Summer Thornton’s Living Room Is an Homage to Mexican Design

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Every now and then, I come across a room so stirringly evocative of its locale that I feel emotionally transported to that place just by looking at a photo. Our new cover, which features the living room of designer Summer Thornton’s vacation home in Sayulita, Mexico, does just that.

It’s not just the palm-dappled beach view—though, of course, that doesn’t hurt. This room sends visual cues of its Mexican heritage in every design detail. There are the rose-hued walls, made of concrete and plastered in traditional Mayan chukum; the locally quarried vein-cut travertine floors; even the vintage Mexican textiles on the sofa pillows that Thornton began collecting long before having a home here.

“The whole house is an ode to Mexican design and craftsmanship,” says Thornton. “The biggest compliment to me is when Mexican people come and say ‘it feels so Mexican, but in a way we’ve never seen before.’”

But it’s the living room furniture, all of which was designed and made in Mexico, that stands out to me as particularly thoughtful, intentional, and beautiful. (To be sure, the umbrella visible from the living room is by Santa Barbara Designs.) “Chic and casual—I really wanted this house to have that feeling,” says Thornton. “Mexican furniture in general is easy. It’s overscaled, and it’s meant to live—riotously, even. It’s not made for any sort of show, and thus it lends itself to that very easy elegance I wanted.”

When I asked her about sourcing all Mexican furniture, Thornton acknowledged it was a challenge, albeit a fun and rewarding one. “It took a long time. I scoured the country for cool Mexican makers and would often contact people through Instagram,” she says. “I found it exhilarating not to rely exclusively on websites.”

Anchoring the sunken space is a custom Parota wood coffee table by Mestiz, a furniture studio in San Miguel de Allende and one of our Next Legend Mexican furniture makers. The custom table, dubbed ‘the tortuga’ after the turtles that lay eggs on the beach in front of the house, is made of tropical wood that can withstand the seaspray. As can the pair of cane-backed chairs by Comite de Proyectos. Besides the built-in sofa, all of the seating is wood or rattan. “Varying the texture became important so as not to resemble a set,” Thornton says, adding, “heavy wood furniture just feels Mexican to me.”

Other textures, like the Peca side tables’ juxtaposition of matte terracotta and blown glass, further dimensionalize the serene space. “The terracotta blends with the walls but the glass captures the ocean. Since I wasn’t playing with as much pattern, I wanted to mix the materials. My eyes get bored easily,” Thornton says with a laugh.

Loto Side Table
Impronta Terracota Small by Peca
Impronta Terracota Small by Peca
Impronta Terracota Large by Peca
Impronta Terracota Large by Peca

Apart from the textiles she had collected, the Casamidy lamp, made of welded iron nuts with a gold leaf finish and one of four that light the corners of the room, was the first piece Thornton bought for the room. “They have the prettiest, softest glow at night.” (Casamidy is another of our five Next Legend makers.)

Though this room isn’t filled with Thornton’s typical layers of patterns (like her Chicago home), it still feels warm and well-appointed. The space effortlessly blends into its tropical surroundings and has a storied character, even though the home is a new build. Most importantly, perhaps, is how Thornton prioritized working with Mexican artisans and makers to bring this room to life. Talk about instilling a sense of place.

Lettermark

Steele Marcoux is the Editor in Chief at VERANDA, covering design trends, architecture, and travel for the brand.

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