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Renovating Our Beach House, Volume 5

feature photo

Our never-ending quest for a life more awesome recently completed its most important chapter: the renovation of the living room. This was an important step, for one reason only: We will finally be DRY. Look, when you are still in the States, the idea of a beach house sounds like total paradise. And most of the time, it is. But what we never expected was that we would always be mildly WET, due to the high humidity and onshore ocean breeze. The breeze carries salt, and the salt corrodes. Between the wet air, the sand lot, and the salt, our romanticized ideas of beach life were definitely being challenged, as we found ourselves surrounded by mold, swelling, rotting wood, sand everywhere, and an almost mythical onslaught of rust.

The entire thing was bumming us out, and making us forget how truly amazing it is to live just a few steps from the tide. Last year, during a trip to visit friends in Malibu, California, and comparing their beachfront construction techniques, it dawned on me that we could approach our new lifestyle in a different way. We could Seal the F*cker Off.

The STFO Initiative, as it came to be known, is pretty radical in a place where the normal mode for construction is to encourage airflow and ocean breeze. As we have mentioned in earlier posts in this series, beachfront houses like ours are traditionally used for just a month or two a year, when a family home gets filled with people, all hanging hammocks in the shade and in the breeze. It’s a beautiful way to live, but it’s hell on your computer equipment.

The other downside, of course, will be electricity, one of the most expensive utilities here in Mexico. With the house sealed off, we will need to cool and dehumidify it, which ain’t gonna be cheap. We’ve read lots of estimates, and we haven’t gotten a bill yet, but we expect implementation of the STFO Initiative to add between $200 and $75,000 to our monthly bill. We have also decided we don’t care. Chalk it up to the cost of doing business, here. We will have a dry house. We will have things made of wood. We will not watch the microwave rust. We are reclaiming our humanity!

Jesus, this post is all over the place. Let’s just get to the pictures, and we can talk more later. Here are the before and afters, to get us going:

As you can see, what was, in our minds, a small project, ended up being a full replacement of…kind of everything. We had replaced the old windows with sliding glass doors almost two years ago, but everything else, from the floor tile to the ceiling fans, is new.

Here are a few more detail photos, or, as we so tastefully call them, “concrete-porn.”

Here is the massive entertainment center we had constructed. It stands about eight feet tall, which is nice, because the scale of the rest of the room is so big. It has four screen-fronted drawers for storage, and niches for the surround sound speakers. This idea was described to our architect as simply, "A big entertainment unit, with maybe an arched top." We are really happy with the amount of detail and work that went into the finished product.

Here is the massive entertainment center we had constructed. It stands about eight feet tall, which is nice, because the scale of the rest of the room is so big. It has four screen-fronted drawers for storage, and niches for the surround sound speakers. This idea was described to our architect as simply, "A big entertainment unit, with maybe an arched top." We are really happy with the amount of detail and work that went into the finished product.

In an effort to add some architectual detail to our "beach box," we added these beams to the 14-foot high ceilings. They serve to visually draw the ceiling down a little bit, reduce echo, and hey: I'd never seen them in a beach house here before. These are another nice touch that the humidity would have prevented us from being able to do, were it not for the STFO Initiative. Also visable is a new pendant lamp over what will become our temporary dining area, and the top corner of the entertainment unit. It looks a little blotchy, because the cement isn't dry yet.

In an effort to add some architectural detail to our "beach box," we added these beams to the 14-foot high ceilings. They serve to visually draw the ceiling down a little bit, reduce echo, and hey: I'd never seen them in a beach house here before. These are another nice touch that the humidity would have prevented us from being able to do, were it not for the STFO Initiative. Also visible is a new pendant lamp over what will become our temporary dining area, and the top corner of the entertainment unit. It looks a little blotchy, because the cement isn't dry yet.

Another beam glamour-shot. Also visible: the new 36,000 BTU minisplit a/c unit, rear surround sound speakers with buried wiring, spotlights to highlight the beams (can you tell we're proud of them?) and add a little indirect light, and my concrete "picture rail."

Another beam glamor-shot. Also visible: the new 36,000 BTU minisplit a/c unit, rear surround sound speakers with buried wiring, spotlights to highlight the beams (can you tell we're proud of them?) and add a little indirect light, and my concrete "picture rail."

Another cool detail was on the floor, with an idea borrowed from Merida's colonial homes: a "rug" made of tile. The edges of the room are tiled straight, and then there is a rectangular natural-stone border, with the same tile laid in a diamond pattern in the middle. The idea was good in our minds; it's even better in real life.

