Sunday, December 23, 2012

The House and Garden Tour, From the Inside

Brent Marsh (center) leads a House and Garden Tour

I've never been the type who wanted to live in an Architectural Digest sort of house. So when my friend and real estate agent Jennifer Lytle approached me recently about putting my place on the Mérida English Language Library House and Garden Tour, I was a bit reluctant.

This tour affords the curious an opportunity to peek inside interesting homes within walking distance of the English Library in Mérida centro. The fee charged goes to support library programs. Most of the tour-goers are foreigners visiting the area, and many are considering living here at least part of the time.

My problem with throwing open the doors was that my house, even after nine years, remains unfinished. There are windows without glass, cabinets without doors, and the whole second story is only half-completed. The facade has not been repaired in decades and occasionally little chunks of it rain down onto the sidewalk. Stuffing pops out of furniture cushions. Nothing is really done.

To make matters worse, since the first phase of the renovation was completed six years ago, much that was finished, nicely painted, shiny and new back then is now peeling, a bit rusty or otherwise weather- and time-worn. The house is very comfortable, but in its current condition it is not a candidate for any design or decorating awards. And since that sort of thing is not an interest of mine, I doubt it ever will be. I do not worry about a little peeling paint or falling plaster here and there. These things happen to an antique house in the tropics. I am not about to dedicate an excessive amount of my time to maintaining my home in picture-perfect condition.

I have never been on the tour, but am aware that many of the homes included feature award-winning architecture and are among the most elegant and well-appointed in Mérida. I just wasn't sure my unfinished home,  set up more for comfort and convenience rather than impact, would fit with the program. But Jennifer convinced me that visitors would be interested in seeing a place that is "lived in."

So last Tuesday they came. There were about twenty on the tour, enough to make my ample front sala feel a bit cramped when they'd all gotten inside.

It was obvious that most of the tour-goers had done a little homework or visited other homes in the area. Mostly they asked specific, practical questions about the ins and outs of fixing up an old house in Mérida. Many were interested in materials not so commonly seen north of the border, things such as polished concrete floors and poured countertops and the variety of tiles and stone used in finishes. Some loved the copper sinks and basins from Michoacan. Others had questions about gardening and plants.

I even met a couple of readers of this blog.

It was an appreciative group, and I found it interesting to view my home through their eyes. Once again I was reminded of how fortunate I am to live in this place.


  1. I really appreciate your post. It touches on some of the same issues I am facing in getting my Oregon house ready for the market. The realtors keep trying to convince me to tart up the house to look like someone else lives there. I, on the other hand, am selling the house I once lived in. The two images are hardly the same.

    1. Well, I could see doing a little bit of "staging" here if the place was for sale and I wanted to put the best face on my place. My house looks better with less stuff in it. And for a sale, peeling paint and mildew would have to go.

      But I am still living here, it's not for sale and I was not interested in making serious changes just for the tour. I put a few things away, did a good cleaning (which was due anyhow), and left it at that.

      We'll see if I change my tune when/if I put this place on the market some day.

  2. They've asked me to be part of the Home Tour here too. I've declined for so many years that they have stopped asking! Your place, what I can see of it, looks great!

    1. Thanks, Babs.

      I wouldn't do it every week. That would be too much pressure to keep things neat.

      As it was I enjoyed it, and would be happy to be on the tour from time to time if they remain interested.

  3. Welcome to the club, Marc--the club of the "single home-owner who has other things to do besides constantly fix stuff!" Were home construction, renovation and upkeep a hobby of mine, I guess I'd do better myself. But I keep finding more interesting things to do, so…. Sounds to me like your "livable" house is just fine.

  4. One of these days I'd like to go on one of those tours. I'd love to see your home, as well. It looks so spacious.

    The tall gentleman in the yellow shirt looks like our neighbour who lives on the floor above us. I'll have to ask if he and his wife went on the tour. I know they talked about going.

  5. Hi Barb - I'm the guy in the yellow shirt. I also went along on the Tuesday home tour from LA68 with Keith Heitke. Both were interesting and worthwhile, with widely varied homes offered.

    Of all the homes we visited, this one (Marc's) was the most appealing to me. I appreciate the 'stealth' aspect of the arrested decay facade, and his choice to restore or leave the old rooms more or less as they probably were enjoyed by their original occupants. The new spaces are well designed and integrated into a very gracious place. Some of the other restorations seem fussy or excessive. I think the presence of flaking and mineralized cal on a mamposteria wall does detracts nothing from an old room...


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