Mexico has always held a great allure for me. The beauty and diversity of the terrain, the many wonderful people I’ve gotten to know, not to mention the delicious food and obligatory margaritas. I’ve been lucky to work on several homes around this magical country over the years. None, however, has been as inspiring a task as my latest, Casa El Faro, a modernist aerie perched high on a rocky point on the Baja peninsula overlooking the Sea of Cortez.
My client, an internationally renowned entrepreneur and philanthropist, didn’t just want to build a contemporary beach house for himself and his family. He wanted to capture the soul of this extraordinary site at Maravilla Los Cabos and build something that would do honor to both the past and future of Mexican art and design. Given this exciting directive, I set about working with architect Juan Zapata to strike the right balance between the interiors and exteriors for this spectacular setting. Mixing clean lines with inspiration from iconic villas in Acapulco in its mid-20th- century heyday, we shaped the architectural details and materials in an organic way. Indeed, the colors, materials, and textures used throughout reflect the Baja environment and are all inspired by the local culture and landscape.
Dramatic 16-foot pivoting glass doors open onto an entry hall whose abstractly patterned floor is composed of green, gray, white, and cream marbles, which set the palette for the rest of the house. The whimsical plaster cactus reliefs, modeled on those found in the surrounding topography, were hand-carved by local artisans onto the walls and pull the eye upward. The giant woven-rope globe lights were made in a nearby village and have a rustic appeal that I wanted to introduce to soften the grandeur of the 26-foot-high space and bring it back to a beach-house vibe.
On the main floor, an open-plan white lacquered kitchen (a service kitchen and wine cellar are hidden behind doors) leads directly onto the dining and living areas. All the windows that enclose the space can disappear into the walls to create a sweeping expanse out to the pool and terraces on three sides. When open, it turns into an approximately 7,000-square-foot indoor/outdoor entertaining zone composed of cooking and grilling stations, a circular tequila bar, a firepit, hanging sofas, a giant retractable screen for outdoor movie-watching, an undulating waterslide, and even built-in whale-watching seats in the curvaceous swimming pool.
For the furnishings I set pieces by midcentury Mexican masters alongside specially commissioned pieces by modern-day artists and artisans. I combed the country for inspiration, as well as furnishings, accessories, and objects. In Guadalajara we found hand- painted pottery, embroidered and beaded leather goods, and hand-carved furniture. I shopped Mexico City’s amazing art galleries, meeting contemporary artists and commissioning their works, purchasing vintage items from lovingly curated galleries like Chic by Accident and Decada, and visiting the local auction houses to turn up treasures. And I worked with the gallery Luteca, which represents the most celebrated Mexican 20th-century furniture designers, to correctly reproduce some of their greatest pieces (especially helpful for items needed in multiples, like dining chairs and side tables).
Tour More of an Alluring Mexico Hideaway Courtesy of Martyn Lawrence Bullard (Design Notes)
To enhance the sense of place, I visited San Miguel de Allende, where I discovered locally made pieces that really give spirit to the bookshelves, cocktail tables, and bathrooms. And we commissioned textural woven tapestries from Oaxaca to dress walls throughout.
Two of my favorite spaces pay homage to Mexican art history. A powder room next to the family room is an ode to Frida Kahlo. Here I had the walls decoupaged with Aztec-inspired paintings on 9-by-12-inch parchment sheets that I found unexpectedly in La Ciudadela, a street bazaar in Mexico City. Enchanted by those first few, I eventually tracked down the artist and commissioned 40 more so we could cover all the walls with these ancient mystical tales. I also love the state-of-the-art screening room, where 16-foot- long woven leather and canvas sofas create a heavenly cocoon decorated with vintage Mexican movie posters from the 1940s and ’50s.
The top floor was given over to the master suite, a true sanctuary with its own spa and massage room, yoga and meditation terrace, a champagne and oyster bar terrace with an outdoor hot tub, and a firepit. As with the living room below, the glass walls disappear, opening the entire space to the outdoors and offering astounding views of the azure ocean and the breath-taking sunsets. For good measure, we also added a cactus garden and a rooftop putting green for the client, an avid golfer.
More of an Alluring Mexico Hideaway Courtesy of Martyn Lawrence Bullard
In Spanish El Faro means “the lighthouse.” And this singular mountaintop home not only is sited to capture panoramic prospects from every room but also, in keeping with its namesake, illuminates the spot at night now seen for miles around. It is truly a beacon for its owner, his family, and their lucky guests.
Originally Appeared on Architectural Digest