Another cool detail was on the floor, with an idea borrowed from Merida's colonial homes: a "rug" made of tile. The edges of the room are tiled straight, and then there is a rectangular natural-stone border, with the same tile laid in a diamond pattern in the middle. The idea was good in our minds; it's even better in real life.

This post was typed in our new, 68-degree, dry-as-a-bone living room, and we are thrilled with the results. With this phase of renovation, our reconstruction of our beach house is almost complete. Inside, we have to revisit the kitchen, undo some weirdness there, and then it is on to the outside. Stay tuned…it just gets better and better!

This project was completed by the consistently amazing Victor & Ingrid of the architecture firm of Carrillo and Peon. We love inviting them into our home to tear it apart, and are consistently stunned by their creativity and professionalism.

There Are 22 Responses So Far. »

  1. So, 200 to 75,000 pesos, that’s a rough estimate?

    The place looks fantastic, that entertainment city rocks (literally like rock, cement, eh, you know.) Now, where’s that furniture? :)

  2. Don’t tell me the furniture is going to be concrete too!!!.
    I will be interested to see what your first CFE bill will be.

  3. @CancunCanuck: Actually, I was speaking in dollars, but yes, that is a rough estimate. :) Furniture started coming in yesterday. Today, I am putting a desk together, and then I will post some updated photos with the room “loaded up.” Thanks for the compliments!

    @Nan: Yes, we are wondering about that. We really have reached the point though, where whatever it is, it’s not too much. The alternative seems to be replacing the entire contents of our house about twice a year, and I am getting tired of that. We are also running the a/c mostly in dehumidifier mode, which I am hoping will soften the blow somewhat. I’ll be sure to report what it ends up costing!

  4. Gorgeous you guys. When you take pictures will you take a few out the windows, too? (That’s always one of the first things I do when I walk in a new space.)

    Also, here in Mazatlan we’ve discovered that it IS cheaper to run on dehumidify and that you can actually keep the temperature higher and still be comfortable since it’s the moisture that really makes you miserable.

    Conratulations!

  5. Also looking at the stfo thing I want the view without the sand.
    your place looks great, does your arch. speak english? I would love his email if he does.

  6. Victor speaks better English than we do. You can reach him at carpe95@gmail.com .

  7. I’m sighing with delight for you! Can’t wait to see it, for real.

  8. Lovely. Are you insulating the roof? We found that our house is lots cooler since we put the glaringly white impermeabilizante on the roof. Also I did some research on low tech cooling, and one of the best things you can do is shade your walls, it isn’t an option for us, since our house extends onto the city streets but you have walk around space.
    Our bi-monthly CFE bill was $309 pesos this time, btw. Our lowest ever.
    regards,
    Theresa

  9. Thanks Theresa.

    Yes, we have our roof sealed. It helps, but not a ton; our CFE bills are already up over 2,000MXP, and that’s before the addition of this new monster. We’ll see!

  10. But just think of how much money you are saving by not having an office…..

    The house looks amazing.

  11. I am green with envy! I know it has been a challenging project, bit you have such a nice result. Love it!!

  12. Hi guys great post and house… congrats…

    My wife and I are considering building a home in mexico but are a little concerned with the laws and unions surrounding construction workers, holidays, insurance etc. Do you have any advice you could provide? Did you have any problems with communication? Did your quotes come in correct?

    Thanks for your time.

    Josh

  13. Hi
    I am looking at renovating a three bedroom three bath beach house in Chelam and am looking ast having to do a total redo such as yours. It is a single story home, what can I expect to pay rougly to do it to the quality of yours ie.new tile work, plumbing, bathrooms, kitchen, windows, doors, patio doors, electrical and extior. Even a rough cost per square foot would help greatly.
    Thanks
    Glenn Kilback

  14. Hi
    I a left a letter ou of my email response address can you correct it please?
    Thanks
    Glenn Kilback

  15. Hi Malcom,
    Love your websites. You and Jillian both crack us up and inspire us! I found Dropped In first while looking online for real estate in Chelem and then while we were in Chelem viewing properties, someone told me about Yolisto.com.

    Thank you both so much for blogging about your rennovation. We purchased a tiny beach front house (casita) in Chelem and want to do some changes very soon. We are still employeed in the US and can’t be in MX for weeks on end. Therefore, I am breaking my project down into much smaller subprojects. The first one being a complete small bathroom redo – much like yours. I love the polished concrete shower walls and vanity top – not a big fan of grout and grout problems. If it’s not too personal, would you mind telling me about how long and ball-park price to do just abathroom? I read enough to know that you guys like nice, more expensive tile, which is great because I’m sure that I will too! Given the options I always seem to like the prieciest ones. Thanks, Lisa (A.K.A. Mondaysme on Yolisto.com)

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