad, durante una caminata, me encontré una casa con un gran letrero indicando que estaba a la venta. Le pregunté a mi agente de bienes raíces acerca de la casa, quien me aseguró que no me gustaría. El dueño era un poco difícil y el terreno era de forma irregular, sin embargo tenía una gran alberca y jardín. Seguimos buscando. La búsqueda de nuestra casa nos llevó a visitar entre 30 y 50 propiedades. No encontramos ninguna con suficiente espacio para el jardín que queríamos, ni tierra natural. Se nos dijo que tanto los locales como los gringos de Mérida prefieren armar sus jardines en macetas. “ ¡Qué tontería!”, dijo Ilona. “Quiero capas y olas de plantas”. Viendo en persona la primera casa que había encontrado, decidimos que podíamos sobrellevar sus deficiencias. Hicimos una oferta y esta fue aceptada por el dueño, quien se veía muy motivado. La propiedad mide 18 por 46 metros, la cual la hace enorme para los estándares del Centro. La parte trasera de la casa mira al sur y el jardín. La mitad del terreno adyacente a la casa originalmente estaba cubierta de césped. Más allá está una enorme alberca, y más allá aún una gran palapa con mucho espacio para invitados, un bar y una cocineta, así como un baño completo con su propia ducha al aire libre. Desde el punto de vista de diseño, el problema más grande era que la casa, alberca y palapa estaban separadas por puro césped. “Es como si no hubiera nada, que aburrido es el césped” dijo Ilona. Antes de modificar la arquitectura de la casa, nos dimos la tarea de desarrollar nuestros planes para estilizar el aburrido jardín y sus muros. Nuestra guía fue una monografía del arquitecto Mexicano Luis Barragán, quien logró gran fama durante mis años estudiantiles, en la década de los sesenta. Era muy famoso por su uso de colores intensos. Utilizando esta idea como inspiración, pintamos nuestra bodega magenta, nuestro baño morado y el muro que los separaba de rosa. Tambien pintamos el muro que queda detras de la palapa un brillante amarillo. “Falta mas color”, dijo Ilona, en lo que nos empezaba a parecer un colorido pueblo Mexicano. YUCATÁN AT HOME | ISSUE 2

Pintamos de colores intensos todos los muros de la casa. Nunca pensé que llegaría a considerar el rosa brillante como un tono neutro de fondo, pero ante el verde vívido de Yucatán, sí que lo es. ¿Qué falta? me pregunté. Materiales duros y materiales blandos. El propósito de los materiales duros era crear un acceso limpio y elevado a la palapa de la parte trasera de la propiedad y la pequeña estructura que se encuentra en medio. También decidimos agregar una fuente, que se asemeja a los viejos sistemas de irrigación de las haciendas Yucatecas y grandes casonas de Mérida. Esto nos era importante sobre todo por el sonido tranquilizante del agua chorreante. Los materiales blandos que escogimos combinaron los gustos estéticos de Ilona con la visión de nuestro paisajista, Jorge Lara, quien basó sus decisiones en un extenso conocimiento de la vegetación de Yucatán, así como de sus requerimientos de sol, sombra y agua. Hasta donde sé, Ilona nunca hizo siquiera un bosquejo del diseño. Lo hizo todo basándose en su intuición de cómo combinar colores y texturas. Realmente tenía un gran ojo para el detalle. Lo que sí hizo fue trazar algunos dibujos para indicarle a Jorge y sus trabajadores la geometría que buscaba en su jardín. Para esto se guió en parte por el libro Plants of the Mayan World, por Svetlana Aleksandroff. Ilona creía, justificadamente, que los jardines no son estáticos, sino que continuamente están en un proceso de cambio y ajuste para poder evolucionar según su propia agenda. Ella era la conductora de una gran orquesta, donde con gran gozo y frecuencia improvisaba el libreto. Por ejemplo, una gran oreja de elefante se infiltró en el jardín a través de una semilla la cual venía escondida en la tierra y creció por detrás de una banca en la terraza. Ilona decidió no sacarla, sino celebrarla y cambiar el diseño de su jardín a pesar de que esta gran hoja ya había crecido diez veces más que las hojas que la rodeaban. La errante juxtaposicion de bandas de color de los verdes helechos y arbustos. El intenso rojo de las flores de jengibre, las brillantes palmeras abanico, las cuales no deberían crecer en el sol directo, pero lo hacen de todas formas. La alegre cola de zorro que adorna la cama principal. El obscuro rojizo de la dracaena la cual no debiera combinar con el color magenta del muro de la bodega, pero de alguna forma lo hace. Las pinzas de langosta, que reflejan la luz como linternas japonesas en la alberca. Continuamos la visión de Ilona, incluso después de que ella nos dejó. La petunia púrpura mexicana agarró raíces en una cubeta y ahora adorna el área junto a la ducha exterior. La duranta color oro que compramos en el mercado el fin de semana antes de que falleciera ahora florece y ha producido hijos. El jazmín el cual Ilona no tuvo oportunidad de sembrar ahora llena el cuarto principal con un hermoso aroma. Mis momentos favoritos en el jardín son al atardecer, después de una violenta tormenta eléctrica. La luz es escalofriante. El color de los muros y las plantas se intensifican dramáticamente y el jardín parece brillar. Yo se que Ilona nos ve sonriendo con orgullo. Ella nombró nuestra casa en Mérida Villa Aventura, porque ella quería que esta fuera su última aventura. Y así fue.  39


En Casa

WHITE WATER RETREAT

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A artist embraces neutral colors and clear refreshing water for a Mérida getaway BY LEE STEELE PHOTOS CARLOS ROSADO VAN DER GRACHT

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reamy white walls, natural stone and an abundance of flowing water are the elements that send Casa Luna Llena into orbit. Add lots of ironwork in black for a touch of drama and ornamentation and you’ve got a welcoming retreat. Fernando Abreu designed and built this two-bedroom retreat for U.S. artist William Betts, who craved a new project in Mérida, where he sometimes lives. In a country that celebrates bold colors, Betts wanted soothing warm tones and high ceilings for his large-scale paintings. No need to agonize over color palettes. White cement is everywhere, a low-maintenance option, and an appropriately neutral hue for hanging artwork. While the overall house is modern, a graceful colonnade, ornate black ironwork and decorative pasta tiles reference Yucatán, Abreu explains. A dramatic sightline was created from the dining room and kitchen in the front through two more rooms to a master bathroom in the rear. Natural materials dominate, including the preferred granite kitchen countertops, this time in a honed black. A center kitchen island, accented by black and gray pasta tiles that match the floor and backsplash, is lit by three tall black canisters suspended from the ceiling. The light is also natural, at least in the daytime when skylights lined up against the north wall welcome in the sun’s rays. Rather than laying plate glass flat on the roof, Abreu created vertical skylights with jalousie windows and mosquito screens, so the sunlight bounces off the wall instead of shining straight down. The result is more functional — air can circulate — and less likely to result in cracks in the glass. The star of the show is the water, however. A water trough in the foyer sets the tone. It leads the eye toward the swimming pool, which runs almost the entire length of the property. Its hard lines are softened by purple, leggy Mexican petunias reaching up toward the sun. A small concession to color. Although situated in the Centro, pretty much every space has a water view. Even the soaking tub, nestled in greenery, looks through beautiful ironwork toward the pool. Or look straight up at the sky at the real luna llena, or full moon. It’s hard to imagine that such a grand house has no more than two bedrooms, but it is indeed modest in proportions. Betts’ paintings tend to be large in scale, and will easily fill the seemingly endless walls. Betts’ artwork comes largely from photography, or even stills from closed-circuit cameras, digitally manipulated and reinterpreted with what look like texturized pixels. Paintings that depict the Maya ruins at Uxmal and other familiar landscapes are destined for Luna Llena. Abreu heads Mérida-based Centro Architects, an unusual firm in that it doesn’t bid out for contractors. This prevents finger-pointing when anything goes awry. Centro also provides interior design services as well as ongoing property management once the home is occupied. He has been in business here for around 10 years after schooling in the United States. Betts has been traveling the Mérida for years and sees the house as an art project in itself. The rest of the year, he resides in the Litchfield Hills of Connecticut, where a starker contrast to his Santiago neighborhood couldn’t exist. 

