Pacific Lodgings

In an ocean-side retreat in Cabo San Lucas, interior designer

Katherine Lockett Pullen offers a fresh take on Mexican colonial style

text by Terri Feder   photos by Dave Siegel

The back terrace features a negative-edge swimming pool.

Cabo San Lucas, a city at the southern tip of the Baja California peninsula, is among Mexico’s most colorful and popular tourist destinations. With its ocean backdrop, vibrant marine life, powdery beaches, dramatic waves and coastline studded with lavish resorts and tony timeshares, the city beckons scuba divers, snorkelers, boaters, fishing enthusiasts and other revelers looking for immersion in la buena vida. Thanks to temperate climes and its close proximity to the West Coast—about two and a half hours by plane from Los Angeles and Phoenix—the city has become a favorite vacation destination for Americans and others in search of sun, fun and relaxation. So popular is Cabo that many people have invested in second homes there.

This Cabo home, which was completed in 2011 for Quivira, a company that specializes in multi-owner luxury vacation communities, is perhaps the quintessential vacation retreat. Set on a prime parcel of beachfront property, with sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean and surrounding mountaintops, the dream domicile is shared by multiple owners under a fractional purchase plan. “Part of the reasoning behind this type of ownership is that there is a high level of interest in visiting Cabo for a few weeks a year rather than assuming whole ownership of a home there,” says interior designer Katherine Lockett Pullen, Allied ASID, of Studio V Interior Design, who conceived the residence’s interior and exterior spaces. The American Resort Development Association’s ACE International Project of Excellence Award Winner for 2015, the stunning house owes much of its winning character to Pullen. The designer and her team selected all the finishes—flooring, cabinetry, countertops, tile work—as well the décor: furniture, rugs, wall and window treatments, decorative lighting and art.

This vacation home in Cabo San Lucas features a grand entry courtyard.

When she was initially approached for a design concept for the property, Pullen knew that the aesthetic she presented would need to have widespread appeal and include all the luxe bells, whistles and amenities affluent clients expect. Her approach flew in the face of the long-held assumption of Mexican designers that Americans, who often are the majority owners in such properties, prefer an “American” aesthetic. “What we initially observed when we started traveling to Cabo was that the multitude of designers specialty from Mexico thought that a more familiar “American” design aesthetic would be most desirable for an American client or buyer when the opposite is actually true,” shares the designer. “The American buyer travels to Cabo to embrace the Mexican culture, architecture and design, not an American theme or design character.”

Pullen proposed a classic, yet modern take on Mexican hacienda style. “We presented what we believe reflects an authentic interior design aesthetic to attract multiple owners in a traditional, yet fresh design approach that reflects an elegant Mexican Colonial hacienda,” she explains. To that end, she and her team incorporated a plethora of natural materials from Mexico. “We selected an off-white travertine tile for the flooring to reflect the proximity of the ocean. It’s light and airy and indigenous to Mexico,” she explains. Kitchen countertops are sheathed in a granite that also comes from local sources. Hailing as well from the region are wooden beams arranged in complex Mexican-style beam structures. Antique Mexican doors, ironworks and silver accent pieces also figure prominently. Lending historic character throughout the house are an abundance of Mexican Colonial reproduction pieces, such as the matching armoires that flank the living room fireplace and several carved beds. The final traditional touches come by way of art and accessories crafted by local artisans, including an abundance of classic blue-and-white Talavera pottery.

Pullen picked a color scheme that takes its inspiration from the home’s coastal setting as well as the country’s vibrant pottery. “The color palette reflects shades of blue inspired by the proximity of the ocean and Talavera pottery,” she says. “Various shades of terracotta complement the blue hues and also reflect an authentic Mexican design expression.” These shades appear in upholstery fabrics, tile work, art, rugs, accessories, hand-painted furniture and Venetian plastered accent walls.

Rich wood beams highlight the ceiling in the great room and a hand-carved fireplace anchors the space.

With an open, yet defined floor plan, the two-story, 4,500-square-foot house is ideal for entertaining and enjoying an indoor/outdoor lifestyle. Interior and exterior spaces meld together at the touch of a button. “This is perhaps the highlight of the home,” states the designer. “All exterior doorways open up to reveal a no-walls and no-windows approach, with an interior that expands into a series of exterior terraces. At any given moment, all inner spaces can be opened so that the outdoors is really the indoors and the indoors is really the outdoors.”

An amenity-filled back terrace has been outfitted with an alfresco kitchen with both lounge and banquette seating, a sala abierta, or outdoor living room, is replete with a built-in TV, dining table and bar. A sunken fire pit is surrounded by a large pool and arrayed with Sunbrella-upholstered cushions and pillows, and a pergola houses hammocks that hover over the pool’s cool waters.

The dining area, which occupies a section of the great room, features vistas of the ocean on one end and views toward the entry courtyard on the other. It also has sliding glass doors that pocket into the walls, extending the space into the outdoor terrace. Furnishings include a carved dining table from Mexico that is flanked by host and hostess chairs upholstered in a combination of velvet and an embroidered fabric. Atop the table, pieces of local Talavera pottery and antique silver candelabras pay homage to the country’s skilled artisans.

The great room, which also connects to the back terrace, features matching sofas with carved bases and legs. Upholstered in a simple, yet sumptuous chenille fabric with nail-head trim, they are dressed with accent pillows that reflect a fresh interpretation of Mexican textiles. An over-scaled coffee table was hand-carved to accommodate the room’s size; mercury-glass balls on it add a touch of sparkle.

These days, the well-furnished home, which has been christened Novaspania Viceroy, has no shortage of visitors, and its interior designer has no shortage of assignments. “I’m currently working on twelve projects in Mexico,” says Pullen, who continues to celebrate authenticity and regional materials and craftsmanship whenever she can.