This modernist dream home renovation in Mérida was inspired by local materials

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When my husband and I decided to move to Mérida, the capital of the state of Yucatán in Mexico, we were looking for an adventure. I had lived in New York for 24 years; my husband, Marc Perrotta, for nearly 20 years. We were satisfied with our lives and our routines. I have worked as an editor and writer for various magazines and websites, Marc for various architectural firms. Our weekends revolved around our dog Lily Beth, exploring New York (often by bike) and spending time with friends. Still, the idea that we would just keep doing the same thing for another two or three decades left both of us feeling a bit discouraged.

In Mérida, however, Marc could design a house for us or renovate an existing one. I would be lucky enough to live in a country that I have loved since my first contact decades earlier, when I was a child and my family moved to Guadalajara. Other factors drew us to the city, which was true for many, foreigners and Mexicans alike, who decided that Mérida was the perfect place to start a new chapter in their lives.

In February 2019 we found the place we were going to turn into our home in the neighborhood of San Cristóbal, in the historic center of Mérida. In May, we had it closed. As we were looking for a house to restore, this one needed updating, and soon. It was unoccupied, although much of its structure remained sound, and the house had recently been used as a dentist’s practice (according to the selling agent, the dentist closed her practice when she decided to become a nun).

The owners use this piece from the end of the 19e century as an office. Above a new floor of local “pasta” tiles, there is a custom table with a concrete top by Chuch Estudio. The painting is by Mérida artist Jorge Patrón Le Doux.

Photo: Fabian Martinez

The original house was colonial in style and dated from the end of the 19e century. One of the original rooms, with its 16-foot high ceilings (typical of many older Mérida homes), had been split into two levels. The mezzanine had a treatment room while another was added to what was previously a patio in the original house.

Marc’s plan was to remove some mundane later additions while preserving the original house. His design included the construction of a new concrete, glass and steel addition, with solar panels on its roof. The addition would cross the lot at an angle, so it would face north (to minimize solar heat gain in this tropical town). It also allowed us to save an existing royal palm tree in the middle of the property. The original rooms (which would now serve as a home office and dining room) would open onto a patio filled with potted plants and wall-climbing bougainvillea. The new addition houses the kitchen, a covered outdoor dining terrace and a living room on the ground floor. The master bedroom and bathroom are upstairs. The new addition wraps around a second dry garden which sits at the heart of the house. Finally, at the rear of the 135-by-33-foot lot, a pink casita serves as a guest house, separated from the main house by a swimming pool and jungle garden.

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