Building in Mexico – Quinta Elena
I fell in love with a hilltop in San Pancho whose view of the Pacific and the sierra just begged for a house. Quinta Elena II, I would come to call it, after the first Quinta Elena my husband and I had built in Bucerias ten years before.
Both began as oversized scruffy dirt lots, eroded by years of tropical rainstorms and drowning in weeds. Looking at Quinta Elena II now, with its towering palms, flowering tropical plants, and long lines of retaining walls, I see how much I learned about landscaping and construction during my time here in Mexico.
Like the fact that it’s all about outdoor living and savoring the natural beauty of this part of the world. The living room we built in the first house was wasted space—no one ever sat there. So Quinta Elena II has open-air seating upstairs and down, as well its “dining room” on the front porch.
Like the damage done by strong sun and rain. See that “bamboo” railing around the pool? It’s made of concrete and hand-painted, replacing the natural wooden posts wrapped with vines, all of which rotted away in a few years’ time, no matter the coats of protective varnish we used.
The sun can damage color, too, but hey, it’s only paint. So I felt free to be daring when it came to the colors I chose. My goal was to make Quinta Elena comfortable and friendly. It’s my only home, so my kids and grandkids come visit me here. I want them to feel at home, too.
Mexican masons are artists who volunteer some excellent ideas. And managed to copy almost any photo or magazine clipping I gave them. Examples abound: the stove hood; intricate talavera tiling; polished concrete counters; niches for tea candles; sea stone steps and bathroom floors. I love this kitchen, especially its arched brick boveda ceiling made by a bovedero from Guanajuato. And the view of the jungle from the big window over the sink is soothing.
I also love the master bedroom. It’s a big, comfortable get-away spot, with its wrap-around porch and independent satellite TV. The walk-in closet is totally open—I learned the hard way about moldy shoes—and the shower features open-air planters and a jungle view.
The shell of the bungalow was on the property when we bought it. So I decided to rehab it and make use of it, mostly as extra sleeping space with bath. It turns out to have other value. Caretakers have stayed in it while I’m away for the steamy summer months and said they liked the outdoor cooking space. I’m often asked if it’s available to rent separately.
For me, Quinta Elena II was a joy to build. The architect and builder were accommodating and talented, we came in with few cost overruns, the results are unique. And kibitzing with the crew did wonders for my Spanish. It is time for me to return to the U. S. now, for personal reasons. But I know I will come to miss my lovely home and oh so relaxed life style here in San Pancho.