YUCATÁN AT HOME | ISSUE 2

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En Casa

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aredes blancas, piedra natural y el flujo del agua son los elementos que hacen de Casa Luna Llena algo fuera de este mundo. La abundante herrería oscura añade un toque de drama a la ornamentación del acogedor refugio. Fernando Abreu diseñó y construyó este refugio de dos dormitorios para el artista estadounidense William Betts, quien ansiaba un nuevo proyecto en Mérida, donde vive por temporadas. En un país conocido por sus colores brillantes, Betts optó por colores tenues pero cálidos con techos altos para sus grandes cuadros. Esto elimina la agonizante necesidad de buscar una paleta de colores. Se puede observar cemento blanco por todos lados, una opción neutra de fácil mantenimiento, perfecta para colgar arte. Aunque la casa en general es moderna, también posee una elegante columnata, ornamentación en hierro negro y azulejos de pasta decorativos que hacen referencia a Yucatán, explica Abreu. La orientación del comedor y cocina crean una vista dramática la cual atraviesa dos cuartos hasta terminar en la habitación principal, la cual lleva a un gran baño en el fondo. Los materiales naturales predominan, por ejemplo en las encimeras de granito negro en la cocina. Al centro de la BY LEE STEELE misma podemos apreciar FOTOS CARLOS ROSADO VAN DER GRACHT una isla acentuada con losas grises y negras que hacen juego con el piso y protector contra salpicaduras, el cual es iluminado por tres faros. La luz en la casa tiene una apariencia natural, por lo menos durante el día cuando los tragaluces orientados hacia el norte le dan la bienvenida a los rayos del sol. En vez de colocar un cristal en el techo, Abreu creó tragaluces verticales con ventanas equipadas con mosquiteros, para así reflejar la luz en el muro en vez de que brille directamente hacia abajo. El resultado es sumamente funcional, ya que permite un buen flujo de aire y evita por completo los contratiempos de los tragaluces tradicionales. Sin embargo, el protagonista de la casa es el agua. El agua fluye desde la entrada y guía la mirada hacia una hermosa alberca, la cual se extiende a lo largo de la propiedad. Sus bordes marcados son atenuados por largas petunias purpuras las cuales miran hacia el sol trayendo un toque de color. Aunque está ubicada en el centro, casi toda la casa tiene vistas hacia el agua. Hasta la tina, escondida entre vegetación, tiene vista a la alberca a través de un hermoso ventanal de herrería. O se puede mirar directamente hacia al cielo en noches claras para disfrutar del espectáculo que le da nombre a la casa, la luna llena. Es difícil imaginar que una casona tan magnífica tenga solo dos cuartos, pero es realmente modesta en cuanto a proporciones. Las pinturas de Betts tienden a ser de gran formato y fácilmente encontrarán un hogar en sus altos y casi interminables muros. La obra artística de Betts viene principalmente de la fotografía en forma de imágenes tomadas de cámaras de seguridad las cuales después manipula y reinterpreta. Sus pinturas de las ruinas Mayas, como Uxmal y otros famosos sitios, también están presentes en Casa Luna Llena. Abreu dirige Centro Architects, basado en Mérida. Este despacho busca diferenciarse de sus competidores y subcontrata basándose en calidad y no en costo, lo cual evita malentendidos si surgiera algún problema. El despacho también ofrece servicios de diseño de interiores así como administración inmobiliaria una vez que la casa quede terminada. Abreu completó su educación formal en Estados Unidos, y desde entonces se dedica al negocio de la arquitectura y construcción. Betts ha estado viniendo a Mérida por años y ve la casa como una obra de arte en sí. El resto del año, reside en Litchfield Hills of Connecticut, un lugar realmente muy distinto a su hogar en el barrio de Santiago. 

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ISSUE 2 | YUCATÁN AT HOME


UN REFUGIO DE AGUA CLARA Un artista del centro acoge colores neutros y la frescura del agua cristalina

YUCATÁN AT HOME | ISSUE 2

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En Casa

Zen Tao

BY LEE STEELE PHOTOS CARLOS ROSADO VAN DER GRACHT THIS PHOTO: RON ALLANACH

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ISSUE 2 | YUCATÁN AT HOME


masters Making the right design decisions facilitate calm, a couple from Canada proves

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fter months of searching for a new home in Mérida’s Centro, Vancouverites Ron Allanach and Ben Lorgeranon decided to build from scratch. The result was a California-modern home that reflects not only their Buddhist beliefs but also their need for light-filled, calming spaces. Its name is on the nose: Casa Zen Tao. “We wanted West Coast, modern style, light, air, a little Asian

YUCATÁN AT HOME | ISSUE 2

Above, Ron and Ben have friends over for Sunday brunch in their kitchen at Casa Zen Tao. Left, the house is crisp and streamlined, reaching for the clouds. Inside, personal items add warmth and meaning to the home. Architect Danh Nguen (see his profile in Yucatán at Home Issue 1) guided his clients through every step to build the two-story Mérida home. influence, calm, peaceful,” says Ron, a former Maine police chief. When you start with the architect, before anything happens, you get the chance to do anything you wanted to do with the house that you couldn’t do before. Early sketches had exposed brick walls, Palladian windows and French doors — elements that undermined the California-modern concept. But architect Danh Nguen kept them focused on the vision, they say. “The big mistake that we made, we say to people, if you have an architect you go through him. You don’t go independent.” Ron thought he could save money on the kitchen cabinets by using a contractor he found himself. It was a long, drawn-out debacle. Deadline after deadline was missed, excuses were made, and the contractor eventually disappeared with their deposit. In the end, Ron and Ben have no regrets because they got just what they wanted. People when they come in here, they always say the same thing. They say, “I really feel the calm here.” Tiny visitors have a way of disrupting the calm of a house, but not here. The soft colors, trees and plants, and minimalist decor all seem to have an effect on a baby who a friend brings when she visits once a week. “He is so calm the whole days he’s here, and he never wants to leave,” Ron says. Zen Tao is a more personal reflection of their aesthetic. Every corner reflects a choice they made together. Nearly every living space has a view of a garden, even if it’s a green space in a niche that opens to the sky. The collection of Buddhist imagery throughout the home pops against the white walls and reflects Ben’s Thai culture and their shared religious practices. “Here we feel like we’re coming home, there we did not,” says Ben, comparing Zen Tao to their previous colonial home a few blocks away. Ron also compares life in Mérida to living in much more expensive and complicated Vancouver. “There, you could dream a lot and that would be about it. Down here, I can dream and if I want it I get it.”  45


