Sometimes when you buy an old home in El Centro Histórico, you hit the pasta tile floor jackpot. The home you love for lots of different reason happens to have among its attributes the most beautiful, charming antique floor tiles that not only typifies historic Yucatecan style, but possesses a classic beauty that resonates in today’s world. That wasn’t us. We have plenty of those old mosaico tiles, all putrid. I hate the pinks and greens. I hate the geometric patterns. Yucko.
But the architects never threw them away. Like everything that’s been deemed salvageable, they are stacked off to the side, waiting to be recycled. During one visit to the architects’ office, I saw
they had collected one tile from each room, plus a few new tiles that were more to our taste. Saying nothing, they laid them out side by side, and immediately I saw what they were doing. The tiles that weren’t very appealing when massed together didn’t look half bad when turned into a pasta tile sampler.
As Paul correctly puts it, they were deconstructing our original pasta tile floors, just as they’ve deconstructed the rest of the house, preserving, but re-imagining, the beams, arches, niches, iron gates, colored glass, window frames, and any other artifacts left behind.
The Maya approached to construction was to identify the land, clear out the trees but then use every bit of what once stood on top of the land and under the ground (stones, rocks, boulders). Kind of like us, but with pasta tile floors and one or two modern conveniences like satellite television and a wet bar.
I never told the architects that my favorite color is actually gray, but it has been for years. We’re moving to Mexico, land of bright and festive colors, and here we are talking about gray. I hasten to add that I like gray because it’s a wonderful backdrop. Gray actually serves the bright colors that you might introduce later, as we will with furnishings and artwork.
Two tones of gray brought in via new pasta tiles. But then they “pulled” another color from the historic tiles when selecting yet more new tiles. A color I wasn’t prepared for. Green. Two shades of it. I flashed back to all the green carpets in the 1960s and ’70s. Then I flashed back to the 1990s when we installed Hunter Green Formica kitchen countertops because we wanted to “let the outside in” or some such daft notion. Paul liked the green just fine, but I was getting light-headed just thinking about it. Sensing my distress (and I’ve been really receptive to all their decisions up until this point) we played with the combinations a bit, trading some greens for grays, and then we nailed it. The grays tamed the bright greens and we got a patchwork that worked for all of us. Remember what I said about gray serving a bright color. Here’s an example. It pays to put trust in the pros that you have hired.
The master bedroom is typical to the overall floor design. The mixed-tile design forms a center “carpet” while warm grays of the same size dominate the room. Along the edges of the room are large-scale concrete tiles of polished concrete with flecks of marble. We had asked that larger tiles be incorporated into the design, a nod toward modern design. And even those tiles required some decision-making. We had numerous variations to choose from, with the cement tint varying in tone from pinkish to gray, and the flecks varying in density and hue. I’m glad I wasn’t alone to make the decision. The warm tones of Chihuahua marble spacers fill the narrow gaps between the concrete tiles. We’ve seen the patchwork-quilt tile idea a La Tratto in Santa Lucia and, before that, over a pond at Rosas y Xocolate. This carries the idea further, incorporating solid colors that were drawn from the original patterns.
The patterned tiles won’t only appear to be square carpets; they will be our runners for the center hall that the architect describes as the “axis” of the house, beginning at the front door. After two sets of rooms, the center hall will be bridged with a stone path in the center courtyard, continue again as patchwork tile past the kitchen and media room and through the terrace, and then terminate as a limestone path out back.
The floor design also follows the overall aesthetic: everything salvaged in the design of what is essentially a new, modern house “are witnesses bearing testimony to the house,” as the builder told us. A chimney that has long since served its purpose is now affixed to another wall. Pieces of the original structure are now purely decorative, small points of interest on a wall. The old beams won’t be holding anything up, other than the history of the house, and are being scrubbed and sealed for their new life on our terrace.
At the beginning of the project, we said we wanted warm, soothing colors in our “monastic” home. So the kitchen will have a lot of rich grays, too. Gray Silastone quartz countertops and backsplash, a gray Blanco quartz composite sink, with stained hardwoods for the light fixture, center table and cabinets, and natural tones in the chukum walls, will beg for a big color splash. What will that color be and where will it go? We’re deciding. Maybe more green? Well, maybe not. We’ve done green. We’re doing lots of neutrals. There are lots of untapped hues on the spectrum.