With spring breaking, and wanderlust mounting, an invitation to Cuernavaca, Mexico, seemed the perfect antidote to the winter doldrums to which your sulky Fort Worth Friday correspondent has lately succumbed. As old as Mexico itself, Cuernavaca contains the oldest preserved colonial building in the Americas, the nearly 500-year-old Palacio de Cortés, built atop an earlier, demolished, Aztec structure. Fifty years ago, Cuernavaca was a sleepy little resort town of 35,000. Now at 350,000 souls, Cuernavaca is a big little place, with great shopping, frequent cultural events and even fewer reasons to return to the capital which, on a good day, is a short 45 minutes to the north.
My host family’s house, ablaze with gorgeous color from perpetually flowering flora, is located in the quiet Colonia Analco, which continues to gain in value and desirability. Many of the larger, original houses in Analco have fallen victim to ‘highest and best use,’ with their ample grounds offering tempting sites for pricy gated developments. However many older villas survive intact.
Cuernavaca curb appeal generally consists of an attractive high wall, with cascades of blooms spilling over. Peer behind those walls and you will discover a secret world of glorious gardens where azaleas, bougainvillea, and jacaranda trees flower all year long. Within hours, I naturally begin to fantasize about living here.
Online, I discover a property for sale that happens to be a few blocks from my hosts. After a short agreeable walk I arrive at a rambling spread at the foot of Calle Compositores, No. 205, and discover that the 10-bedroom house is, in fact, currently a hotel. “Wow!” I think, “a charming hotel in a desirable location, in a resort city, What could go wrong?’
On second thought, perhaps a second home with rental potential would be a safer, sounder, and less stressful, bet. The hotel consists of a main building and several out buildings set in a typical dreamy Cuernavaca garden. Walls are of thick cinder block stucco construction which, so far, have withstood the occasional tremor. Floors are classic terra cotta, Saltillo tile which have gracefully aged with care to look like rich leather.
The main salon has a fireplace. Cuernavaca is known as “the city of eternal spring,” but the city is a series of micro-climates and evenings can be chilly. Beams add scale and grandeur to the warm living area.
Pictured above is one of the quaint bedrooms with plenty of light from three windows, including an endearing over-bed oculus. A wooden ceiling sustains the hacienda feel. Internal walls are mostly painted a surprisingly discreet white in contrast to the more typically bold exterior colors. You don’t have to be a designer to let your imagination loose on the possibilities of the interiors.
A large orange tree gives the hotel its whimsical name-L’Orangerie. The gardens are bounded by many other old growth trees.
Half of the 10 bedrooms are in independent out-building bungalows seemingly randomly placed on the property. Can you say color blocking?
The kitchen is replete with typical Mexican charm including a vintage gas stove and a traditional horno in the corner under a tiled hood.
The requisite pool lies off the multi-level, eave-covered, terrace. Buying property in Mexico used to be something of an ordeal unless you were paying cash, with financing expensive and hard to find. Now mortgage packages are much more plentiful with rates similar to American mortgages available. A peso-based loan may appeal to buyers who want to bet on relative dollar strength but cross-border, dollar-denominated loans are available with a healthy down payment.
L’Orangerie at 250 Calle Compositores is being offered for about MXN 14 million. Breathe. That works out to around $750,000 USD. And rumor has it that the price is negotiable. Not ready to totally commit? You can try out the property for a modest $80 per night as a hotel guest.
Eric Prokesh is an interior designer whose work has appeared on HGTV, and in books and publications including D Home, Southern Accents, House Beautiful, and House and Garden. In January 2005, HG named Eric one of the 50 tastemakers in America and D Home has included him as one of Dallas’ Best Designers for 10 years. Having lived most of his life in Dallas, he now calls Fort Worth home and is one of our experts on beautiful Fort Worth Dirt.