En Casa

Above, artist Monica Petrus (see her cover story in Yucatán at Home Issue 1) added a personalized touch in the inner courtyard, where a deep pool connects with a bedroom and a corridor. Right, objects that reflect faith and fancy adorn a minimalistic home where light and gardens are visible from most angles.

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ISSUE 2 | YUCATÁN AT HOME


CASA ZEN TAO

POR LEE STEELE FOTOS CARLOS ROSADO VAN DER GRACHT

Tomar las decisiones de diseño correctas facilita la calma, comprueba una pareja de Canadá

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espués de meses de buscar la casa ideal en el centro de Mérida, Ron Allanch y Ben Lorgeranon de Vancouver optaron por construir su casa desde cero. El resultado fue una casa de estilo Californiano-moderno que refleja sus creencias budistas pero también su deseo de tener espacios tranquilos y llenos de luz. El nombre de la casa es muy acertada: Casa Zen Tao “Queríamos mantener un estilo de la costa oeste, moderno, con mucha luz, paz y una pizca de influencia asiática’’, comenta Ron, un jefe de policía jubilado de Maine. Cuando empiezas con el arquitecto, antes de que cualquier cosa pase, tienes la oportunidad de hacer lo que quieras hacer con la casa que antes no podías. Los primeros bosquejos de la casa tenían muros expuestos, ventanas palladianas y puertas francesas — elementos que chocaban con la idea original de la casa. Pero el arquitecto, Dahn Nguyen los mantuvo enfocados en la visión central, nos cuentan Ron y Ben. “El error más grande que cometimos fue buscar contratistas por nuestra cuenta. Si tienes un buen arquitecto procura usar contactos. No intentes hacerlo por ti mismo”. Ron pensó que podría ahorrar dinero con los gabinetes de la cocina usando un contratista que él encontró. Fue una larga y extensa debacle. Las fechas de entrega pasaban desapercibidas una y otra vez. Nos dieron muchísimos pretextos, y el contratista eventualmente YUCATÁN AT HOME | ISSUE 2

desapareció con el dinero del depósito. Al final, Ron y Ben no no se arrepienten ya que consiguieron justo lo que querían. Cuando las personas entran, siempre comentan lo mismo. Dicen, “siento una gran tranquilidad aquí”. Los pequeños visitantes tienden a traer caos a un hogar, pero no en casa Zen Tao. Los colores tenues, los árboles, plantas y decoraciones minimalistas parecen tener un efecto tranquilizador sobre el bebe de una amiga que los visita una vez a la semana. “Está tan calmado aquí, y cuando llega nunca se quiere ir,” dice Ron. Zen Tao es un reflejo personal del estilo de sus dueños. Cada esquina refleja una decisión que tomaron juntos. Casi cada rincón tiene una vista del jardín, incluso los jardines interiores tienen una vista al cielo. La colección de artefactos budistas en la casa hace contraste con los muros y reflejan la cultura Tailandesa de Ben, así como las prácticas religiosas que comparte la pareja. “Aquí nos sentimos en casa” dice Ben, contrastando el sentimiento que les inspira su casa actual en comparación a su hogar anterior — una casa colonial la cual se encuentra a unas cuadras. Ron compara su vida en Mérida con la que experimentó en la mucho más cara y complicada ciudad de Vancouver. “Ahí uno puede soñar mucho, pero eso es todo. Aquí puedes soñar y alcanzar tus sueños”.  47


En Casa

BY LEE STEELE

48 PHOTOS CARLOS ROSADO VAN DER GRACHT

ISSUE 2 | YUCATÁN AT HOME


Behind garden walls

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hotos of Trina Lawry’s gardens on Facebook got our attention last summer. It was the flowering hedge, cultivated for privacy from the street, that had us

hooked. Trina’s house, in García Ginerés, was built for someone who cherishes gardens. So it’s in the right hands. “When we lived in the US, we were avid gardeners and spent many hours shopping for plants and working in our garden,” says Trina, who last lived in New Jersey. “When we decided to move to Mérida, we bought a colonial-style home with a courtyard design. Our home was perfect for entertaining and had great flow. But like many homes in Centro, all windows faced the inner courtyard, which was mostly patio and pool. With the high walls in the courtyard, it was difficult to even see the sky. I didn’t think I would miss the sky as much as I did, so we decided to find a home with more open space and a larger lot.” After a year, they finally found it. Constructed in 1929, the home represents the Peninsula Deco transitional period between Art Deco and Midcentury Modern. “We knew instantly, literally before we even walked in the imposing front door, that it was the home for us,” Trina recalls.

