Casa Mulata: RootStudio’s Modern Take on a 17th Century Mansion

Discover Casa Mulata in Oaxaca City, Mexico, a masterful blend of colonial and contemporary design by RootStudio. This unique house, designed in 2020, juxtaposes the elegance of 17th and 18th-century architecture with modern, sustainable materials. Led by architect João Boto Cæiro, this project seamlessly integrates old and new, creating a harmonious space that respects its historical roots while embracing contemporary living.

A cozy outdoor living space with wooden screens, potted plants, and a relaxing atmosphere.

Embracing Historical Harmony with Modern Design

Casa Mulata stands as a testament to the skillful restoration of a historic mansion in the heart of Oaxaca, where RootStudio has ingeniously infused modern elements into a centuries-old structure. This house, sprouting from foundations laid in the 17th and 18th centuries, demonstrates a respectful fusion of the colonial and the contemporary.

Cozy rustic living room with wooden walls, plush velvet sofa, and recessed lighting.

Crafting Spaces that Speak Volumes

The original 81 square meters (872 square feet) feature adobe walls and introduce a distinct dichotomy between the two levels. The ground floor unveils an intimate space where the kitchen, living room, bedroom, and bathroom echo elegance through a medley of textures, materials, and neutral colors. Ascending to the upper floor, one is greeted by a warm contemporary ambiance, accentuated by sustainably sourced wood on walls, floors, and ceilings. A double-height space designed by Boto Cæiro increases the versatility of this level, adding a mezannine bedroom and a terrace that offers sweeping views of the Oaxaca Valley mountains.

Modern minimalist kitchen with large circular mirror, wooden cabinetry, and sleek black countertops.

A Dialogue Between Old and New

Casa Mulata’s narrative is of a harmonious blend, where the integrity of the original structure respects the terracotta walls and ceiling vaults while introducing a modern volume that can be detached if needed to restore the mansion’s original state. This dialogue extends to the design elements within, showcasing a palette of black and white with organic touches. Each piece of furniture and decorative item, including handcrafted lamps, emerges from collaborations with local artisans skilled in textiles, pottery, and cabinetmaking.

A rustic staircase with black metal steps against a wooden wall backdrop, complemented by decor.

Connecting with the Landscape

RootStudio’s approach emphasizes rustic and natural themes, creating a connection with the locale through the use of endemic materials like clay and tropical woods such as nopo, pine, and tzalam. The presence of earth and lime-based paints alongside native vegetation breathes life into the project, fostering a deeper bond with Oaxaca’s landscape.

The image showcases a modern, minimalist interior design with a wooden staircase, leather seating, and a round coffee table on a circular rug.

Casa Mulata, with its blend of old-world charm and contemporary innovation, encapsulates RootStudio’s commitment to sustainable architecture that honors traditional building techniques while championing eco-friendly practices and social responsibility. This project not only redefines the value of heritage conservation but also sets a benchmark for modern living spaces.

Rustic wooden walls and ceiling frame a large black-and-white portrait above the bed.
Rustic cabin interior with wooden paneled walls, large bed, and black-and-white artwork.
A cozy wooden bedroom with floor-to-ceiling curtained windows, a plush bed, and a statement artwork.
A dark, rustic bathroom with wooden panels, a round mirror, and potted plants.
A modern bedroom with a wooden headboard, white bedding, and an abstract art piece on the wall.
A cozy outdoor patio with a wooden hot tub, potted plants, and woven baskets, creating a soothing ambiance.
A striking modern building with wooden slat screens, potted plants, and a simple concrete entryway.

Photography by Carlos Lang and Marian Papworth
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- by Matt Watts