In the Magical Town of San Miguel de Allende, Fisher Weisman Brugioni Crafts an Artfully Layered Retreat
The firm brings order and modern refinement to a Mexican vacation home, amping up the character with artisanal details and moments of visual panache
When a modernism-loving California couple fell for San Miguel de Allende,
the picturesque colonial-era city in central Mexico, the search for a vacation home there presented an aesthetic challenge. A UNESCO World Heritage site, the city and its historic center are famous for the saturated colors and exuberant decoration that define much of their architecture.
So while the couple were thrilled to find a 10,000-square-foot, Colonial-style residence with plenty of space for their three adult sons and their families, its quirky asymmetries and palette of oranges, yellows, and fiery reds didn’t fit with their vision of a calming retreat punctuated by works from their collection of largely abstract art.
Fortunately, the couple found an ally in the San Francisco–based design firm Fisher Weisman Brugioni, two of whose partners, Jeffry Weisman and Andrew Fisher, have a residence of their own in San Miguel de Allende. “The clients’ house was over-the-top decorative and didn’t suit their taste,” says Weisman. “And their artwork required a more restrained interior to really show it off.”
Situated on a quiet street just a short walk from the city’s iconic central square, the two-story, U-shaped home encircles a lush courtyard outfitted with a serene swimming pool and a towering African tulip tree. Some of its more charming features were preserved, including an outdoor sala whose vaulted brick ceiling was pieced together by local masons and interior pine beams painted with chapapote, a dark coffee-colored tar utilized for centuries to keep termites at bay. But other design elements that the team, which also included partner Bryn Brugioni, deemed “vexing” were reworked as part of a thorough reimagining of the interiors that they carried out with local architect Nicole Bisgaard.
Room proportions were rebalanced. Walls were repainted in a warm stone white. Door openings were aligned, and heavy wooden doors were replaced with ones of glass and steel. “I think that not only brought more light but also did a huge amount of heavy lifting for making the house feel more contemporary and better suited to the clients,” says Weisman.
A fifth bedroom suite was added atop the single-story, street-facing section of the house, giving each of the couple’s adult sons and grandchildren their own accommodations. On the ground floor, the design team expanded an already generous primary suite with 14-foot vaulted ceilings, transforming its bath and dressing room into a sprawling sanctuary with a deep soaking tub and vibrant geometric tile work. They also constructed a new dressing room, a study for the wife, and a gym with soaring, solarium-like, steel-framed windows that offer views out to a garden terrace.
The firm resuscitated the once dark and secluded kitchen by creating a new vaulted ceiling and adding a large island ringed with stools to make the space more convivial. In addition, Weisman designed a star-shaped fireplace crafted by a local mason with brick and local cantera limestone. “One of the things I love best about working in Mexico is if you get an artist excited about making something, they apply every ounce of creativity to make it work,” Weisman says.
“Their artwork required a more restrained interior to really show it off”Jeffry Weisman
The fireplace is just one of the many artisanal details found throughout the home. In the entry, a striking blue-and-white floor mosaic by the San Miguel de Allende studio Atelier Stellis is joined by a chair that artist Mario García Torres sculpted from a vividly striated onyx boulder. The grandchildren’s sitting room boasts a playful rattan chandelier of climbing monkeys by Mario Lopez Torres, while a guest bath features an intricately carved vanity by local craftsman Manuel Padron.
The designers peppered the spaces with an array of custom-made seating and lighting from the Fisher Weisman Collection. In the living room, an expansive Vladimir Kagan curved sofa, clad in cherry-red mohair, faces a vintage glass-top Paul Evans table with a robustly sculptural base.
A number of pieces—including the Kagan sofa, which was cut down and reupholstered—came from the owners’ former New York City apartment. “It gave them a little bit of a sense of home because they were things they had loved before but have a new life in a new place,” says Weisman. “Then the conversation was more about color and texture.”
Most of the chromatic splash is provided by the couple’s standout art, which pops against the home’s neutral backdrops. Color-rich canvases by Sarah Crowner, Jorge Pardo, and Georg Baselitz enliven the dining room, while a large Jose Dávila painting presides over the adjoining living area. Expressive works by Yann Gerstberger, Sarah Morris, Günther Förg, and others animate the relaxed bedrooms, bath, and sitting areas.
“Andrew, Bryn, and I love to work with color, but even more so in Mexico,” says Weisman. “It’s really a culture and a climate that loves the warmth of color.”
A version of this article first appeared in print in our 2023 Winter Issue under the headline “Bold and Balanced.” Subscribe to the magazine.