At the time, Santiago didn’t own furniture and slept on a mattress in the empty space – an image in stark contrast to the harmonious blend of modern vs vintage we now see. Vertiz spent years searching for pieces that inspire him, whilst highlighting his Mexican culture.
Fascinated by pre-Columbian cultures and inspired by childhood memories of his grandparents’ houses, many antique pieces fill the house, as well as colourful original modern art, handicrafts and textiles from Mexico and Guatemala.
Nature plays an important role throughout the home, and an entire wall of glass doors opens to the patio, seamlessly blending the indoors with the outdoors. Says Vertiz, “Plants play a very important role in life and in my home. They are the protagonists that bring life, change, and color.”
Santiago’s mission has been to recover, collect, restore, and redesign furniture and other pieces that inspire him, while working with the house’s unique architectural features to amplify its height and to bring life to the space.
What attracted you to your home?
Mexico City can be very hectic, you can easily spend half of your life in traffic. I felt it was a luxury to be able to walk to places without using a car.
I knew I wanted to live in a central location, close to the classic neighborhoods – Condesa, Roma and Polanco are some of the most well-known, but also in high demand. A friend introduced me to San Miguel Chapultepec, which is a residential neighborhood making it quiet, safe and strategically located. It’s across the street from Bosque de Chapultepec and home to many artists and galleries.
Secondly, I was excited by the architectural project. The architect’s goal was to make a town house project resembling a loft, instead of a classical building. There are actually ten identical houses with spacious, double-height ceilings overlooking a private terrace.
When I discovered the space, it had already been built, but I was able to modify the size of the terrace space, and since the view is very important to me, we made a front wall to allow plants to grow in.
Did you have a vision for your home?
I wanted my house to be a place I felt comfortable in, that I could enjoy and feel relaxed. I didn’t want to have a party house – as I said to an old roommate, “My house is my temple”.
I had to improvise and play around a lot with the location of certain pieces, so there was trial and error involved. I would stay up at night thinking of new things I could do to the house – it was a lot of fun!
How did your fascination with pre-Columbian cultures influence the design of your home?
My maternal grandparents came from Merida, Yucatan and had deep knowledge of Mayan cultures. My grandfather would tell us tales of his many visits into the jungle and his friendship with archeologist Alberto Ruz Lhuillier. Not only was he present in the discovery of the Pakal tomb, but he actually helped by providing some of the machinery needed to uncover the tomb. My oldest uncle, a boy at the time, took the first pictures ever of the tomb. I’ve inherited a deep admiration and respect for the Mayas and their communities.
One spring break my parents took us on a road trip, passing through Veracruz into Chiapas, and visiting different ruins along the way. We camped out in the middle of the jungle, next to the Usumacinta river on the border of Mexico and Guatemala. We walked some distance to the ruins of Yaxichilan, and in another location camped with a Lacandon Community, reliving the experience that my grandfather once had.
When I visit a region, anywhere in the world, I value the natives’ culture and appreciate the hard work and beauty that goes into their handcrafts.