27 July 2016

down in Mexico: Annie Kelly and Tim Street-Porter

A new book, CASA MEXICO At Home in Merida and the Yucatan is captivating. Beautiful light plays with world class photographer Tim Street-Porter's camera inspiring some of the most engaging and evocative interior design photographs I've seen in some time. The interiors discovered and profiled in the book by Street-Porter and writer Annie Kelly are at once elegant, modern and ancient.

Houses in the region's capital Merida and beyond have been taken up and revitalized by artists and tastemakers, providing the beautiful spaces in CASA MEXICO. Lush nature unites with neutral colors placed on period furniture, while color at times vivid, seems muted by soaring ceilings.

Here are some of my favorite rooms in the book, along with a few great Mexican women who seem to inhabit the same spirit.

The diva of international cinema Mexican-born Maria Felix as painted by Bridget Trichenor in “Domadora de Quimeras” would have been right at home in this room. Once owned by sixteenth-century priests. now called Casa de los Frailes, the sala is decorated with antiques, stacks and stacks of books, modern art, and a wonderful old map of the Yucatan.

It's just as easy to envision the glamorous Felix lounging in this sala at Casa Serrano Willson.

The Loggia at Los Almendros "The Almonds" has been decorated by Arturo Pani, and owned by famed producer- screenwriter Manuel Barbachano Ponce. Ponce directed the ultra-glamorous Delores del Rio who I can just imagine coming in from a swim, feet padding on the cool marble floors.

For a sensualist, there is Coqui Coqui. I can't imagine the Mexican artist Frida Kahlo staying anywhere else but this one bedroom hotel in Merida.

The most striking structure in the book is the studio of Mexican artist and sculptor Javier Marin, designed by his architect brother Arcadio Marin. Its serenity is evident from Street-Porter's roof top camera view. Called Plante Matilde, whether it is the structure or its surroundings or both, there is a holiness in evidence here, I can only imagine standing in its rooms.

Plante Matilde seems a place where Mexican Baroque poet Juana Inez de la Cruz, nun, and extraordinarily, sixteenth-century feminist, could work and study.

CASA MEXICO opens fifteen homes wide, and in doing so had me going further afield to investigate the region. Isn't that in a sense what any great book does? It should take us beyond its pages, opening our eyes and minds to unknown people places things.

all photographs are by Tim Street-Porter and provided to me by Rizzoli (with my thanks)


  1. Beautiful Gaye. I have friends that live in San Miguel Allende and don't want to live anywhere else.

  2. What a serendipitous post! Yesterday morning I read with great interest a New Yorker article related to the inmense Mexican architect Luis Barragán. I then grabbed, from my shelves, a book by Street-Porter, Casa Mexicana, published in 1989, where many of Barragán's houses are pictured. And now I see this post about this new book by Street-Porter... I am wasting no time to get it. Thanks!

  3. Love Maria Feliz and Delores del Rio...though there wasn't any love lost between those two. Delores so refined and elegant...and then there's Maria, destroyer of men and lover of gems! Yet the one called La Doña, was the exact opposite of a Doña in behavior...shameless in her pursuit of power, fame, men and the occult. Maria's attachment to Surrealism speaks volumes...from Leonora Carrington, Remedio Varos, and others...to her spectacular Parisian apartment...not too mention the Cartier Baby Gators and Ashoka Diamond.
    Years ago, 20 to be exact...TSP photographed our home for our own enjoyment and to document it for posterity...he is an interesting man to say the least...and we both vied once long ago for the same home in which he lives now, the Villa Vallombrosa in Hollywood...where once upon a time, in the far mists of long forgotten glamour -Baron de Meyer, Greta Garbo, Adrian and many others of the Golden Age of Hollywood would rent.

  4. The room at Coqui Coqui leaves no stone unturned in refuge, and plenty open to chance. That's where to be.



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