The Showcase of Homes kicks off Mérida’s high season once again when hundreds of people criss-cross the Centro to tour seven private abodes that represent the best in architecture and décor.
These homeowners are opening their doors for strangers, and they are doing it for a good cause. Proceeds support Fundación BAI’s good works, combating HIV, sexually transmitted infections and teen pregnancy through their education and free testing programs.
This popular annual fundraiser for Fundación BAI A.C., now in its seventh year, features work by Gabriela Cornelio, Adi Perez, Victor Carrillo Alayola & Ingrid Peón Escalante, Deborah LaChapelle, Remixto and World Studio International. This year, an extra half-hour has been added to the schedule, with the doors open from 1:30 p.m. – 5 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 8.
Among the lovely homes on view is a “comeback kid” in the Santa Lucia area: Villa Isabel, which re-opens a guest house property in one of the Centro’s most prominent casonas.
Pari and Robert, the new proprietors, bring an international flair to Villa Isabel, and with good reason.
“We both love the classical architectural designs from Spain, Morocco, Iran and elsewhere that feature rooms surrounding large and wide covered verandas,” Robert explains.
This house, built in 1890 and inspired by the French Belle Epoch period, was extensively upgraded while its character was carefully retained.
“We added several niches to display Moroccan and Turkish vases, in addition to renovating several bathrooms,” says Robert.
The house has nine stained glass windows, the largest and most spectacular of which was inspired by Jean-Francios Millet’s 1857 painting “The Gleaners.” It took two months of careful restoration work to repair.
“The 18-foot ceilings provide us with terrific wall space to display a large collection of antique Persian and Anatolian carpets and saddle bags along with an eclectic group of Persian, Arab, French and American paintings, sculpture and antique maps. A collection of Guatemalan huipils adorns the bedrooms,” Robert adds.
What was once a gift shop has been returned to a formal dining room, and the upstairs, built in the early 20th century, Pari and Robert intend to preserve as two beautiful art deco bathrooms.
“In essence, this European-inspired house is a perfect space for our artwork and furniture from the Middle East, Europe and America and all the while taking advantage of the indoor/outdoor architectural design from centuries ago,” Robert notes.
It’s no wonder both Robert and Pari bring a worldly world view to Villa Isabel. Pari’s childhood was spent in Iran, and she attended school in England, completed a masters in Middle East politics and economics, went to Le Cordon Bleu cooking school in London and eventually became the marketing director for Le Creuset. Robert worked for a series of U.S.-based non-profit advocacy organizations that focus on human rights, anti-war/pro-peace, environment and whistle blower laws.
They moved to Mérida from the U.S. in January 2015 to live full time.
Their advice for anyone undertaking a Centro renovation? “I would caution anyone from living in the house that you are renovating. We’d never do that again.”
Proud homeowners Ana Joa and Vance M. Gragg were also generous enough to open the doors to their “dream home” to help Fundación BAI.
Their Casa de Los Angeles represents the work of Architect Adi Perez and antiquarian and designer Carlos Borges Baqueiro.
Joa, whose hometown is Santiago de Cuba, is a jewelry designer and art specialist. The couple, which divides their time between Mérida and Washington, D.C., first came to Mérida on the recommendation of a friend as a quiet city with authenticity.
“When I walked the streets of the historic center’s remains, I was impressed by the amount of uninhabited but beautiful homes. In turn, they were in the same mecca of cultural activities, international cuisine, politics, history and traditions of Yucatecan society. And there is the geographical location of Mérida as a bridge between the U.S. and Cuba, which is fundamental for our family.
Creating Casa de Los Angeles was a challenge because it was a fusion of two houses with distinct architectural styles. But in the end, they have a romantic home they love, named not for the California city but for Ana herself. “My husband named it in honor of my name, Ana of the Angels.”
“Our house is a place of peace that welcomes all comers,” says Ana. “It is a place that insulates you from the bustle of the city and, despite being in the Centro, you can see birds and butterflies in a mini world created for family and friends.”
She tells prospective homeowners not to limit their dreams.
“The Centro offers a range of architectural possibilities. It is an unlimited place to make your own oasis. But it is essential to surround yourself with a good team, an architect capable of listening, respecting your ideas and enriching the project,” says Ana. “I love Mérida!”
Fundación BAI’s Showcase has the support of many generous sponsors – Yucatán Expat Life is proud to return as a Gold sponsor, and media sponsor, this year. Let’s thank all these people and businesses who have shown their support: