Houses of Merida - Episode Two
Good Things Come In Small Boxes
This episode of The Houses of Merida features one of the smallest houses we've seen renovated in the centro historico of Merida. The facade of this houses measures only four meters wide (that's about 12 feet for those of you who are metrically challenged), and the lot is 28.7 meters long (about 94 feet). In the days when we were house-hunting, we would never have even considered a house this narrow!
But look at how the owner, an American who built this as a full-time home, has turned this long and narrow house into a modern jewel!
The house is built like a railroad car (they called them 'railroad apartments' when we rented one back in the 70's in California), with one room following the other as you walk from front to back. The architect expanded the square footage by making it a two-story railroad car and finding the space to fit in a staircase. When you open the front door, the first room you see is an entryway, which is rarely used, but provides a good sound buffer between the street and the rest of the living area. The second room features the staircase, a bathroom under the staircase and a sitting area with shelves for storage below, and a counter for display above.
The final and third area downstairs is where all the living is done: a kitchen with stainless steel applicances that match the polished grey concrete, overlooking a living room and office area with built-in desk, all of which look through glass doors out to a small patio, garden, fountain and plunge pool. The owner built a retractable shade that can be unfolded to provide shade for the pool during the heat of the day. The garden is surrounded by brand new stone walls that look as if they have been there for decades, but have a wave design that echoes the modernity in the rest of the house. And just behind the pool at the end of the property is a bodega for equipment and storage. The doors are painted blue to match the wave in the wall and give a touch of color to an otherwise neutral color palette.
Upstairs is the master bathroom and a spacious master bedroom, also defined on one end by glass doors that look out to a spacious covered balcony with space to hang a hammock, all overlooking the pool.
Unlike some renovations, the doors, floors and ironwork in this home are all new, produced by the architect's crew and done in a modern style. The traditional Yucatan elements of a colonial home actually work very well in conjunction with a modern design, as was originally proved by the first architect we ever met here, Salvador Reyes Rios. Salvador's style of modernizing colonials while maintaining certain original elements has become much sought after, and many other local architects have put their own slant on that strategy.
It seems to us that this little house manages to pack in all the elements that you want in a house in the Yucatan: high ceilings, tile floors (in this case, a little bit of original tile surrounded by polished cement, which is very typical in a renovation), a pool, a garden, stone walls, a place to lie in a hammock. The open kitchen, the glass doors and the high ceilings all lend a feeling of spaciousness that you wouldn't expect in such a narrow house.
The house was completed in early 2008 by architect Victor Cruz and his crew for an American client. It is a one-bedroom, 2 bath with a plunge pool located in the Santiago district.