A modern beach house in the Yucatán combines eco-friendly and green design elements.
Bienvenida to the Mexican beachside home rooted in modernist architecture along the Yucatán Peninsula. This jungle-meets-Caribbean style of the estate is exactly the vacation home you have always imagined. Elegant design creates the self-contained retreat that will especially fancy the eco-minded types who appreciate high-end homes with green design at their core.
Located near Tulum, one of the many popular destinations across Mexico’s incomparable landscape, the 4,800-square-foot house has been dubbed, Casa Xixim by designer and architect Scott Specht, who built this easy-breezy getaway to take indoor-outdoor living to the next level.
“The owners had the property for a while,” says Specht, principal of Austin- and New York-based Specht Architects. They wanted something modern, based on the simple vernacular architecture of the area, and they also wanted the house to be fully self-sufficient.
Specht placed the two-level, concrete and stucco home on the narrow lot between the beachfront and a mangrove marsh, creating a T-shaped plan that includes the living, dining and kitchen areas on the main floor, flanked by two ensuite bedrooms—all of which open onto the pool patio. Two more ensuite bedrooms and a series of terraces mark the upper level.
The house, Specht points out, really doesn’t have a front door.
“You park at the street and enter through a gate,” he explains. “
A series of concrete rectangles placed in gravel make up a path that winds you through a palm grove to reach the house, which you can enter from several points.” The architect also notes that the house does not have any glass walls or doors, and instead utilizes a series of louvered wood panels and screens that pocket into the walls, giving all of the rooms breezy openings to the patios and terraces.
“Everything in the house had to be durable and able to withstand the salt air and hurricanes,” says Specht, pointing out materials used such as polished concrete flooring, decorative local tile details, limestone-clad walls, and decks and millwork built of Garapa, a locally-sourced weather-resistant hardwood.
The architect also notes that the house does not have any glass walls or doors, and instead utilizes a series of louvered wood panels and screens that pocket into the walls.
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Los Angeles-based interior designer Matthew Finlason also kept things simple and practical by implementing custom touches such as the living room’s concrete-base sectional, topped with cushions made of weatherproof fabric.
Take note of the chunky, live-edge dining table and benches, as well as the low-profile bed frames crafted from the Garapa on-site. Accessories are simple and local—nothing is too precious. Resources, on the other hand are precious in the area, which explains the home’s photovoltaic array, the on-site waste-water processing system that has tank digesters and an artificial wetland.
The home also features a rainwater harvesting system and a green roof that both insulates the house and absorbs heavy downpours. The sliding louvered panels capture breezes and, when open, provide plenty of natural illumination. Additionally, the owners, along with the architect, resisted the temptation to remove a vegetation buffer between the beach and the house for wide views of the sea. Instead, owners have privacy, a direct way to prevent erosion control and mitigate storm winds.
“The owners wanted a home with local character,” says Specht, whose impressively executed project won his firm several design awards including one from the American Institute of Architects Austin. “They wanted something that looks like it belongs in that setting.” And, it’s not just the homeowners who belong in that setting.
When they are not in residence, Casa Xixim, a Mayan word meaning “zero,” alluding to the home’s light eco-footprint, is available as a vacation rental for eco-minded travelers looking to call Mexico home for a week—or two.