Real Estate FYI / Houses of Merida - Episode Two

Houses of Merida - Episode Two


Houses of Merida - Episode Two

21 August 2009 REAL ESTATE, Real Estate FYI 28

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.

Modern Merida

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.


  • Brenda Thornton 13 years ago

    This home is gorgeous. I love that pool. This would be a perfect home for a vacation rental as well. Self-contained, a private pool, and peace and quiet.

  • Taunya Dorene Crites 13 years ago

    Why didn't you tell the cost of each home in Merida Mexico.

  • fabio fortuna 13 years ago

    i was also told at INAH that you have to have their permit TO PAINT THE WALLS INSIDE THE HOUSE!!!!!!!!!!!!!! i wonder if anybody does that....(ask for the permit).

  • fabio fortuna 13 years ago

    to Casiyucateco and working gringos
    yes , even painting the facade of the house requires a permit. originally i was told that it actually requires 2 different permits, if the house is located in the centro historico. one from INAH (instituto nacional antropologia y historia) located across the street on one side of SAMS CLUB on carrettera progreso, and AFTER THAT , a permit from the ayuntamiento. BUT it seems to be enough with the INAH permit (as long as it is a facade work). you will need a photo of the facade (on a cd rom), a copy of the number of the cedula catastral, a copy of the predial payed and a proof of ownership. then you will have to fill a form. it normally takes 1 week we were told.... (took us 4...). then you pay a minimum fee of around 91 pesos. at INAH i was told that ACTUALLY you need a permit from them EVEN if you do the renovation of plumbing, electricity, put a pool in the backyard. i was originally told by my architect that one ONLY required permits for NEW construction (if you add rooms in the backyard) etc. but it seems not to be the case....needless to say, our architect didn't apply for a permit to INAH when we did our renovation....

  • Mindy 13 years ago

    Thanks to Gabriel for his suggestion to watch the videos on YouTube. I was indeed able to do so-FINALLY! To - Working Gringos, I do not have Actibe Content blocked and I do have Flash installed. I am able to watch videos on other web sites so still not sure what the problem is, but thanks alot. Atleast I can see them on YouTube.

    Great work. Love this site. I will be visiting very soon.

  • Working Gringos 13 years ago

    Thank you, as always, Casi Yucateco.

    Also, Morris, if you haven't already, read our Building Our House series to get some insight into how things are done here. All of us from "the North" go through a bit of a culture shock adapting to how they build houses here... it's good to educate yourself ahead of time.

    At the end of this article, you will find the links to each article in the series:

  • CasiYucateco 13 years ago

    If you are renovating a colonial structure in Centro Historico, you will have to have a permit from the authorities for any changes done to the facade.

    Electrical and plumbing work are up to you, your workers, or contractors. You won't have inspectors for those things. You will want to do it well, however, if you plan to live in the house. You can find various workers willing to help you with heavy work or whatever. Particularly in this bad economy, there are plenty looking for a steady income for a few weeks or months.

    The main inspector of the work will be you. This is liberating for knowledgeable folks and a little disconcerting for those who don't know how to check the work.

    You may want to consider a couple extended vacations or renting a while before diving directly into a renovation project. See how you like the area, the climate, the style of housing and the way work is done (quite different in some aspects from the USA).

  • Patti 13 years ago

    Ever since my first visit to Mexico, about 22 years ago, I have loved the country. I always look at property in Mexico, to see if there is something that I can afford. I discovered Real Estate in Merida about 18 months ago. I have made many trips to Mexico and several to Merida in the past 10 months and find it more and more exciting with each visit. This is a beautiful area with wonderful people and architecture. I have been researching this area for the past 18 months and am currently in the buying process.

  • Morris 13 years ago

    I am retired and living in Northern California. Privately, I am warming to the possibility of living in the Yucatan. The "Houses Of Merida - Video Two" has increased my awareness of how older reality listings can be updated for a modern lifestyle. My desire to look more seriously has just gone public! Thanks for the inspiration.

    Question: Can a person who is geared toward doing a majority of the upgrade work himself, find an unrestricted path when working with inspectors and local building codes? Building Code adherence in the San Francisco Bay Area often seems to mainly depend on an inspector's particular focus. This can be troublesome, as the goal of upholding important safety standards seems to vanish.

  • Working Gringos 13 years ago

    If you find this happening to you, it is because you have Flash not installed or active content blocked as a browser security option.

  • Patti 13 years ago

    Thank you so much for such wonderful pictures from behind the facade...
    Lucky Jay and Marie. I wish that I were moving to Merida in the next couple of weeks. We are still in the buying mode. I just continue to pour over every piece of information that I can find regarding Merida and the Yucatan. It is indeed paradise found.

    Working Gringos - you are the best.

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