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New York fashion designer Jenne Maag’s Centro home will always be in style

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Lee Steele
Lee Steele
Lee Steele is the founding director of Roof Cat Media and has published Yucatán Magazine and other titles since 2012. Sign up for our weekly newsletters, so our best stories will appear in your inbox every Monday.
Jenne Maag’s Mérida home has no shortage of drama. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Texas-born Jenne Maag is known in the fashion world for her eponymous SoHo boutique. A lesser-known project of hers began almost 20 years ago when she snapped up a romantically ornate casona on Calle 47 in Mérida.  

“What do you know about the history of the house?” I ask. “Nothing,” comes the quick reply.

The rear garden is one of the newer improvements in Jenne Maag’s Mérida casona. Photo: Lee Steele / Yucatán Magazine

“I bought it online without coming to look at it in 2004,” Maag says. “When I called them, they said, ‘somebody has bought it already,’ so I asked, ‘Did they leave a check?’ And they said no. And I said, ‘I’ll send you one today.’ So I sent them a check.”

“I sold all my houses and just kept this to live in. I didn’t know anything. I didn’t know anyone in Mérida,” Jenne says.

New York fashion designer Jenne Maag had coveted one of those historic-center mansions since the early 1980s. Now in her 18th year living in one of them, her glamorous home is still a work in progress. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

She has no regrets for going big when most expats were purchasing modest homes. 

“My friends have all upgraded their houses here since I’ve been here,” she adds. “I’m the only one that has kept the same house because I bought what I wanted.” 

Much of the furniture in one seating area comes from her West 57th Street apartment facing Carnegie Hall in New York City. She’s also owned homes in Cornwall Bridge, Connecticut; and Chianti, Italy. But since her first time here on a vacation in 1982, she had dreamed of a house in Mérida. 

“It was really great,” Jenne recalls. “For sale was just mansion after mansion, all in disrepair, which I loved. So I always said I’d like to have a house there.”

She’s improved an already perfect house. Jenne has expanded the house from two bedrooms to five, now at 9,000 square feet, complete with a striking reflecting pool that runs alongside the downstairs bedrooms.

The rear garden is one of the newer improvements in Jenne Maag’s Mérida casona. Photo: Lee Steele / Yucatán Magazine

The rear garden was recently refined with a fountain and stone walls. For planters, she has five busts along the pathway. Behind the pool are her “Nefertitis,” three regal ladies. They are a testament to her eye for talent. 

“I had those heads carved. And the stone carver had never done a head before,” Jenne tells me. “He didn’t speak English, and I didn’t speak Spanish. But I told him what I wanted.”

The rear of the house looms large over the garden, caged on elegant and ornate metalwork. She points at the “opium den” — what she calls an extravagant lounge upstairs.

The previous owner and original renovator, Raymond, has left Mérida for the United States, his legacy being around 10 beautiful homes in the Centro. Two have become hotels, Jenne informs me. 

“When I die or sell, or whatever, they’ll turn this into a hotel,” Jenne says. “I think this is the best house he did.”

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