CASA ACANTO / San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
On our very first visit to San Miguel de Allende, we realized our dream of owning a home in Mexico. The house we found, originally built as a tannery in the eighteenth century, had amazing bones and a large garden dominated by three enormous jacaranda trees. In addition, it sat on a surprisingly large piece of land in an ideal part of the old city, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Most houses of the era were built around a central courtyard designed to shut out the surrounding city, which today can feel claustrophobic. This house, however, was constructed along the top and side of a sloping, walled-in garden. The result was that every room opened to irresistible light and views.
Everything in the interior and much of the exterior is new: we preserved the structure of the house, but nothing of historical interest remained and later renovations were not of interest. Working with outstanding craftsmen, we chose hand-hewn pine beams to add character and strength to the ceilings; designed new plaster and stone details; laid new tile floors that are hand-tinted with a combination of gasoline and tar to look well burnished; redesigned all the bathrooms and the kitchen; and had wood-plank doors crafted from reclaimed pine beams to create our vision of what the house wanted to be in the twenty-first century.
Working with architect Sebastián Zavala, we added an outdoor living room with stone arches and a wood-burning fireplace with an Argentinian grill. Above this, we gained a terrace adjoining the primary bedroom. An unused section of the rooftop suggested itself for a guest room and bath. We also built a three-level casita by the pool that features another outdoor living room, two guest suites and baths, and a roof terrace with a 360-degree view of the old city.
We combined favorite furniture, artwork, fabrics, lighting, and objects collected over the years with new pieces we designed specifically for the house. Long fans of blue-and-white color schemes, we used many shades of each to create our vision of Mexican beauty.