Real Estate FYI / Colonial Chic in Santiago

Colonial Chic in Santiago

Colonial Chic in Santiago

1 September 2009 REAL ESTATE, Real Estate FYI 13

Colonial Chic

The first thing house hunters seem to fall in love with here in Merida are the glorious and elegant restored colonials... the ones with the high-ceilinged rooms that open onto shaded pasillos, with graceful arches looking out onto green tropical gardens. These homes are furnished sumptuously, with Old World antiques and Venetian glass chandeliers. If you've been here, you know what we're talking about. We always feel so privileged when we get to walk around in these old homes that have been refurbished to their original glory... we feel like time travelers, adventurers, historical figures. We love the history that oozes from every wall and fixture.

After living here awhile, we found our affections stolen away by a completely different kind of house. This kind of house wasn't elegant or shiny. There were no highly-polished floors or glass chandeliers. The first house we saw like this was a colonial that had been restored (working bathrooms and a kitchen,electricity, telephone, etc... ) but as much was left out as was put in. The finishes were matte, the furniture was often second-hand or custom-made, the mirrors were slightly cloudy and unframed and the light fixtures had been rescued from junkyards. The floors were cement with some tile inlaid, or as in this house, the original tile floors had been left practically untouched. The overarching experience was almost modern, with a preponderance of wood, stone and iron with touches of faded color. In another part of the world and in another time, this style might be called 'shabby chic', but because we're in Merida, this style has its own character. We call it colonial chic and we love it for the way it blurs the experience of old and new.

The house in Episode Three has strong elements of colonial chic, with a definite New York tone and an obvioius appreciation for the laid-back tranquilidad and the rich heritage of Merida and the Yucatan.

Let if Flow

What the video doesn't show is something that the owners fell in love with right away... the very large lot. The house is about 2500 square feet and sits on a lot that is 40 meters by 70 meters in the back. The first thing you will notice in the video as Eric walks through the front door is that the doors are either original or built to look that way. Stripped and sealed, the bare wood (probably cedro) brings warmth to the white-washed walls. Gone are the arches and the columns with their golden capitals. The owner told us, "Our renovation basically stripped out unecessary walls, ugly columns etc. and added glass walls and a sense of openness that had been buried." During the one-year renovation, all artifice was stripped away to reveal the bare bones of this colonial stalwart, now confident in its nakedness and proud of its high-cheekboned stone walls, its tall ceilings and its tiled floors.

The front room of the house showcases the attitude of the owner, who is a production designer in New York. Obviously the owners appreciate those mosaico tile floors, because they didn't change them or add any polished cement. They left the original ceiling beams but updated the look by painting it all white and adding new lighting. The walls seem to be mostly original, or if they were added, they wisely copied the traditional beveled doorways.

OK, the kitchen maybe isn't so shabby, or colonial... but it sure is chic! Those highly polished concrete counters are beautiful. Note the open shelves. It is traditional NOT to hide the dishes, glasses, pantry items or anything else behind closed doors in a kitchen. That keeps the air flowing, and gives bugs fewer places to hide. No expense was spared for appliances here, but the actual work in the kitchen probably wasn't prohibitively expensive.

Even though we love those pie-chart windows, the floor-to-ceiling glass doors in the living room are a great touch, don't you think? They open the living room up to a patio flanked by the stripped mamposteria (stone and cement) walls of the house, punctuated by three more of those gorgeous wooden doors. We love the outdoor living space by the garden and the pool, presided over by old orange trees dressed up with Christmas balls. And the subtle shell inlay on the old stone wall is another beautiful touch...a subtle chic touch added to a colonial tradition.

The large back lot has been cleaned up with a lovely lawn as backdrop to the mature fruit trees, and a big swimming pool. When they bought the house, the owners found that the backyard had a large 15-foot deep cisterna... basically a big empty pit. They used part of the pit to create the swimming pool (avoiding the cost of digging) and used the rest of it as a place to put escombro (construction detritus), avoiding the cost of hauling it away.

We asked the owner questions about the house, and at the end, if there was anything else she would like to share. This is what she said: "What I would say in general is how amazed I was that the house was completed basically on time and on budget and we only went a couple of times during the renovation. The workers moved in and just did it. Unbelievable for any American who has dealt with contractors. Unheard of! I think the gentleness of the place and the essential honesty of the people are remarkable. Not to mention the beauty."

Combining "old" and "new" is a municipal past time in Merida, and we love the way this 2-bedroom Santiago house came out. Take a look at the photos in this article to see how the house looked originally, then go to the video to see how it was transformed when the renovation was done.


  • JoeInCT 9 years ago

    Wonderful home, and a terrific video series. You guys have done a lot to expose Merida to a wider audience and showcase the fine architectural work being done there. Thanks.

  • Tonya 12 years ago

    I´m concerned that YucatanLiving promotes Victor Cruz yet deletes criticisms
    of numerous problems with his work. I´ll bet this results in a financial "hazing"
    of numerous newcomers to the Yucatan who hire Victor Cruz / EstiloYucatan /
    EstiloArquitectura, ec.

  • Pablo 12 years ago

    Most of the people I know of who used Victor Cruz Dominguez, aka Estilo Arquitectónico, formerly Estilo Yucatan, are very unhappy with the results. I
    heard a good report from an early job Victor Cruz did. Victor Cruz is known
    for an interesting sense of style and is expensive. However, I know of long delays
    in getting plans done, impractical ideas, inattention to details on the plans. Worse
    is the construction done by Victor Cruz or Estilo Arquitectonico. Budget to hire
    some one afterwards to correct their mistakes - which might be major. Once Victor Cruz has been paid, he´s been known to avoid fixing his problems, such as electrical,
    serious leaks, ec. ,ec.

  • Jerry 13 years ago

    Your shirt is soaking wet....

  • diane 13 years ago

    where is house's been awhile!!!! all us house groupies are getting impatient.

  • Ginamarie 13 years ago

    I love your website! I have been following it for sometime. My husband and I have a plan to sell our home and go to Merida for two years then live six months there and six months here (midwest). We're just waiting for our house to sell! I really enjoy these tours. They provide great inspiration. Less is definitely more there and the work of Victor Cruz is amazing. I'm looking forward to future tours and your other articles of course.

  • Marygwen 14 years ago

    I love this place; what a great house and what a great idea.

    Can't wait to see more.

  • Carol Judd 14 years ago

    Can you give an idea of what the renovations cost?

  • Working Gringos 14 years ago

    Thank you, Rebecca. We will be showing all sorts of houses! Stay tuned (and if you haven't already, SUBSCRIBE to get an email everytime we publish an article (about once a week...)

  • Rebecca Paul 14 years ago

    I have loved this However, the video is slow, maybe my computer, I am wondering if you will also have something on other styles of house or are you only going to be focusing on colonials. I purchased an 1925 Art Deco, and Would love to see what others have done with them, it helps to get ideas. I love the colonials as well but being from the NW I really needed the sunight. And PS Great website

  • Stephen Forte 14 years ago

    Bravo for the good job Yucatan Living is doing in showcasing some of Merida's unique homes. My partner and I have worked with Victor Cruz since first coming to Merida. Now that all the searching and planning are behind us, Victor is overseeing his talented crew in the actual renovation of our centro home. What a great experience this has been. Thanks for showing what talent and good design can achieve and for featuring the work of our friends at Estilo Yucatan.

    Stephen Forte and Yuri Schoolov

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