FMT Estudio: La Casita showcases the potential of small Centro properties

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Veronica Garibay
Veronica Garibay
Verónica Garibay Saldaña is a Mexican columnist, communications major, and poetry enthusiast. Sign up for the Yucatán Roundup, a free newsletter, which delivers the week's top headlines every Monday.

FMT says that space is not infinite. And this is a good thing. 

Small homes are not necessarily uncomfortable. Many residents in downtown Mérida know this as a fact. Back in the day, most Centro properties were rather narrow in width and very deep. This created weird configurations which might have been practical in the past but have become somewhat uncomfortable by today’s standards.

The library of La Casita, a focal point of the project. Photo: Courtesy of FMT Estudio

In today’s Centro, many of the homes in the market require a thoughtful transformation. People are looking for properties that maintain the original essence of what there was, whilst becoming functional and enjoyable. 

FMT faced this challenge in 2018 with a project they dubbed “La Casita.”

The “before” state of the room would later become the library. Photo: Courtesy of FMT Estudio

“The clients were moving into this property from a home almost three times its size,” says Orlando Franco, one-half of FMT Estudio. “They were used to having space to spare. When they arrived, things just wouldn’t fit around the house, and it made it feel rather smothered. We needed to tackle both the space and the furniture we placed in it.” 

The fundamental premises of the project were books and clothes. There were a lot of them. And considering the limited proportions of the space, built-in cabinets and shelves became a must in the layout. Orlando and his wife-business partner Zaida Briceño welcomed the challenge happily.

The living room, adjacent to the library, showcases a light, grayish-green which is seen all throughout the project. Photo: Courtesy of FMT Estudio

“We wanted something that became an extension of the design. We love it when we can participate in the interior design of the home to this extent. It gives us a chance to develop a beautiful, practical solution within the architectural development,” says Orlando.

From there, the second challenge to tackle was the lack of light and air. Like most old Centro homes, the property had little natural light, with few windows and openings.

Before photo of the inner courtyard. Photo: Courtesy of FMT Estudio

“The house was not colonial as such, it was a colonial-style house,” Orlando says. “It had an interior courtyard, which brought us closer to the idea of ventilation. There was no light from the sides, only from the front and back. We sought a feeling of space which prioritized ventilation, and for that, we highlighted the courtyard.”

In order to reframe the spaces of the home, many areas shifted. The kitchen was moved: it became the bathroom, and the living room became the kitchen.

Renewed kitchen, overlooking the courtyard, which was turned into an indoors-outdoors dining room. Photo: Courtesy of FMT Estudio

These were aggressive changes for such a small space, and the number of materials and the people made it a complex process.

The “before” state of the kitchen, which was moved into the space the bathroom occupied. Photo: Courtesy of FMT Estudio

“In the end, the biggest challenge was the remodeling itself, because of the limited space we had to navigate. But it forced us to be creative, and to think of new ways to see the layout and optimize it,” says Orlando.

The furniture for the kitchen, particularly the cabinets, was designed with a subtle Asian influence. Photo: Courtesy of FMT Estudio

Through these movements, they recovered the outer courtyard and created a dining room without a roof.

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“This is not something you typically find around the city. We think that Mérida’s sun rays might be too harsh to handle, but we placed a glass roof with UV protection overtop, and this helps us shield part of the heat without giving up on the daylight.”

The open-aired dining area. Photo: Courtesy of FMT Estudio

The green color of the walls in the courtyard was also a conscious decision based on the intention of the clients.

“They wanted to convey freshness and neutrality. Vibrant colors would warm up the space, so we chose that neutral tone, which also echoes the Japanese aesthetic, another important cornerstone we were after,” says Orlando.

The green hue was chosen as a way to bring air and space into the home. Photo: Courtesy of FMT Estudio

Sutil Asian nods are found in the different areas of the home. A bright blue piece welcomes the guests into the home, where you remove your shoes. The furniture which the team designed for the kitchen uses detailed window panes and panels in a symmetrical, delicate fashion. All these small details, which are purposely integrated into the space, convey the feeling the clients were after.

The bathroom holds the same symmetric details found throughout the home, a detail inspired by a Japanese aesthetic. Photo: Courtesy of FMT Estudio

“Literality is not part of the work we do,” says Orlando. “We prefer abstracting elements which make sense in whichever space we’re creating. We don’t want the design to clash with its surroundings. It’s about balancing the design intention with the client’s objects and experiences.”

Follow FMT Estudio on Instagram.

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