Building Our House
Buying, restoring and building houses is a favorite gringo pastime in Merida, and the Working Gringos are no exception. When we moved here, we had just finished restoring a home in California, so restoration was not something we wanted to do right away. We bought a house designed and restored by one of the Yucatan's (and Mexico's) most famous and brilliant architects, Salvador Reyes-Rios. It was one of two colonial homes that Salvador had restored on "spec", and we were thrilled to be able to buy something so beautiful. Our house is called Casa del Panadero and is now for sale (more on that later). The house next door, which is exactly the same but painted different colors is called Casa del Pocito and it has been turned into a lovely vacation rental (see www.casapocitoyucatan.com for photos).
At the same time we bought Panadero, we also bought a ruin of a house three blocks away to be our office. We asked Salvador if he would design it too, and he consented. Later that year we hired a contractor to renovate it and we named it Cho'hol, which we understand means "Mouse Hole" in Mayan. We don't know why houses have names in Mexico... well, we used to not know why. Now we don't know why houses in the States *don't* have names. Although Cho'hol is our office, it was designed to have all the amenities of a smaller two-bedroom, two-bath house.
While we have loved every minute of our lives in Casa del Panadero (which means House of the Baker, by the way, as it was once a bakery), we now have two dogs, URL and Mali, and the house is just too small. We think it would be more convenient to have our house and office on the same property. A large property. For the dogs, you know. So we have decided to sell Panadero (you can see the listings at Tierra Yucatan, Real Estate Yucatan and Hacienda Mexico) and move into a much larger place.
Last summer, we were lucky to find an inexpensive plot of land in Colonia San Sebastian, about 8 blocks south-west of the main plaza. It's a rather expansive lot with a little bit of house on it. So we bought it and are now in the process of designing a combined house/office that will be mostly new construction, remodeling only the facade and the two front rooms of the original structure.
Since many of our readers are either living here or thinking of living here, we felt it might be helpful (or at least interesting) to track our progress over the next nine months or so as we design, build and move in to our new home. The plan is that we will move in by Christmas... vamos a ver! (We'll see!). But that's the plan.
Now that Salvador is an architect to the stars, he's not available to help the likes of us. But we have selected two wonderful "working gringo" guys from New York to be our designers/contractors. They have lived here for four years, renovated a few houses during that time, and have committed to designing and building us a great house within our budget.
Many people come down to Merida to buy inexpensive houses, and while that can be done, we have found that it is important to balance the desire to buy everything for less with the knowledge that you get what you pay for. If you follow our process over the next few months, something tells us you will get to watch that balancing act more than once.
So, here is where we are: We own a piece of property that is about 10,000 square feet in an "L" shaped configuration. We are in the process of buying an additional piece of land from the neighbors next door to form a "T" shaped piece of land. Our challenge (and our designers' challenge) is to design a house that is about 3,500 square feet that will include an office and a home with a swimming pool, a courtyard and a *big* garden... or what we have begun referring to as a "tropical park". All of this for around $200,000 US.
We're not going fancy, but we want something informed by Mexican sensibilities but with a monastic edge. We want it cool, airy and easy to keep clean (with two dogs!). Can it be done?? Stay tuned! We'll keep you updated on our progress.
Follow along with the Working Gringos as they build their house here: