Before & After: A Completely Dilapidated Mexican House Got an Amazing Renovation — Complete with a Gorgeous Island
Homeowners/Designers: Socrates and Sophia, and Bruno & Barkley (our two dog sidekicks that helped us along the way)
Location: Mazatlán, Mexico
Size: 1410 square feet
Years lived in: 5 months, owned
In October 2018, we (Socrates and Sophia) decided to do a complete 180 on both of our careers. We were recently married, but have been partners in life since 2011. We wanted to finally take that leap and take our savings to start remodeling and renovating houses in Mazatlán, Mexico. Having worked in entertainment (Sophia) and publishing (Socrates) for over 10+ years, we realized that the hustle and bustle of life really takes a toll on relationships, romantic and otherwise. So, we decided to launch 35 Agave Co., named after the age we both were when we created it and our love of the agave plant (and a 23-acre blue agave farm we recently cultivated just outside of Mazatlán!).
This house was our first undertaking and it was in dire need of a total gut renovation. It was originally built in the 1930s and the walls all had old adobe mortar binding the bricks and walls together. The house had not seen the light of day since the ‘60s when a single bachelor moved in and started enclosing himself off from the world. It was very dark and claustrophobic with walls dividing up spaces that had no business being separated. The house was an unkempt labyrinth. There was humidity in the walls and being that it is a coastal city, we knew we had to take on the challenge of preventative measures to ensure that future humidity would be reduced or eliminated.
Once we put a game plan together, we began to feel the energy of the house completely open up. The total transformation of what was once a sad, bleak, and dark house, and seeing it literally blossom before our eyes, we knew we were making the right decisions. The entire process from purchasing a house to adding final touches post-renovation has been challenging, but we managed to successfully work together and learn to adapt to the many situations that can come up in a renovation, complex or not.
[Socrates and Sophia are already on to their next house renovating project! This house, which they’ve named “Casa Santorini,” is for sale. And as an FYI, they also rescue and foster adoptable dogs, as seen on their Instagram. ]
Apartment Therapy Survey:
Our Style: We call our style “Mexicanly-Greek.” Let us explain; both our names have Greek origins and being that we’re both of Mexican descent, we’ve always enjoyed blending the two styles together. This is our interpretation of fusing the two stylistic concepts.
Inspiration: We’re inspired by anything that is practical, eco-conscious, has meaning, and is pleasing to the eye. We draw much of our inspiration from Mazatlán’s Historic Center as it is a melting pot of designs that range anywhere from Neoclassical, Palazzo, to French and Spanish Colonial, and Modern. However, many of these beautiful structures are unfortunately seen sitting adjacent to dilapidated or abandoned homes in the Historic Center.
Favorite Element: One hundred percent our polished concrete floor. We took every aspect of the design into consideration and applied the logic of “how can we make this house be as eco-friendly as possible.” During our research we discovered that the cement industry is one of the largest producers of carbon dioxide. However, because construction in Mazatlán is made primarily out of concrete, we chose to polish the concrete that we were already using for the floor. This helped us further enhance an eco-conscious house since we opted not to use floor tile or wood because concrete acts as an adaptable element within the house.
Summers in Mazatlán can be brutal. With an average dew point of 71°F, simply being outside can be uncomfortable. Concrete can get hot or cold when it’s exposed to different levels of thermal energy. Generally, it can be cool to the touch and this can help make a house feel naturally cooler. Using window shades and shielding the floors from the sun will help keep the area cooler for longer periods of time, thus keeping your house cooler.
During the winter months, the exact opposite should happen. Keep those window shades open and allow the sun to radiate through the windows. The ability to retain heat allows for concrete floors to take advantage of the heat that comes through. As this happens, the concrete floor will absorb the heat during the day to release it at night helping keep the space warmer.
Biggest Challenge: Our biggest challenge was without a doubt treating the house against current humidity issues and helping to prevent future problems. Since Mazatlán sits 21 km south of the Tropic of Cancer and we are a coastal town, high humidity and tropical storm weather are two common features that hit the city every summer and fall. We did extreme treatments and applied humidity prevention sealants to help prevent humidity from seeping its way back into the walls. It’s common practice here to lay out thick plastic sheets below the entire foundation prior to pouring the concrete as a preventative measure. This industrial plastic helps move the moisture along to find another exit point instead of making its way to the buildings walls.
Proudest DIY: Exposed brick wall for the home office area. When we started removing the stucco from the wall in the studio area, we wanted to keep the exposed brick to tell the story of where the house came from. We spent hours treating it with all kinds of sealants, such as humidity prevention, to ensure that the original adobe mortar would stay binding the brick together. Then we painted it white to create a kind of a rustic feel, a throwback of sorts to the house’s original structure.
Biggest Indulgence: The biggest indulgence was absolutely upcycling the original main door of the house. It was battered and had seen better days and we wanted to reclaim it and create a barn door into the master bathroom. We didn’t see it so much as an indulgence per se but as a necessary expense to repurpose materials from the original structure.
Best Advice: Write down everything you hope to accomplish out of a house remodel and do the research to back it up. Do you want to include eco-friendly elements to your house? Research how you can accomplish that. Draw what you are thinking in your mind and put that idea on paper. It can be done on scratch paper, a notebook, or a napkin. You need to visualize what is playing out in your head so you can see the proof of your creative thought labor. Sometimes what you think would work in your mind doesn’t actually translate well and so you can eliminate an expensive undertaking if you’ve thought the idea through.
What’s your best home secret? No matter where you are, always, always, always, employ locally. These are the construction workers, carpenters, blacksmiths, engineers, plumbers, electricians, etc. They live and breathe the town. They know where to find everything and anything (e.g., what to look out for in terms of the toll a tropical storm can take on a new house and how to set up preventative and protective measures to safely protect your house). Not only are they resourceful, but you’re supporting locals as well as reducing your own carbon footprint from transporting goods or materials from outside areas.
PAINT & COLORS
- Kitchen Cabinets & Shelves — Custom Made by Local Carpenter
- Stainless Steel Countertop – Locally Made
Thanks Socrates, Sophia!
This post originally ran on Apartment Therapy. See it there: Before & After: A Completely Dilapidated Mexico House Got an Amazing Modern Renovation