YUCATÁN AT HOME | ISSUE 2

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En Casa

While the Lawry house itself underwent extensive renovation, it’s the outdoor spaces that are most immediately striking. PHOTOS THIS PAGE COURTESY TRINA LAWRY

A fragrant ylang ylang tree — a treasured gift from friends — bloomed for the first time this year. The entire yard was designed so there would be a view from every window, and yet some plants are in use to screen off some areas such as the carport, which is shielded from view by a row of limonaria. Mexican petunias line the pathway to the kitchen door. This space became the kitchen garden with herbs, tomatoes, and pepper plants. A lime tree takes center attention in another planting area. From the dining room, the shade garden is visible with tall red and pink gingers, a licuala palm, peace lilies, and anthuriums. In the backyard, the star is clearly the pool, with well-chosen plantings in supporting roles and a lush lawn for visual relief. To define the patio space, “it was separated by large clay pots with dwarf fruit trees on a bed of white rocks, creating the illusion of a wall without blocking the view to the garden,” Trina explains. Heliconias and arecas overlook the pool. A pergola and small patio outside the bedroom provide another lovely spot to relax. Oleanders, hibiscus, mandevilla, mussaenda, desert rose, crown of thorns and other flowering shrubs provide the bursts of flowers that Trina wanted. Trina wanted lots of flowers, not all plants flower constantly 50

ISSUE 2 | YUCATÁN AT HOME


YUCATÁN AT HOME | ISSUE 2

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En Casa

“We knew instantly, literally before we even walked in the imposing front door, that it was the home for us.”

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The hard surfaces of the pool area are softened by leafy plants as well as the glow of well-placed uplights in the evening.

TRINA LAWRY

here and her landscape designer recommends also using plants with different colored leaves and textures. Carissas, draecenas, crotons and durantas provide interest with their multi-colored leaves and different textures. A triangle palm with mini haliconias against a bright blue wall is a focal point that draws your eye. Sansevieria cylindrica with its tall sword-like spikes adds drama in front of the outdoor shower. An allspice tree will provide shade in the future as it grows and a fast-growing thevetia provides dabbled shade on the patio. Her biggest battle is with the leafcutter ants, which apparently have nests under the property. “We are constantly looking for plants that the ants don’t like, unfortunately with limited success. Our soil was poor and we need to augment it with micronutrients and fertilizer. But, the best piece of advice we can give is: design the garden together with the house and incorporate a flexible irrigation system into your plumbing. Your garden will thank you, and you will spend more time enjoying the garden and less time walking around with a hose!”  YUCATÁN AT HOME | ISSUE 2

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COMING NEXT


Framed | Juan Pueblo

Mi estudio, tu estudio

When Juan Pueblo shares his canvas with other artists, he thinks of how rappers work. “In rap, they are always collaborations between artists. If the musicians can, why not the painters?” says the effusive Mérida-born painter, whose full name is Juan Pablo Quintal García. “I have always wanted to be an artist, and I think that more than anything it was to have an excuse to dress as I wanted,” says Juan Pueblo. “Artists are given these freedoms. I always wanted to be a musician but I don't think I had the talent or the patience.” Juan Pueblo paints with bold strokes, whether it’s a portrait of a dignified woman, hunks of pitaya, or an assemblage of mundane pantry items. His larger canvases are more likely to be shared with friends such as Carlos Hartazgo, Irvim Victoria, Adrian Bastarrachea and Juan Batta. CM Pliego’s dreamlike apparitions added a layer of intrigue to a collaborative cityscape sold during a Merida English Library studio tour. Not one for pompous mission statements, Juan explains his work with humility: “It is a search or rather a celebration of my identity as a Yucatecan living in this global village.” —Lee Steele 58

