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.


  • 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.

  • Jay & Marie 13 years ago

    The newsletter comes with a box and an "x" instead of the video, don't know what our computer is missing..... Thanks a lot for letting us know we can view the videos on YouTube!!!!!!

    Finally moving, Sept 10th we arrive in Merida!!!!!

  • Gabriel Alfaro 13 years ago

    For those that can't see the video on these pages, do a search for Yucatan Living on and you can view them there. That is, if you can access youtube. Hope this helps.
    Keep up the great work.

  • fabio fortuna 13 years ago

    a few more comments....
    to Casiyucateco. i think you might have to almost double that figure. i do not believe for a second that this renovation has costed less than 80 thousand dollars at the very least and probably over 100 K.This according to my experience....and Patti I know that, cause I live in Merida myself and my house was renovated as well. Even in this market I do not believe the house on nr. 1 is that 'cheap', probably in the 300 K figure at least, a quick judgement. nr. 2 is definetly more affordable, due to the size of the lot but still not that cheap. The renovation in our home costed us 60 K and we used a very affordable architect (very satisfied with the results). electrical, plumbing. two new kitchens and two bathrooms, pool and palapa and fountain. Our home is cozy, but definetly not as beautiful as house nr. 1 and not as design-perfect as house nr. 2. I am looking forward to more houses (after house nr. 4)
    thanks again for this interesting series!

  • Brenda Thornton 13 years ago

    This is a beautiful small home. HGTV has a series on living in small spaces and this would fill the bill.

    Kudos to the owner, the architect and especially to the artisans who built the vision into a reality.

  • CasiYucateco 13 years ago

    Guessing -- not knowing how much electrical work and plumbing work had to be done, but assuming the entire house was upgraded to modern and new -- anywhere from $20,000 to $60,000 would be a guess.

    They had to newly construct the second floor, the bodega, the pool. That takes a major portion. Probably repair some walls.

    Electrical and plumbing are cheaper than you'd think, because labor is less expensive. They had to newly fit out the kitchen with cement counters (doing that in my kitchen was around $1,600 and their kitchen was much smaller). Moving windows and doors in walls can be done inexpensively. Cement work in general is inexpensive, but material costs are going up.

    Woodwork costs a lot. A. Lot. Shockingly much, in fact. Wood is rare in Yucatan -- it nearly all is shipped in from elsewhere. And, fact is, *good* carpentry work is not common. ("good" meaning they use dry seasoned wood not green wet wood, careful fitting and finish, etc.)

    Friends tell me I'm better off going to Guadalajara, having doors made there and shipped to Yucatan. They say it would be cheaper and better quality. I can never tell if they are kidding or not, but that may be the beer... I'd like to know who the carpenter was on this house, because the closet doors look very nice. The front door shows gaps, which shouldn't happen on a door made with seasoned wood.)

    The lower figure was if they'd just done minimal things to get a house about that size "livable" and the higher one is what I'd guess they actually spent on improving the house, without appliances and any fancy light fixtures. Again, it is just a guess, but the house is fairly small, but with nice finishes.

  • 13 years ago

    Very beautiful renovation but can we get an idea on how much are we talking about to renovate a house like this one.

  • Jennifer 13 years ago

    Nice house! Still pretty luxe but the scale seems more "real" to me. I thought the video was great and it's fun to see what people have done with their homes.


  • San 13 years ago

    Was able to access house number two easily - thanks. Think I will really enjoy series

  • Patti 13 years ago

    Thank you again for such a great home in the beautiful city of Merida. I am glad that you have shown a smaller home and smaller lot. I am searching for a home in Merida and, like Working Gringos, would have likely passed this one up due to lot size. Thank you for adding the Architect info.
    A quick note to Fabio. This is a beautiful home in Merida but likely not considered to be expensive, by any Expats standards.

  • Working Gringos 13 years ago

    Thank you for all your comments. We taped the first four episodes before airing any of them, so please look for improvements and additions starting with Episode Five.

    Yes, we'll do some less "designer" homes. Yes, we'll take more time and show more details. Yes, we'll try to get some photos, and if possible, photos from "before".

    Stay tuned!

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