Imagine a tree house in a sun-dappled pine-and-ash forest. That was the vision decorator Alejandra Redo conjured when she first arrived at a hillside construction site in Guadalajara, Mexico, where a young family was building an aerie that seemed to float among the trees. The two-level house was being meticulously constructed on a slope overlooking a shallow, secluded valley.
The two-level house of steel and glass has cladding of concrete, zinc, and walnut.
Working with Mexico City architects Imanol Legorreta and Pablo Sepúlveda, the owners were involved in every detail of the planning of the steel, glass, and wood structure. "They knew exactly what they wanted, and how they wanted it," says Sepúlveda.
The 6,500-square-foot house was designed to be open to Guadalajara's benevolent climate. "The light we have is fantastic," says Sepúlveda, though controlling it can be a challenge. "You have to be careful with the amount of light you put in a project."
A vertical garden and a steel-framed water-lily pond by landscape designer Juan Montaño at the entrance.
The husband and wife chose Redo, an old family friend, to decorate the house at Legorreta's suggestion. They visited her home in Mexico City (featured in ELLE DECOR, November 2013) and were entranced by her riotous sense of color and pattern. "That's why we thought of Alejandra, because her house is not modern," the wife says. "We wanted to make our modern space feel cozy and warm."
The kitchen cabinetry, vent hood, and table are by Boffi, the countertop is Caesarstone, the sink fittings are by Dornbracht, the range is by Wolf, and the ovens are by Miele.
But the sleek architecture of their home called for a less whimsical approach than Redo's. "Your house is going to be very clean," she recalls telling the couple. "This home is all about design. You really have to think about each piece."
Arriving early in the project gave Redo the time to start collecting items, even before she knew where she would put them. Her very first purchase was a midcentury black-and-gold table lamp by Arturo Pani, brother of the Mexican modernist architect Mario Pani. She made it the centerpiece of the living room and "worked from there."The two-level house of steel and glass has cladding of concrete, zinc, and walnut.
In the living room, the sofa, ottoman, and chairs are by Maxalto, and the cocktail table and circular side table are by B&B Italia. The piano is by Blüthner, and the side table between the chairs is by Vitra; the ceiling is paneled in walnut, the wall behind the sofa is clad in steel, and the rug is an antique Persian.
She chose a muted color scheme, covering the living room's sofas and ottoman in a deep gray velour that looks almost blueberry in the light. Two red velvet chairs add heat to the composition, echoing the warm hues in the antique Persian rug. Redo's signature love of Mexican fabrics is everywhere: in the shawls, called rebozos, that she drapes over furniture and in the cushions she has made from local textiles.
When the children return from school on weekday afternoons, the family of four eats a late Mexican lunch in the dining room, which is contiguous with the living area and faces a leafy grove. The room's Mexican walnut paneling adds warmth to the cool steel structure and marble surfaces.
A pine tree intersects the ceiling and floor in the entry, which has a Louis XV-style console and an artwork by Leslie Sardinias. The walls are painted in Grava by Comex, and the door is parota wood.
As spare as the house is, Redo's quirky sensibility does filter through. Her fearless eye is immediately on display in the entry hall, where a pine tree pierces the ceiling and floor. She hung a modern painting by the Cuban-born artist Leslie Sardinias (who recently designed the set for the New York City Ballet's American Rhapsody) over a reproduction Louis XV console. For the guest bath, she commissioned a Venetian-style mirror, adding a fanciful flourish to an otherwise contemporary space. "I am not afraid of mi periods, colors, or designers," says Redo. "I like everything eclectic."
A guest bath has a sink by Alape with fittings by Dornbracht; the counter is Carrara marble, and the mirror was custom made.
The family room is another case in point. It is anchored by a magnificent silk wall hanging that has been fashioned from a traditional man's robe the homeowners found in Bhutan, but the mix also includes a bold geometric cotton rug that Redo designed and had made in India. In the same space, a vintage Arco floor lamp by Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni—a family heirloom—arcs over a modern sofa and a pair of Wegner cowhide Shell chairs.
The family room's sofa and ottoman are by Ligne Roset, the Saarinen side table is by Knoll, and the chairs are by Hans Wegner. The Arco lamp is by Flos, the pillows and rug are custom designs, and the tapestry was created from a traditional Bhutanese man's robe.
The family room opens out on both sides, to the garden atop the bedrooms below, as well as to a deck aligned to the kitchen. On weekends the family hosts barbecues, with adults moving back and forth from the kitchen to the deck, tequila glasses in hand (Guadalajara's state of Jalisco is home to the agave spirit), while children dart across the green spaces and open rooms.
The bed, dresser, and side tables in the master bedroom are by Roche Bobois; the Eames chair and ottoman are by Herman Miller, the bedside lights are by FontanaArte, and the wall is painted in Patagonia by Comex.
The bedrooms, down a wooden staircase, are simple, bathed in light, and economical on details. Redo indulged in color for the children, all pink for the girl and a blue-and-red scheme for the boy.
And she suggested an eccentric touch for this family of hunters. The red wallpaper in the boy's room is a copy of a classic design—leaping zebras pursued by arrows—that once covered the walls in Gino's, the late iconic Italian restaurant on New York's Upper East Side. It's a playful touch that reflects the lively spirit Redo brought to this serene house. "If there's a good vibe around what is going to be built," she says, "I get excited like a little girl."
This story originally appeared in the September 2016 issue of ELLE DECOR.