Cuando Juan Pueblo comparte su lienzo con otros artistas, él piensa en cómo trabajan los raperos. “En el rap, siempre son colaboraciones entre artistas. Si los músicos pueden, ¿por qué no los pintores? dice el efusivo pintor méridano, cuyo nombre completo es Juan Pablo Quintal García. “Siempre he querido ser artista, y creo que, más que nada fue tener una excusa para vestir como quería”, dice Juan Pueblo. “Los artistas tienen estas libertades. Siempre quise ser músico, pero no creo que tuviera el talento ni la paciencia”. Juan Pueblo pinta con trazos atrevidos, ya sea un retrato de una dama digna, un trozo de pitaya o un conjunto de artículos de despensa mundanos. Es más probable que sus lienzos más grandes se compartan con amigos como Carlos Hartazgo, Irvim Victoria, Adrian Bastarrachea y Juan Batta. Las apariciones de ensueño de CM Pliego agregaron una capa de intriga a un paisaje urbano colaborativo vendido durante una gira por el estudio de la Merida English Library. Juan, quien no admite declaraciones de manifestos pomposas, explica su trabajo con humildad: “Es una búsqueda o más bien una celebración de mi identidad como un yucateco que vive en esta aldea global”. —Lee Steele Instagram: @pueblopelana ISSUE 2 | YUCATÁN AT HOME


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Casa Agua: A luxurious escape from everyday life

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asa Agua is the ultimate escape house. Wide-open and modern, the home feels far from everything, although it’s easily reached from the city or the beach. Its luxurious features will transport you even further. Handsome double doors open to a dramatic foyer and grand staircase which only hints at the amenities to follow. Immediately from the living room one can spy the resort-style pool, complete with multiple, glamorous water features a lazy river running under its footbridge. Keep walking and the property is a naturalistic green space pressed against

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acres of unspoiled jungle. The current owners keep chickens there, but the possibilities are endless. Here is where you breathe in the Gulf air. Casa Agua is roughly midway between the Centro and the beach, but the fresh breezes from the north remind you how close you are to the coast. And yet you are surrounded by trees. Back inside, an immense terrace runs parallel to a generously proportioned living room, and off that is a roomy kitchen and adjacent pantry that most chefs would kill for. Also on the first floor is a TV room YUCATÁN HOMES & LAND


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Immediately from the living room one can spy the resort-style pool, complete with multiple, glamorous water features a lazy river running under its footbridge.

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Luxury Living PROPERTY PROFILE

that could also be a creative studio space the passion of this experienced architect or home office fit for an executive. It gets when he built a home for himself and his additional light and air from a tropical wife. interior garden from the other side of a Casa Agua is in the La Ceiba II area, series of glass sliders. Then there’s the nestled away from most other houses. huge main bedroom and It happens to be near a pair of walk-in closets one of Yucatán’s most By the numbers with separate bathfamous archaeological Width: rooms. The two other sites — Dzibilchaltún. 20 mts / 65.6168 feet bedrooms are upstairs, A perfect place to bring Length: facing the backyard. house guests. 60 mts / 196.8504 feet If you guessed that Living Area: Casa Agua’s architect Casa Agua is offered by 600 sq m / 6458.34 sq ft built this for himself, you Robert Abuda at Merida Lot Size: guessed correctly. The Living Real Estate for 1,200 sq m / 10.7639 sq ft site location, the flow US$450,000. For more Bedrooms: from room to room, the photos, details and a clos3 dazzling waters from er look, contact Robert Bathrooms: which Casa Agua gets at 999-261-6001or 3.5 its name all will attest to robabuda@gmail.com. LEARN MORE ABOUT YUCATÁN MAGAZINE CUSTOM CONTENT: info@roofcatmedia.com 4

YUCATÁN HOMES & LAND


House Hunting PRO TIPS

Shopping for a home with your eyes wide open By Melissa Adler

M

ost buyers fall into three categories. There are buyers who’ve been to Yucatán before and have decided to purchase a home here. They’ve spent hours researching the process and are ready to rock n’ roll. Then there are folks who’ve visited once or twice, like what they see and love the vibe, and want to explore and learn more. And finally, there are those who’ve decided to check out homes on a whim a day before their return flight or because it’s raining and they can’t go to the beach. If you fall into the first two categories, finding the right people to guide you along is first and foremost. You need to align yourself with reputable and knowl-

YUCATÁN HOMES & LAND

edgeable professionals. You’ll need a good real estate agent, attorney, and if you’re renovating, an architect and builder. Real estate agents Choosing one agent who you’re comfortable with will make your search so much easier. You’ll want someone who listens to your wants and needs and respects your budget. Assuming you like him or her, stick with one agent. We don’t get paid until you have keys in hand and truly appreciate your loyalty. Flitting from flower to flower seems to only work well with bees. A reputable agent will show you properties that meet your criteria, not just the 5


