Interesting Home Series:
I have oysters, magic puzzle boxes and artichokes on my mind. Things that open up to reveal hidden treasures- a pearl, a secret chamber, a tender heart.
Like its delicate namesake that fools us with its hard shell, Quinta Cangrejo presents an enigmatic stone and hedge façade that belies an interior suffused with light, color and life.
The house, a happy confluence of location, design and function, is the stuff of many dreams about a luxury home in Cabo: Oceanfront at Punta Ballena on the Cabo corridor. One’s own private beach. All the perks of being in an exclusive development.
Renowned Mexican architect Jacinto Avalos designed Quinta Cangrejo for Gail and Larry Freels 17 years ago. Gail came to Cabo with her daughter for the first time to celebrate her daughter’s 30th birthday. They stayed at Esperanza, Auberge Resorts, and fell in love with Cabo. So much so that Gail was ready to invest in a fractional share at the Resort. However, the idea of a time share alarmed Larry so much that he flew out the very next day to try to talk his wife out of it. But in the end, rather than convincing Gail, Larry took it even further by buying one of three oceanfront lots available in the development. Not too bad a trade, as Gail says with a smile.
The relationship with Jacinto was equally serendipitous. Larry, himself an accomplished architect, builder and real estate developer, discovered Jacinto’s work in a book on beautiful homes in Cabo and was impressed enough to seek him out.
There was one caveat- the house had to be handicap accessible because Larry used a wheelchair. Ultimately, it was this important detail that informed Jacinto’s ideas and design for this project. How to create interesting and varied spaces without physical obstacles, on a manageable scale, with engaging views and sight lines from a seated perspective? To make lounging areas open to the outdoors yet shielded from the sun and the wind?
The solution was simple- elegant spaces with pocket doors that flowed into shaded terraces, a curving terrace pathway linking the different levels of the house, and intimate seating areas, each designed to accommodate a wheelchair. An elevator connects the two floors of the house and there is a special mechanized platform in the lower level swimming pool which raises and lowers a person into the water. The simplicity of the design is enhanced with warm woods, occasional bright walls and other natural materials like stone.
I am struck by Jacinto’s beautiful landscaping, the leaves which rustle in a constant breeze, the colors of the plants, the theatricality of their form and placement, and the interplay of their shadows with the light.
The pavements are also interesting for their geometric pattern of large squares made up of brick, cement, ceramic and dark pebbles, the centers embossed with tiny crabs.
The primary view everywhere, of course, is the ocean, that vibrant blue framed like a giant painting by the walls of each room. You can see up the coast to one side and Land’s End on the other. The life on that water is truly amazing, with whales breeching and playing in season, boats, yachts and waves crashing. Yet watching all this onshore from a leafy terrace at Quinta Cangrejo, the busyness seems so far away. Here it is peaceful and still, an oasis of calm in the whirl of it all.
The house sits on three levels and descends to a rocky cove and beach. You enter down a pretty pathway with a fountain to an open courtyard which connects two main structures, one housing an office and kitchen-dining area, the other a living room and master bedroom suite facing the ocean.
The dining room opens onto an alfresco BBQ and eating area and the living room to an open-air lounge and fire pit.
Anchoring the courtyard is a great flame of the forest or flamboyant, whose brilliant canopy of orange-red flowers makes a striking statement when it is in bloom.
Fronting the living room and the outdoor seating area is an infinity pool with two playful Bustamenti sculptures of swimmers.
The master bedroom is a lovely, light filled space with an enormous blue water view. Over the bed is a surprising feature, a state-of-the-art skylight that opens and shutters so that you can be in bed and still see the blue sky and the stars at night. What a feast for the senses. On the opposite wall is a beautiful slab of stone displayed like a piece of abstract art which I like very much.
My favorite, though, has to be the master bathroom, really more a spa, with its round bathtub and big pocket window that opens the entire back wall into a bamboo garden. I love this exotic touch and the idea of bathing outdoors in a tropical forest.
On the lower level are two simple, beautifully furnished guest bedrooms and a second living room, all of which open onto another patio with swimming pool.
This living room is interesting for Larry’s wonderful collection of vintage European carousel animal sculptures made by master carvers, each one over a 100 years old.
They are displayed around a big curved couch and at the center of the coffee table. Also in a hallway featuring a wonderful pink wall. I like the circular design of the room and the arrangement of the animals around it, which remind me of a carousel.
On a table is a charming chess set with animal chess pieces. The king, naturally, is a lion and the queen a cheetah. But I’m not so sure about the clever monkey as a pawn…
Animals, in fact, feature throughout: Fishes, a rooster, the carousel animals, and, of course, the crab, Gayle’s astrological sign and the inspiration for the name behind the house. You find them on specially designed dinner plates, on kitchen tiles, coasters, the pavement squares and the fountain in the entry courtyard.
The grounds descend via a ramp past a small lawn to another outdoor seating area ensconced in a canopy of green. They end at a private stone patio by the property wall. Where you are right over the sand and the rocks and the mesmerizing sea.
At a time when the design trend in luxury homes is minimalist and impersonal, I appreciate Quinta Cangrejo for its warmth and personality. The decor truly reflects the tastes and needs of its owners. And it is on a comfortable scale appropriate for a family home. As Gail says, they never thought of Quinta Cangrejo as an investment. And I think Jacinto did a wonderful job at creating an engaging and rich environment for Larry without compromising the quality of design.
It is an unfolding to know Quinta Cangrejo. From grand exterior at street level to the quiet and simple intimacy of a seat by the sea. Just like it is with the crab, the artichoke and the oyster.
by Mei-lan Chin-Bing
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