When Belgian architect Wonne Ickx and Spanish curator Ruth Estévez bought a small 1910 row house in the Roma neighborhood of Mexico City ten years ago, the building was in rough shape, with earthquake-damaged floors and an awkward layout. After spending the past seven years living and teaching in Los Angeles, Ickx and Estévez have returned to the house with their two sons—but only after transforming it into a colorfully finished home.
Originally built as a suburban play- ground for Mexico City’s captains of industry, Roma slipped into impoverishment and was eventually engulfed by the 20-million-strong megalopolis. The devastating 1985 earthquake, which killed thousands and leveled countless historic buildings, exacerbated the situation; the disaster was particularly brutal to the neighborhood, which sits on loose clay soil. In recent years, though, the area has finally seen a change in its luck. Filled with galleries, restaurants, art studios, and offices, the once-down- trodden neighborhood is taking part in Mexico City and its rich design scene.
Ickx, a partner in Mexico City–based firm PRODUCTORA, which led the renovation, and Estévez embraced some of the house’s original character while updating and refining every room. Play- ing off of an existing green and black tile pattern on the ground floor, custom
Formica-clad built-ins were backed by deep green wainscoting, which wraps the family spaces. Throughout the rest of the home, a full range of verdant tones was introduced via locally sourced cement tiles, powder-coated steel details, rich Calacatta marble, and simply painted steel window frames. Offsetting this palette are natural and engineered wood finishes and floors. Recinto, a popular local black volcanic stone used on outdoor patios through- out the city, also makes an appearance.
Along with their careful attention to color and material, the architects re- imagined the layout of the house. On the ground floor, the kitchen was moved out of a small space into the rear of the main living area. This made way for a small television room and a guest bed- room and ensured that the main living space would become the center of activity. The second floor was ceded to the kids, who also preside over a play area built above a small half bath below the staircase. The entire third floor is a master suite, complete with two plant- filled terraces.
In the years Ickx and Estévez lived in the U.S., the house was rented to a nearby gallery as art storage and office space. Now, as a thoughtfully finished family home, the petite row house is enjoying a second life.
Header image: Much of the house takes a cue from the existing black and green tile floor of the living room. A chestnut leather couch by Pirwi and a clear wood table by Metropolitana, along with other new and vintage furniture, create a quiet family sitting area. (Onnis Luque)