House Hunting PRO TIPS

ones listed by their office. You’ll want to should be heeded, the happier you’ll be. see as many good options as possible. You won’t see drywall or studs or Start by making a list of your non-nebasements here. Your roof will be flat and gotiables and preferences and include on needs to be maintained regularly. You’ll your list the things that are deal-breakers. understand the importance of roof mainHave a firm price point in mind. It’s alright tenance during the rainy season. to be unsure of location. That’s someIf you are renovating a home in the thing your agent can help historic district, you will need The more you you determine, and so can to obtain permits — and share, the better don’t let anyone tell you an honest taxi driver. we can serve. Communication and trust differently. These take time is the key here. You’re not and should be factored into buying a used car. You’re investing hardyour time frame. earned money into a home. The more you Humidity is an issue almost all homeshare, the better we can serve. owners deal with in Yucatán. The peninsula is primarily limestone and with a system Attorneys of thousands of underground rivers and Find a great attorney and make an cenotes. You will occasionally have to cope appointment to meet (or your agent can with peeling paint and moisture in your help find one). Someone who is willing to new home. This is why the rooms in many sit down with you and explain the entire old homes are painted two colors. When process. There usually isn’t a fee for a moisture builds up, you only have to reconsultation so take advantage of the paint the lower section of your walls. There opportunity while you’re house hunting. are some great solutions to minimize the If you are not a Mexican citizen, you problem and your builder can help. will most likely need a bank trust called a Home inspections are becoming more fideicomiso. Your agent will explain that. popular and something to consider. If There is residency status to consider and nothing else, you’ll want someone to capital gains liabilities. Those are other inspect the roof and mechanicals. topics to broach with professionals. Living in Yucatán is a dream for many There is a lot that differs from your and, for me, a delight. There’s so much home country and having a clear picture to learn and great people here to help of what to expect is in your best interest. you navigate your new life here. In the meantime, do your due diligence, make Renovation projects your wish list, contact a reputable agent Do yourself a favor and forget evand get ready for a great ride! erything you know about construction where you come from. The sooner you Melissa Adler is a buyer’s agent for Mérida realize that the advice you’ll receive from Living Real Estate. Contact her at architects and construction professionals melissa.meridaliving@gmail.com. 6

YUCATÁN HOMES & LAND


Melissa Melissa Adler Adler Buyer’s Agent Agent Buyer’s

Looking for the right property? Melissa’s on your side.

Mer ida Living B eyo n d Rea l Estate Cell: 999 118 9351 melissa.meridaliving@gmail.com meridalivingrealestate.com

YUCATÁN HOMES & LAND

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subscriptions.yucatanmagazine.com

Don’t miss an issue. From the editors of Yucatán Magazine


Property Professionals PROFILE

Eric Partney been dazzling his Centro clients since ... forever By Verónica Garibay

E

ric Partney’s experience as a broker dates back to his youth. He laughs thinking about how long he’s been in the business. “What did I do before real estate?” says Eric. “High school.” He started his property-selling journey back in the US. After a very successful run, he sold his Atlanta real estate company in 1995 and decided to take a year off. “Our intention was to travel — and that we did — but we never thought that

YUCATÁN HOMES & LAND

would make us move to a new city, let alone a new country. But we found we really liked being in Mexico, and we first tried our luck in San Miguel de Allende. After a couple of years there, we were ready for a different Mexican city.” Eric and his partner arrived in Mérida in 2004. They chose it, aside from the charm of old Mérida, because of the expat community living in the city, which they saw as extra encouragement for learning Spanish. “We really committed to becoming 9


Property Professionals PROFILE

fluent. Five hours a week for five years. We wanted to experience life here, and we knew that in order to do so we had to learn español.” Eric says that back in ’04 Mérida’s Centro was still pretty sleepy. Hardly any traffic lights were found or even traffic and crowds at all. That also meant that homes for rent were scarce, and renovated or modern homes for rent were practically non-existent. “We got started with the business of buying and remodeling. We never even dreamed the market would grow as much as it has.” Eric took advantage of his expertise when he arrived in the state.

“Lots of buyers — both from the US and Mexico — feel that they can trust my background. That created lots of referrals and eventually, I had more buyers than sellers. Becoming specialized in what I do means understanding and helping people. I could never be pushy — I share the facts and they make their own decisions.” Even though he mainly operates in Yucatán, he still holds an active Texas Real Estate Broker’s license — a great credential for anyone looking for an experienced agent. Today, and for as long as he has lived in Mérida, Eric has worked with Mexico International Real Estate. The company was founded by Mitch Keenan, and it was one

LEARN MORE ABOUT YUCATÁN MAGAZINE CUSTOM CONTENT: info@roofcatmedia.com 10

YUCATÁN HOMES & LAND


Property Professionals PROFILE

“We never even dreamed the market would grow as much as it has.” ERIC PARTNEY YUCATÁN HOMES & LAND

of the first real estate companies in Mérida handling expat clients, as well as doing anything in the Centro. “When we arrived, people were looking all over. Nobody knew anything about the city. I sold properties in the north and south of Mérida, at the beach, even haciendas. But today I work almost exclusively at Centro. I’ve gotten to know the area so well I’ve sold some of these houses three times over the years.” Eric says that even after all his experience, he still greatly enjoys the real estate market. He continues selling properties he enjoys for fun, and is even known around the business as a “Realtor for the stars.” “Back in the US, I specialized in modern architectural homes. I have a long background in design because I genuinely enjoy it. So I enjoy finding nice homes for nice clients. I’ve had the chance of meeting families from all over the country and matching them with 50-million-dollar houses. I don’t think anyone could say that’s not a thrilling adventure.” partneyeric@gmail.com 11


