In Mexico, Trey Speegle Built a Home that Flows Naturally

As a brutalist artist’s retreat, Casa Cisterna was named for the water tank found on the property. Photos: Jasson Rodriguez

Even when it was half-finished, New York artist Trey Speegle‘s house was cool and compelling enough to be considered ready for showtime. 

Casa Cisterna, as he’s dubbed it, was still under construction when a popular Mexican YouTube channel, Cotaparedes Arquitectos, invited its Mérida architect, Erik González of González Estudio, to give a video tour of the house. It garnered 72,000 views in a year. 

Trey Speegle's house in Mexico
Casa Cisterna, before and after work began with architect Erik González. The original facade was a mish-mash of styles, but now visually divides the house neatly into service, public and private areas.

Cisterna is a part-time abode and income property for Trey Speegle, a New York artist and art director whom Yucatán Magazine approached about featuring his new home in a spread. (Trey also became the magazine’s creative director for several months and was guest editor of the Design Issue. He was also hired to redesign the magazine’s logo and overall look.)

Trey Speegle's house in Mexico
“Practically every front room in Mérida is wasted. Why not make a private gallery?” artist Trey Speegle suggests. So the entrance to Casa Cisterna is just that.

In Trey’s words, the home rose over an “amazing property” in the often-overlooked Jesús Carranza neighborhood, bordered by Itzimná to the north and by La Plancha to the south. 

Trey Speegle's house in Mexico
Trey Speegle’s Mérida kitchen has a muted and narrow color palette, clad mainly in tinted concrete.

What makes this lot amazing is both its size and its configuration. It’s over 50 feet wide on the main entrance side and 100 feet deep, with a separate street entrance around the corner. That’s where a 30-by-40-foot “bonus lot” ices the cake.

The house was remodeled with a new façade, courtyard, and parking area. Out back, behind an 11-meter lap pool, is a guest casita that has three bedrooms, two baths, and its own compact kitchen. Breeze blocks on the casita terrace are actually dark gray corner cinder blocks turned sideways. Cisterna’s wow moment appears in the form of a wide concrete spiral staircase that anchors the exterior and resembles a swirling ribbon alongside a pretty gift box. 

Trey Speegle's house in Mexico
Casa Cisterna gets its name from the large water tank found on the original property. The cistern was transformed into a water feature that anchors the main courtyard.

The courtyard’s other showpiece is a refashioned cistern that recirculates water into the pool. The concept is not new, but the execution is extravagant. The cistern fountain offsets the chukum and stone architectural elements, perched on a pedestal that contains the waterworks, a structure roughly the size of the water tank itself.  

Trey Speegle's house in Mexico was featured in Yucatán Magazine, which he art directed and redesigned.
Casa Cisterna was featured on the cover of Yucatán Magazine’s 2023 Design Issue. The casita’s wide, concrete spiral staircase is a standout feature.

“The existing cistern was the main feature that we decided to highlight from the beginning. By drawing the pool from that starting point, we were able to divide the garden/terrace into a private smaller space for Trey Speegle’s bedroom and a larger social area that connects to the living room and kitchen, perfect for large gatherings. The round concrete staircase references the water tower in shape and took one month to make by hand,” says Erik.

Trey Speegle's Mérida house.
The primary suite shower’s side walls allow for exactly nine tiles wide as the white pasta tile with a black border could not be cut. The bamboo ladder was shipped from New York.

Trey and Erik worked on the layout and design for two years, and Erik remembers their agreed-upon philosophy. 

“Casa Cisterna was a project where past and present were very important to our vision. Through references to the existing house, we brought elements of traditional Yucatecan architecture to the façade like mampostería, celosias, and concrete to suit Trey’s aesthetic needs and our vision for a contemporary house in a traditional Mérida neighborhood like Jesús Carranza,” says Erik. “The existing pasta tiles were rescued and polished to retain the essence of the original house.”

Trey Speegle's house in Mexico
In the casita upstairs, a concrete bathing pool with skylights makes for a private luxury spa experience. Photo: Jasson Rodriguez

Brutalist architecture was a big influence. Every outside element — from daybeds to tables and benches — is exposed concrete.

“All of the walls are polished concrete. Moisture is a problem here with paint, and if the concrete eventually does discolor with moisture, at least it won’t peel like paint. The proportion of the rooms in the original house was so welcoming. The inspiration for the palette and interiors was not just Mexico and the Yucatán, but Mediterranean interiors, Spanish revival in Southern California, Italian villas, all mixed together,” says Trey.

Trey Speegle's house in Mexico
Trey Speegle’s casita at Casa Cisterna has two bedrooms, two bathrooms, an outdoor shower, and a full kitchen. Photo: Jasson Rodriguez

“The guest casita was originally one story, and I then asked Erik what we would need to do now if I added on a second floor later. It grew from there. The staircase was added in metal at first, then Erik suggested a concrete spiral, which sort of mirrored the water tower.”

Trey Speegle's house in Mexico
The entry courtyard fountain incorporates plants, breeze blocks, and mamposteria. Photo: Jasson Rodriguez

Trey spends part of the year in New York and originally planned to install cameras to monitor activity from a distance. But a better solution presented itself organically.

“I had shipped two Buddhas from New York, and one fit perfectly atop the stairs, and the other stone one was cemented on the cistern top like a finial. Both now watch over the house and garden.”

Trey Speegle's house in Mexico
The main house’s rear garden has multiple areas for lounging, dining, entertaining, and swimming in the lap pool. Photos: Jasson Rodriguez
Lee Steele
Lee Steele
Lee Steele is the founding director of Roof Cat Media and has published Yucatán Magazine and other titles since 2012.
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