My husband, Arriz, and I recently took a vacation to San Miguel de Allende, a city in the mountainous Guanajuato region of central Mexico. It wasn’t the typical beach holiday; it was more like a trip to Paris — Mexican style. The winding cobblestone streets, mild weather, and preserved colonial architecture have made it popular with travelling artists, students and designers. It was designated a national monument in 1926, so there are no neon signs or modern buildings. The town’s timeworn beauty is quite stunning and there’s a sophisticated but laid back vibe that makes it cool but unpretentious. Layer a modern, stylish city on to the historically rich backdrop, and the look is that trendy mix of old and new that we try to recreate here. I haven’t come back from a vacation this inspired and excited in a long time.
Like many Mexican cities, San Miguel is walled, with all of the buildings meeting the sidewalk. The buildings have no particular identity at street level beyond the front wall, and of course the front door. There are some brilliant door designs and, because there are so many skilled metal workers, it’s easy to spot some unique hardware, too. I loved the raised diamond panels on this blue grey painted door. Brought back home and maybe painted in a super high gloss finish, it could have a Hollywood glam feel.
The gold cow handle that I spotted on another door would be perfect for a kid’s bedroom door, and the simple gold trim around the keyhole is such an elegant and simple treatment.
A number of buildings featured brilliant colour combinations. This sea foam green wall paired with the black coach lamps, and reddish brown door was gorgeous. Imagine a bedroom with those green walls, reddish accents and the blue grey from the building next door on the ceiling. Stunning.
Most of the buildings are built around an inner courtyard, which was totally romantic. I stumbled upon some of the most breathtaking indoor-outdoor spaces by peering into doorways to see what might be hidden beyond. This is a typical doorway view with gorgeous patterned tile work, a colonnade of archways and the sun pouring into the courtyard. Pick up a copy of the May 2010 issue of House & Home on newsstands April 12th for some ideas on Canadian-friendly indoor-outdoor living.
It turned out that this particular courtyard led to the showroom for the exquisite Mexican furniture line, Casamidy (available in Canada through South Hill Home in Toronto). The partners behind it also design interior projects, many of which are featured in the book Casa San Miguel by Annie Kelly. Owners Jorge Almada and Anne-Marie Midy work with the best local craftsmen of wood and metalwork for their product designs, which reference Mexican ranching culture along with a French design influence. The pairing of the two is a perfect representation of this new design scene. This gorgeous daybed vignette is what appeared as I turned around the corner of the courtyard colonnade, it is a boutique called Mitu Atelier. Behind that is Casamidy's space, featuring their modern furniture lines displayed with gorgeous textiles, artwork, and antiques. I was in heaven.
I was taken by the way religious artifacts are worked into a lot of the Mexican interiors. Wooden crosses, Vigil candles, and Retablos (pieces of metal with religious prayers) are seen in most spaces. It was so rich and lush; so colourful and layered with history and meaning.
This is a shot from Jorge’s house up the street from his studio and store. It sums up a fresh Mexican style — the mix of white walls, religious artifacts (that’s an old altar behind the table) classic terracotta floor tile (I never would have guessed that I would be drawn to terracotta tile again after the Santa Fe look died in the '80s) and of course the stunning Casamidy furniture.
If you explore Casamidy’s website, you’ll notice that a lot of their photos are taken in an old, abandoned hacienda. While Arriz and I were there we drove out of town to see it and, inspired by its faded beauty, we spent over two hours taking photos of the decaying wallpaper and paint treatments.
I kept thinking that it would make a phenomenal location for a fashion shoot. And it reminded me of our weekend workshop, Faded Glory, from the March 2010 issue of House & Home.
Another store I came across was Mixta. They carry a combination of jewellery and decorative home décor items. This is a vignette in the store and you can see that it represents a younger, more vibrant style where bright colours and layers of pattern pop against the clean white plaster walls. Totally fresh!
Of course, it’s always a challenge to re-create a look from your travels. Often the things we fall in love with abroad (like those giant sombrero hats we try to drag on the plane) simply don’t translate back at home. This room illustrates a look that I think could work just as easily in Canada as it did in Mexico.
The curved mouldings, exposed wood ceiling, weathered doors, and the mix of antiques and modern furnishings create a fresh look that could easily be adapted back home. It could be that this Mexican style is on the design and decorating horizon for next year’s top new trends.
For more Mexican design inspiration, see Andrea Mills’ Modern Mexican Style blog.