Hot Property VILLA 47: US$450,000

A large, luscious and unspoiled colonial Mérida Living has just listed its largest property in the Centro, a large and unspoiled treasure on Calle 47. Villa 47 starts at 13.5 meters wide and expands to over 40 meters toward the rear. This is an extremely rare feature in Merida Centro nowadays. Its owners have left original features untouched: Among its many cool features are wonderful original pasta tiles, high-beam ceilings, fantastic original frescos and unique mamposteria structures on the patio which are perfect to use to harmonize the pool, terrace, patio, gardens and outdoor dining areas. “Wow factors” galore. There is plenty of room to expand, whether for a private home or a more ambitious development.

Contact Carlos Betancourt cbm893@hotmail.com / 999-200-5794 meridalivingrealestate.com, prop code 1556

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YUCATÁN HOMES & LAND


Income Properties PRO TIPS

Profitable rental properties By Cory Gash

YUCATÁN HOMES & LAND

V

acation rentals are a burgeoning business. In Mérida, on Airbnb alone there are more than 300 listings. Dozens of vacation rental platforms such as Airbnb, VRBO and Trip Advisor have invested heavily in the industry. Netflix and cable shows have featured properties and even had reality shows based on which properties are best.

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Income Properties PRO TIPS

Spotting the potential of a vacant property is key. Above is how Casa Tres Dragones, an income property in Mérida, appeared before it was renovated by the author. The previous page shows the home today. At the top of the page is before-and-after at Casa Caballo.

So how does one develop a vacation rental property? The first step is to find the right property. In Mérida, the highest occupancy and rental rates are found for homes in Centro — the closer to the squares in Santa Ana, Santa Lucia or Santiago, the better! And keep in mind that the perfect home for full-time living is not the same as vacation living. Large yards are nice, but maintenance should be kept to a minimum with vacation rentals. Water softening systems reduce plumbing fixture maintenance. Pools are a must. Air conditioning mini splits need to be in every bedroom at a minimum. If you want to rent to groups which include the elderly, then try to have at least one bedroom on the first floor. Think about how you like to vacation and ensure that the home has these features. Equipping homes is also different. Splurge on bedding — comfortable mattresses, fluffy pillows and high thread count sheets. Ensure that there is plenty

Yucatán Homes & Land AÑO 1, NÚMERO 2 Todos los derechos reservados por Roof Cat Media S de RL de CV, Paseo de Montejo 475C, Piso 3 x 37 y 39, Col. Centro, Mérida, Yucatán, México.

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YUCATÁN HOMES & LAND


Income Properties PRO TIPS

of hot water and the shower pressure is good. Include white fluffy towels for the bathrooms and pool towels for outside. Equip the kitchen for basic cooking but not with items required by Michelin chefs. And people like to have a blender for making afternoon margaritas. Seating must be comfortable and durable for every body type. Art and accessories should reflect the local sights and culture. People want to see something different. Now it is time to develop your listing. Honesty is critical — don’t over sell. Describe the features that are important

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to you when traveling. High quality, eye-catching photos are the key to making sales. Invest in a professional photographer; iPhone photos won’t help you beat the competition. People buy through the photos and often don’t even read most of the features. Decide which rental platforms to use. Each rental platform has different rules and requirements and listing on multiple sites takes time and effort to keep them updated and coordinated but may pay off with higher occupancy rates. Find comparable homes and set your prices accordingly. And keep your rates up to date — prices shift between high season, low season and holiday seasons (Christmas, New Year’s and Easter). Now that you have your home and listings done, get ready to receive your guests! Cory Gash is one of the owners of Burro y Flauta Vacation Homes, a company which has served thousands of vacationers over the last seven years.

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Robert Slaats Mitch Keenan & Colm Cooney

$100,000 USD

Keith Heitke & LeAnn Roberts

$415,000 USD

&

$907,000 USD

Mitch Keenan & Colm Cooney

$299,000 USD

HOMES LAND

Better visibility for your listings and your brand. Offering display ads and custom content for property professionals. Targeted distribution: 4,000 copies sent to paid subscribers and offered free in over 300 boutique hotels, guesthouses and rental homes in Yucatán. Part of the yucatanmagazine.com platform. info@roofcatmedia.com