Try your luck: Alejandra Redo’s Mexico City homepage
Half a century ago, Alejandra Redo used to wonder about the house hidden behind ivy-clad walls that she passed every day on her way to Catholic school. “I thought it was a secret garden,” she recalls.
Years later, when she met the man who would become her husband, he introduced her to his aunt Paz Cuesta Moreno, a socialite known for her beauty. In one of those serendipitous events that might have been just a little too tidy if it had occurred in a film, Redo’s fiancé brought her to the very place she had mused over as a girl. In that house, Cuesta Moreno had entertained actors who were the luminaries of Mexico’s golden age of cinema. “She loved to have people here in the house,” says Redo.
Alejandra Redo in the courtyard of her Mexico City home, which was designed by José Parada in the 1950s.
It has been more than three decades since the house passed to Redo, an interior designer, who remodeled it and moved in with her two young sons after she was divorced. “It’s always been the house of my dreams,” she says. Like the hostess who preceded her, Redo fills her home with guests and invites friends and other visitors—”nice ones, the simpáticos”—to an open-house lunch every Tuesday.
Sitting on the terrace of cantera stone that she installed, it seems almost impossible that giant, rumbling, chaotic Mexico City could stretch out for untold miles on the other side of the ivy. Redo’s neighborhood, Polanco, is an oasis of sorts, where residents can walk a block or two to meet friends for a meal at a sidewalk restaurant.
A Louis XV commode and a runner designed by Redo in the entry; the floors are Carrara marble.
Redo made one important change to the house, designed in a French country style by Mexican architect José Parada in the 1950s. She added a library, copying the original paneled windows and curved cornices outside. Inside, it’s a family room in all senses of the word, painted a deep red and decorated with antiques, old Mexican silver, books, and photos of relatives and friends, including Ronald and Nancy Reagan and the Colombian painter Fernando Botero.
A marquetry cocktail table and a pair of 19th-century Mexican armchairs in the library; the painting is by Hunt Slonem, and the rug is by Mary Stuart.
Redo’s sense of design is as varied as her friendships. “You can have modern, old, some expensive and not expensive things—everything is important,” she says, sitting in a living room centered around a text painting by Canadian artist Graham Gillmore and accented by an antique Persian rug that has been passed down in her family.
“My aunt is the most creatively elegant person I know,” says her nephew Jorge Almada, cofounder of Casamidy, a design company that reimagines traditional Mexican forms and craftsmanship to create innovative contemporary furniture and accessories.
Redo designed the pillows in the living room using old Mexican shawls; the letter painting is by Graham Gillmore, the portrait of Redo is by Johan Falkman, the sculpture on the cocktail table is by Laura Hernández, and the floor sculpture is by Javier Marín.
As children, Redo and her three siblings lived in a large house in central Mexico City with their grandparents while their parents ran a sugar plantation in the northern state of Sinaloa. “When we were young, we were surrounded by old things and we were ashamed,” Redo says. “When we grew up, we realized how lucky we were.” Many of those old things, like an 18th-century traveling desk with bone inlay, have found their way into her house, where she gives them new life in vivid combinations. As she tells her clients: “You can be really eclectic.” So eclectic that Redo is not afraid to push boundaries. That means putting a vintage ceramic pig in the living room or finding a spot on an antique console in the entry hall for a green ceramic fish that caught her eye in Paris. Such touches of irreverence are everywhere. Two large Chinese porcelain Famille Rose vases inherited from her grandmother stand guard at the entrance to the dining room, and above one of them Redo has hung a geometric painting by the cheeky Mexico City–based artist Pedro Friedeberg.
The dining room features a painting by José Bedia and a 19th-century mahogany table; the floor is paved with marble tiles.
Redo’s other great passion is textiles. She buys traditional fabrics from all over Mexico and Colombia, turning them into cushions or shawls that she drapes over furniture. Many of her rugs are designed by her or her friend Mary Stuart, an American artist who lives in Mexico, and woven in traditional workshops in Oaxaca.
Redo sees possibilities everywhere. A blue-and-white floral design on the upholstery of a Casamidy chair in her dressing room was embroidered by her grandchildren’s nanny, following a traditional pattern from her village in Mexico.
In the master bedroom, the bed is 19th century, the Louis XV bench is upholstered with Mexican textiles, the chair is a Mexican antique, and the rug was designed by Mary Stuart.
The house is constantly a work in progress. “I’ve had it green, peach, yellow, white, and now it’s like a taupe,” she says of her living room wall. “I mix the colors myself.” But what always stays the same is her fearless, deeply personal decorative mix. A little Mexican altar at the top of the staircase is populated by religious figurines and candles flickering in tin holders—”my kitsch,” she says—around a photo of her father who died a decade ago. It does not seem incongruous at all in a house filled with antiques and striking contemporary art. “You can always find a place for things you love,” she says. “Nothing is impossible.”
A Casamidy chair in the master bath is upholstered with a fabric designed by Redo, the mirror and French sink are both 19th century, and the floor is Carrara marble.