Discover the story of Casa Pantera’s meticulous renovation in Mérida, Mexico, as Stephenie and Chase Watts breathe new life into a historic Spanish Colonial home, blending modern elegance with a nod to its rich past.
Mérida, Mexico – In the heart of the historic centro of Mérida, Mexico, unfolds a compelling story of transformation and creative energy. Stephenie and Chase Watts, a dynamic husband-and-wife duo recognized for their roles as interior designers, hoteliers, and soon-to-be educators of The Art of Hosting, have poured their creative spirits into the renovation of their 4,000 square feet Spanish Colonial home and boutique stay – a slice of a sprawling historic villa with a mysterious past.
A Journey into Mérida’s Heart
Mérida, a vibrant city surrounded by jungle, beaches, and ancient ruins, became the backdrop for the Watt’s creative escapades. The couple’s love affair with the city began with the purchase of their third boutique stay, located in Mérida, a place that has become synonymous with rejuvenation and creative inspiration.
Casa Pantera: Unveiling the Mystery
Known as Casa Pantera, their home’s name unfolded serendipitously during explorations with dear friends, “Since there is no paper trail or documentation on the home from before then, so the rest is currently a mystery,” says Stephenie and Chase. The panther, symbolizing courage, valor, and grace, became the guardian force for their haven. The couple integrated panteras into every conceivable space, from limestone head spouts lining the pool to marble pantera spouts filling the chekum tub.
“The name, Casa Pantera, came in a kismet fashion during one of our initial stays at the home while we were in the beginning process of renovation plans. We were with dear friends and we were exploring the city, studying the carvings and moldings on buildings and cross referencing their meanings. Our friend began reading, ‘it symbolizes courage, valor and grace- an ancient guardian force that resides within all- to be comfortable in your own skin, beauty, and grace.‘ Before even knowing it was the panther we knew that energy was for our home and all who would venture and stay there.”
The Artistry of Renovation
The renovation journey was a meticulous one, a dedication to restoring the home’s original charm while infusing it with the vibrancy of the Yucatán and Mérida. Stripping away layers of the 1990s remodel, the Watts took rooms down to dirt floors and bare stacked limestone walls, creating a canvas for their narrative.
“The home was remodeled in the 1990’s, when we purchased it only some of the original tile was left and there were many features missing from the home’s original time period. Features like rough hewn slender ceiling braces, intricate moldings, and vibrant hand painted floor tiles – features Mérida is known for.”
Every finish, texture, color, and tone was hand-selected, telling a story that pays homage to the spirit and history of the home and the city. Chase and Stephenie’s commitment to preserving the historical character is evident in the keeping of vibrant tiles hand-painted by the same family over the last few hundred years, original wood beams, and locally sourced materials. “We created a story and narrative for each space inspired by our perception of the glory and beauty of the Yucatán and Mérida. Each space also supported the utility and lifestyle of our family,” the couple explains.
Honoring the Past, Embracing the Present
The couple’s commitment to honoring the historical charm of the home extended to selecting colors for vibrant hand-painted tiles, reintroducing wood beams for period correctness, and choosing locally found materials. Casa Pantera stands as a testament to the fusion of past and present, seamlessly blending historical authenticity with the Watts’ personal design aesthetic.
Tips and Tricks
For those seeking to embark on their renovation journey, the Watts advocate for budget-friendly vintage and antique finds, with a nod to the wonders of Facebook Marketplace. The couple’s headboard, a repurposed footboard from Paseo Montejo’s lavish mansions, exemplifies their philosophy of savvy spending.
Splurges Worth Every Penny
Investing wisely, the Watts splurged on natural stones and materials that now grace their home. From a marble bar in the lounge to rough-cut stone in the courtyard, each element tells a tale of luxury and timeless elegance.
“We knew our money would be well invested in natural stones and materials- from our marble bar in our lounge, rough cut stone in the courtyard, the hammam hand carved sink in our powder room, to our rectangle slabs of crema maya; which is from the small town outside of Mérida of Tixcacal. The slabs serve as our nightstands. My inner child is so happy that they are lined with small fossils,” says Stephenie.
The Journey of a Creative Union
Chase’s 12-year journey in real estate seamlessly melded with Stephenie’s passion for interior design, culminating in the creation of boutique stays that breathe life into historic homes. Their ethos centers on honoring each dwelling’s past, creating spaces that magnetize those seeking a deeper connection to heritage.
“We believe that in creating these spaces within the spirit of each unique home and doing so in a timeless manner, we create a magnetism to those who want to experience its history within their own lives. Offering them, if even for a short time, a deeper sense of heritage and authenticity within themselves while they stay with us.”
The Essence of Home
Amidst the carefully curated spaces, Stephenie’s favorite aspect of Casa Pantera is the intangible – the energy and comfort that define a home. For her, a house becomes homeworthy through the reflection of the hearts that reside within, coupled with the characteristics and charm of its storied past. “Everytime we journey there we feel our hearts and spirits rejuvenated and creative dreams are always awakened while we are there. Mérida is surrounded by jungle, close to amazing beaches, and ancient ruins. It’s a place of beauty and mystery and we love Mérida for that,” says Stephenie.
Casa Pantera is an ode to Mérida’s mystique, a love letter to Spanish Colonial architecture, and a celebration of the fusion of past and present. The Watts have not only renovated a house; they’ve woven a tale of enchantment and made Casa Pantera a true haven in the heart of Mexico.
Book your stay at Casa Pantera here.