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Design Traditions in Mexico

Hi everyone!

Today I want to share a cultural insight on Interior Design in Mexico. This was an interview I did for Natalia (IG - @the.homehacker), and the original post is over at her blog. But I thought to share it here too, adding a Spanish version :-) So, read on =>

Mexico is an extremely diverse country, geographically and culturally. Its customs and traditions (and, thus, art and design) vary greatly from North to South and from East to West. Generally speaking, Mexican culture was influenced by the course of its history. Well-known civilizations of Maya, Aztec, Toltec, etc. make up the pre-Hispanic history of Mexico, and, of course, Spanish traditions arrived here with the European colonization. So, in its essence, Mexican culture represents a blend of both indigenous and Spanish customs and traditions, which makes it so unique and interesting!

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- What is the best souvenir to bring from your country that would have a “design value”? One that could become a part of an interior decoration project or an art piece within the interior space?

- So many different options! There is something local and traditional in every Mexican state: textiles, ceramics, silver, Mayan calendars, to name a few.

But, if I were to choose one, I would definitely suggest pottery products, specifically two different styles I find especially unique and beautiful. One of them is called “Talavera” and originates in the state of Puebla. It can be very colourful, but the finest pieces come in white and blue tones.

The second style is called “Barro Negro” and comes from Oaxaca state. It is made of black clay, found in this state, and using ancient pre-Hispanic techniques. Apart from relief, carved on the surface, this kind of pottery can also have holes, carved into a pattern. I think these pieces would fit into so many interior styles!

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- What places are worthwhile visiting to learn about local design traditions in your country?

- To see pre-Hispanic traditions and architecture, places, such as Tulum, Valladolid, and Merida are must-see. Ancient pyramids and ruins of villages offer an insight on the lives of indigenous civilizations.

As for Colonial design traditions, they are much more diverse and common – virtually in any city and town, there is an “old neighbourhood” with traditional homes, many of which have been converted to restaurants, coffee shops, art galleries, boutique hotels, etc.

But my personal favourite place in Mexico is San Miguel de Allende – a perfect representation of Colonial architecture and design. Its bright colours, pebbled streets, shops with Mexican crafts, restaurants, and cafes in Colonial style – all create this authentic atmosphere and make you fall in love with the local culture.

- If a person desires to decorate space in the style of your country, what would be the most critical item/ material/ texture/ color/ etc., to create the right ambiance and character that would represent the spirit of your country?

- If we are talking about construction, traditional building material is a type of stone called “sillar”. It is quite large and makes up walls of Colonial-style houses. It is a great material because not only it has character and adds a traditional look, it is also sustainable. Sillar helps to keep the houses cool in summer and warm in winter. It is very rarely used in new construction projects.

As for interior finishes, ceramic tiles in above mentioned “talavera” style are used in traditional interiors. They are bright tiles with a variety of patterns, somewhat reminding Portuguese “azulejos”. They make up gorgeous floors!

- What are the typical local and unique materials used in interior design/ decorations/ architecture in your country?

- Traditional colours are bright and saturated – red, yellow, terra cotta, ultra-marine blue, and a pink, which is usually called “dusty rose”. These were partially inherited from indigenous people, and partially from Spanish culture. Any traditional Colonial town or an old neighbourhood in any city will have buildings in these colour schemes, and each house would be different from the previous one.

Nowadays, of course, architecture is more reserved and uses a more neutral colour palette. But traditional hues are implemented by many architects too in beautiful contemporary buildings. For example, Luis Barragan – a winner of Pritzker and one of the most well-known Mexican architects of the 20th century, used these palettes in his work. His buildings feature bright traditional colours in a modern form – a very interesting combination!

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- How popular is traditional style of your country among local and native people?

- It depends. When we talk about residential design – unfortunately, not very popular. People want to create contemporary interiors for living. But people here love to go to restaurants and hotels in traditional style, which is close and familiar to them, so these types of traditional interiors are very popular.

I have seen some great examples of incorporating traditional style into contemporary designs and it looks beautiful! Another thing that some people do is buy older Colonial houses, restore and renovate them and create gorgeous examples of traditional homes with a contemporary touch.

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- How often do people use the services of interior designers in your country vs relying on traditions and customs?

Interior Design services are becoming more and more popular in bigger cities. There are a lot of high-quality designers, who create beautiful spaces.

I would say though, that there is currently more demand for interior design in the commercial, restaurant, healthcare, and hospitality sectors. I think residential design has not reached the peak of its popularity yet.

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- What styles are adopted from overseas and are becoming accustomed and liked by local people? Is there any particular type of fusion styles that prevail at the moment?

Contemporary style is predominant here now. People tend to choose neutral colours, use wood panels in interiors and make lighting a part of décor.

- What is more popular among local people, houses, or apartments?

- Definitely houses! Apartments are usually preferred by younger people, mostly because of the lifestyle. But houses dominate. Moreover, apartments and houses cost about the same, whether you rent it or buy it, so people would naturally prefer more space, which you get with the house. Mexican families tend to have minimum two children, so space is appreciated.

And, of course, it is impossible to host a traditional Mexican barbeque in an apartment. These are a lot of fun, so if you ever get invited to one – don`t hesitate!

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