Mexico’s seductive alchemy of stunning landscapes, alluring white sand beaches, thriving cities, colorful villages, and ancient cultures might be reason for the initial attraction, but the modern art and architecture scene might be what actually captures the heart and soul. Writer Annie Kelly, who has created a series of gorgeous books about the art, architecture, and style of the region, together with her photographer husband Tim Street-Porter, gives an intimate look inside the beauty of Mexico through vivid imagery and captivating writing.
Conceived and created as a way to explore the vibrant color and style of Mexico, Casa Mexico, San Miguel, and Casa Mexicana all feature lush photography and vivid writing that takes you, the reader, on a mental journey as you flip through the pages and explore the colors, shapes, and textures of the Yucatán, San Miguel de Allende, and other stunning Mexican towns and villages.
Living in Mexico means that you’re surrounded by beauty and wonder from all sources. With the natural raw beauty of the landscapes, the ancient wonders of the pre-Columbian civilizations, and the modern spirit of today’s artists, architects, and designers, the country is a fount of inspiration for creatives of all kinds – so it is no wonder that artists, designers, architects, and writers have been drawn to the cities and villages of Mexico for centuries.
The Yucatán: Ancient Traditions Translated Into Contemporary Style
One of the best ways to get a taste of the style of Mexico is by exploring the Yucatán – starting with the city of Mérida, the capital of the Yucatán state and a vibrant city surrounded by Mayan ruins and traditional haciendas. In fact, this is one of the places that first drew the author to the country; the exquisite Mayan ruins and their accompanying mythology, the gracious haciendas, and the creative soul of the communities in the Yucatán are what sparked her imagination to create books like Casa Mexicana.
Described by the author as “always joyful, always deeply inspirational”, the Yucatán has a beauty and splendor all its own. With roots in Mayan culture and an undeniably fun -oving spirit, it is a wonderful place to live or visit, whether in person or via the pages of Casa Mexico, which take the reader inside some of the region’s most exquisite homes and noteworthy properties.
Life is lived outdoors in many cities in temperate or tropical Mexico, where a mix of Mayan, Aztec, indigenous or native Mexican, American, and European cultures blend into a melting pot of art, style, and fantastic living. Today, there are two distinct styles or schools of thought when it comes to current Mexican design and architecture options.
Two Schools Of Modern Mexican Design
The first is a classic or “resort” style that is the focus of popular architects like Manolo Mestre, Arcadio Marin, and the firm Reyes, Rios & Larrain-Lagos, who take traditional elements evocative of ethnic or indigenous culture and update them with modern materials and conveniences. This is perhaps the most recognized style or the way that one expects luxurious Mexican homes to look, based on the styles of the popular high end resorts on the coasts.
“A spectacular ruin, a colorful town, or a grand hacienda. All these play their part in the mystery that is the Yucatán peninsula.” says Kelly. Many of the nineteenth century Yucatán haciendas featured in Casa Mexicana were designed or renovated by the aforementioned architects, and others inspired by their picturesque style, faded grandeur, and implicit sense of history.
The fashion world’s elegant hideaways of the Coqui Coqui resorts in Tulum and Coba (designed by Nicolas Malleville) are also excellent examples of this style, along with a number of other beachfront properties in Tulum near the Mayan ruins and the Sian Ka’an biosphere. Further inland, Hacienda Petac, Hacienda Uayamon, Hacienda Santa Rosa De Lima, and Hacienda de Temozon are all wonderful places to visit in and around Mérida.
The Yucatán is also home to artists like Javier Marín, whose studio on the outskirts of the country village of San Antonio Sac Chich was designed by his architect brother Arcadio Marín as a temple to the arts – described by Kelly as a “Mexican Acropolis”. Set amidst a man-made lake surrounded by lush native vegetation that was purposefully left sans-landscaping, this classically proportioned stone structure is a place for the artist and his students to live and work – creating some of the masterpieces of modern Mexican art and design.
The second school of thought is a modernist, contemporary art-centric style that was born in the cosmopolitan galleries and studios of Mexico City and is still primarily centered in that area, although a number of architects and designers from all over Mexico and around the world focus on developing that aesthetic.
Mexican Style Beyond The Yucatán
Another Annie Kelly book, Casa San Miguel, focuses on the mountain town of San Miguel de Allende, situated in central Mexico and known as artists colony and home to artists and writers of all nationalities, along with visitors from around the world drawn by the remarkable architecture and colorful streets of the old town.
Finally, there is Casa Mexicana, a book that takes the reader on a visual voyage around the country, highlighting the beauty of each region along with the unique styles, history, and characteristics of each region.
If these books inspire you to take a trip or even invest in a home in Mexico, the author recommends focusing on one particular region; ideally one of the the areas popular with ex-pats like the Yucatán and the Caribbean coast, Oaxaca and Puerto Escondido, San Miguel de Allende, or Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo on the Pacific Coast.
Furthermore, while the books mention a number of artists, designers, and architects who are working today to create and renovate new homes in Mexico, Annie also recommends visiting the markets and galleries in these cities yourself and collecting pottery, fabrics, and other pieces that speak to you, and working with a designer to build your own vision of Mexican style. The architects mentioned in the books can connect with designers who know all the finest local artisans and craftsmen.
Or even if you’re just dreaming of the style, the stunning images in these books will transport you to the Yucatán, San Miguel de Allende, and other spectacular locations south of the border. Annie Kelly’s books are a love letter to one of the most intriguing, stunning countries in the world, and they take you on a visual journey through the colors, sights, and textures of living a la Mexicana.
Annie Kelly is also responsible for L.A. Modern, Litchfield Style: Classic Country Houses of Connecticut, and the Rooms to Inspire series, along with writing for Interiors and New York magazine, and a number of other publications. Her next book will be focused on Bali, Indonesia.
By Jacqueline Zenn