I love to travel, and I have always derived much pleasure and inspiration from the many forms of decoration that emerge from different cultures. The fundamental building materials, the choice of colors, the style of furnishings and the use of textiles, patterns and motifs all blend together to create a scenario that defines a people and their history.
I recently visited a health spa in Mexico that fulfilled my craving for hiking and relaxing. The surrounding countryside was an enchanting combination of lush, unspoiled meadows and mountains, acres of landscaped gardens and an organic farm. Rancho La Puerta promotes a simple, healthy lifestyle, complete with a world-class cooking school that teaches how to cook with locally grown produce.
The guesthouses, or casitas, vibrate with Mexican colors and designs. These special elements are brightly portrayed in the living room shown here. To beat the heat, ceilings are high, often slanted into cathedral ceilings with fat wood beams contrasting the white plaster walls. Furniture has a handmade patina, and swings from very plain, utilitarian benches and tables to intricately carved and painted chair backs and headboards. The exterior wood doors are heavy and decorated with carved panels and wrought-iron and glass inserts.
Mexico is well known for its beautiful terra cotta tiles. Plain or painted, glazed or unglazed, they are used as floor tiles and bathroom and kitchen accents on counters and walls. Glazed floor tiles are cool underfoot, durable and easy to clean, making an authentic choice for this living room.
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Lighting can define and punctuate any style. No Mexican home would be complete without traditional wrought-iron lamps, chandeliers, candeleros and decorative accessories. They are strong elements that often are locally made and have been components of their interior and exterior design styles throughout history.
Here are some tips if you are decorating in this hot-climate style. Look for rugs, upholstery and fabrics in rust red, yellow ocher, marine blue and lime green. Hand-woven rugs in bold stripes and accent pillows soften the room. Check the Internet for authentic Mexican motifs. There is a large quantity of clip-art designs and patterns that you can copy and reproduce. Incorporate these into a quilt, table or bed linens, as well as painted accents on a dresser or chair back. Interior walls are also brought to life with folk art either hung or painted onto walls. Happy children’s faces, big birds, fish and animals stand alone or are woven into wall hangings, or shown as trim around doors and windows.
Memories of geckos and lizards darting about in the Mexican desert inspired me to have some fun fixing up a tiny powder room for a family with lots of children. I drew a large picture of a gecko and divided it up into several stencils to make it easier to transfer the image onto the bathroom floor. If you have a steady hand, you could paint the image freehand. It’s quite the conversation piece, and brings home some of the flavor and cheer of this rugged country.
Debbie Travis’ House to Home column is produced by Debbie Travis and Barbara Dingle. You can follow Debbie on Twitter at www.tritter.com/debbie_travis. Please e-mail your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.