By Deborah Van Hoewyk
So, you’ve just joined the ranks of Huatulco’s expats. You rented or bought a house or a condo, and supposedly it came furnished—but not so much. You sank all your pesos into your abode, so now what do you do? It probably didn’t come with a lot of gorgeous tilework, or natural wood beams, or carved window screens, or any of the other delights that show up in the halfdozen high-end Mexican shelter books. And it definitely doesn’t “look like a million bucks” coastal-modern.
But it can – it’s pretty easy to approximate a Mexican-style house at a reasonable price (whether you’re in Huatulco or not)—the cheapest trick of all is to paint one or all the walls a great color. And achieving Mexican Modernism is just as easy, if you remember that “less is more” and walls should be white.
A few caveats before you begin:
·Stop worrying—it’s not as if you’re going to freeze to death if the windows are rotting out. ·It helps to speak Spanish.
·It helps to have a truck or car, or friends with trucks or cars, but you’d be surprised what can fit into a Mexican taxi.
·It helps to have some do-it-yourself skills, not to mention a sewing machine.
You Can Save the Most on (Surprise!) Furniture It’s possible to save money on pretty much everything you need to furnish your house, but you can actually save the most on furniture, because you’re going to buy it on the street It won’t even be garbage day! It will cost a lot less, and it will take a little work on your part, but what you get will be truly yours. We are talking about tables of all sizes, dining chairs, bookcases, storage cabinets, bureaus—pretty much everything except upholstered chairs. This furniture is usually made of some variety of pine, so you will need to finish the piece with polyurethane or paint to keep the termites out. Huatulco is home to some fearsome termites, which can hollow out any type of softwood, from tables and chairs to doors and door jambs, until they are paper-thin.
Street furniture in Huatulco is found in Sector T. Heading out of town on Chahue Boulevard, turn right at the sign for Sector T (before Soriana and the ADO bus station) and you’re on a street called Secunda Bahia de Tangolunda. At your second right, arranged on the median strip of the street that leads to Construrama, is furniture that comes in from towns around Oaxaca de Juárez, Puebla, and sometimes Veracruz. It is not always there, but it’s frequently there during high season. Sometimes furniture made up in Sector H3 comes down the hill on handcarts and sets up anywhere it can. The only problem with Sector T furniture is that, because it comes from a distance, the chances of customizing it to order are limited. On a recent December morning, there were bed stands, bureaus, wardrobes, and tables; a wardrobe with great possibilities for painting it in Mexican style was $1500 mxn.
The Monday market in Pochutla is a more reliable source and carries the widest assortment of furniture. You can also ask for a modified version of anything there, and it will be done in “quince días”—two weeks. If you show up with a picture, you can negotiate other pieces.
The furniture is located at the far end of the market, going out of town. On a recent Monday, there were three stalls operated by carpenters from Miahuatlán. A one-meter dining table was $350 mxn, two meters was $760 mxn, and a large bookcase was $1,200 mxn. A cute little cupboard with an ironing board top was $880 mxn.
When you get your treasure home, decide whether to sand it down and apply several coats of polyurethane, or paint it. You can get small containers of latex/acrylic paint at Comex on the zocalo in La Crucecita and at DuPont at Ocotillo 411, just before it curves into Jazmin. Occasionally the stationery stores (papelerías) carry acrylic paints.
In either case, you will want to put several protective coats of water-based polyurethane over your colors. If you want to get carried away with designs to paint on flat surfaces, you can google ”Mexican design motifs” on Amazonand find a number of books with a free “Look Inside,” everything from ancient geometric motifs to current indigenous designs. Or you can just google something you like, such as “Huichol art” or “tejuana design.” You then copy or “snip” the design you like, print it out, and go back to the papelería for carbon paper to copy your creation onto your table top or cupboard door.
One last note—although you’ll have difficulty getting upholstered chairs on a constrained budget, keep your eye out for the trucks carrying Acapulco chairs. They come into Sector T for the most part, although one year, a truck set up on the sidewalk by the Mormon church. They cost about $300 – $350 pesos, maybe a tenth of what they’re going for in New York City.
If you’ve saved enough so you want to splurge, there are a couple of stores with expensive, stylish furniture: Architect Ernesto Cruz carries furniture along with high-end building materials at Decoraciones (west side of Violetas north of Sabali, no street sign but Sabali Hotel is on corner) or Casa Bonita in Plaza Oaxaca on the main square in La Crucecita.
You can also get practically anything made by a finish carpenter in the area; just ask someone who’s had furniture made to order for a recommendation. (Of course, recliners with drink holders are available at Sam’s Club in Salina Cruz, very comfy for the Grey Cup or the Superbowl.)
Design Impacts with Mexican “Stuff”
If you’re going to live here year-round, you can do a lot with plants in the interior. And if you have exterior spaces, plants are where it’s at. Back inside, there are many tropical plants that will grow in low light and offer great structure for empty spaces. Not to mention that terra cotta (barra) pots make great bases for occasional tables, catchalls, you name it.
There are two nurseries (viveros) in La Crucecita: Vivero La Ceiba, at the bottom of Carrizal where it turns to the west, and Eden, on the southwest corner of Bugambilia and Ceiba.
La Ceiba’s proprietor, Marcus, also carries many pots (macetas) in varying, sometimes quite modern, styles; if Marcus is planning a trip to Monterrey, you can order enough of one style so they all match. He also has some unpainted peacock pots from Amatenango in Chiapas, home of the brightly painted peacocks, greyish doves, and just recently, owls. Marcus speaks English and knows his plants extremely well.
Eden has a lot of plants to choose from, in very good condition, and a more limited stock of macetas. Fonatur has opened a vivero at its facility on Guelaguetza (on the west side of the canal) at the corner of Vialidad 5; they have a lot of the standard plants; the dracaenas will grow quite tall, even in low light.
Over in Sector U, or maybe U2, at the other end of Guelaguetza on the east side of the canal, is Vivero Yaga Pomba, open from 8:00 AM to 7:00 PM, from Monday to Saturday. If proprietor Jorge Luis Pineda Fuentes is not there, you can give him a call on his cell at 044 958 100 3466. While Jorge has a good assortment of plants, including basil and rosemary for your windowsills, he also brings barra light fixtures from Ixtaltepec in the Isthmus, which run in the neighborhood of $350 – 400 mxn. If you want a quantity of identical fixtures, he can take a drawing to Ixtaltepec and have them made for you.
And All That Jazz
There are macetas galore at the unnamed gift shop on the south (water) side of Santa Cruz Boulevard, but this shop is where you can find lots of things with great possibilities for inexpensive décor: brightly painted bowls and platters work well on the wall, and most already have a loop for hanging. For similar wares, check the shop further up Santa Cruz Boulevard at the corner of Mitla, the tourist market on Santa Cruz Boulevard by the egress from the harbor, and the Tres de Mayo market between Guamuchil and Guanacaste in La Crucecita.