As we emerge from a chilly winter, I’m desperately in need of the promise of summer days around the corner. I’ve noticed some inspiring and optimistic interiors from Mexico, and this look feels just perfect for the mood right now. It’s exciting to see how colour and pattern are used with such fun and confidence in Mexican buildings, to create memorable spaces and conjure emotion. Rooms feel uplifting, vibrant and lively. It’s not about creating a perfect space, rather it’s how to create a sense of conviviality; friends that visit feel instantly at ease, conversation flows and it just feels good.
This style is defined by a generous layering of bold colour, tactile materials and pattern. Traditional architecture is layered with a combination of exquisite handcrafted objects by skilled artisans, or perhaps a concrete Brutalist spaced is filled with vintage pieces. It would be remiss when talking about colourful Mexican architecture without mentioning Luis Barragán. Known for his use of colour, light, shadow, form and texture, his work continues to inspire designers and architects long after his death in 1988. His approach embraced the principles of Modernism while remaining deeply rooted in Mexican tradition, and I for one, was pretty excited to discover his work as a design student. Finally, we were allowed to talk about colour!
In Mexico we see a blend of history, luxury with a sense of fun too. Designers seem to have an unbridled license to use colour in Mexico, in a way that seems so natural. Patterned tiles and saturated colours are at ease amongst lush vegetation.
In these spaces, there’s a perfect meeting of a minimal and maximalist approach. The buildings are pared back and have nothing to hide, the structure is on display; beams, stone and concrete walls. They are not ‘smoothed over’ and covered with plasterboard and then painted. It means that even a minimalist building exudes loads of character through the contrasting textures, shadows and the ever present plant life, be it indoors our via the views outside.
Key style tips:
When combining colour, the most important thing is tone. Let me explain; A tone is a hue (colour) mixed with gray. The hue could be mixed with a very light grey which turns the colour into a pastel. Or if the colour is mixed with a darker grey it will be a muddier colour. Basically I think that almost any colours will work together as long as they are a similar tone; they have the same type of grey added to them. Pastel colours work with other pastel colours; and brights work with brights. This is an easy way to combine colours so that the result will be harmonious.
Using pattern in a room adds vibrancy in a way that colour and texture alone can’t. Pattern breathes life into a room, gives it energy and adds movement. There are two rules you need to consider otherwise using pattern in a room can look too crazy; scale and type of pattern.
Firstly we need to make sure that the scale of two patterns isn’t the same because they compete and it looks confusing. So make sure there is a large scale pattern combined with a small scale pattern. A large floral may have a pattern repeat of 100cm whereas a smart check could be 5cm and you’ll find that they work together in harmony.
Which leads into the next rule; the type of pattern. There should be a geometric pattern paired with an organic pattern. Patterns like stripes and checks complement the flowing patterns of leaves, flowers, animals, the vein of natural stone, that type of thing. There is contrast between those patterns and you’ll begin to notice it the next time you’re in a space that feels good to be in.
Lush plants are a must! Big green leaves of a monster or palms will give you an instant holiday vibe.
Rattan furniture adds a lightness and slightly tropical feel.
Tiles on the floor, walls or benchtops. Tiles aren’t reserved just for the kitchen splashback or bathroom, use them anywhere in the home. Choose if the focus is on colour or pattern, just don’t do both. Either go strong with the colour and use a plain or simple check pattern, or use a strong pattern in a limited colour palette.
Have fun! There is a playfulness and joy found in these Mexican spaces. They don’t take themselves too seriously and the look is as if the space has evolved over time. Add that thing that is a bit ‘off’ such as some weird art or a kooky hat collection!