There’s something magnetic about Baja California Sur, the rugged peninsula between the Sea of Cortez and the Pacific Ocean. Like the whales who journey every year from icy Alaska to sunny Mexico, there’s a pod of Minnesotans who happily decamp from Minnesota to Cabo every winter.
Novelist R.D. Zimmerman and his late husband, Lars Peterssen, cofounder of PKA Architecture, are among the many snowbirds who’ve fallen in love with San José del Cabo, the centuries-old colonial city just east of Cabo San Lucas. Nestled between the Sierra de la Laguna mountains and the Pacific Ocean, this quiet community is home to an intriguing mix of Mexicans, Americans, Canadians and other expats.
Generous and convivial hosts, Zimmerman and Peterssen love introducing their guests to the laid-back pleasures of life in Mexico. Most days, the routine is simple: a leisurely breakfast by the pool, lunch at the beach club, an evening stroll through San José del Cabo’s many art galleries, followed by an alfresco dinner in the lush gardens of Acre, Tamarindos or Flora’s Field Kitchen, a trio of enchanting farm-to-table restaurants in the foothills.
After soaking up the Cabo sun for many years, one of their close friends decided to join the community. She bought the lot next door and commissioned Peterssen and his colleague, architect Andrew Edwins, and interior designer Martha Dayton of Martha Dayton Design to create her own hacienda away from home.
The client’s decision to work with a Minneapolis-based team was easy, as both firms have extensive experience designing vacation properties in Mexico and Costa Rica as well as homes, lofts, condos and cabins in Minnesota, North Dakota, Wisconsin, Arizona, California, New York and other locales. This team has collaborated on several projects in the Cabo community with builder GD Constructores and Los Cabos Landscaping, so they have an in-depth understanding of the architectural guidelines, the requirements for building in Mexico and the technical challenges of the Baja climate.
With a cadre of trusted experts to oversee the 12-month construction process, the client had both confidence and peace of mind, allowing her to relax and enjoy the process of building a destination retreat from her Minneapolis home.
The design development process unfolded smoothly and easily with weekly in-person meetings at the Martha Dayton Design and PKA studios as well as occasional — and highly enjoyable — site visits to Cabo. Guided by the client’s vision of an inviting and comfortable contemporary home with plenty of space for entertaining family and friends, the team responded with a modern hacienda that reflects Cabo’s unique spirit of place.
Designed to make the most of the delightful winter temperatures while managing the intense summer heat, the H-shaped open floor plan creates two private courtyards for alfresco living with breathtaking views of nature from every room. Throughout the residence, sliding glass doors and pocket doors disappear into the walls, creating a seamless flow between indoors and out, and allowing the ocean breezes to flow through the rooms.
Dayton and her colleagues Kelly Perry and Kory Reckinger created a fresh, lighthearted vibe with a palette of cool coastal neutrals accented with bright colors inspired by Mexican folk art. They designed custom furnishings and had them manufactured in the United States and delivered to the home. They also collaborated with local Cabo artisans to create unusual bespoke furnishings and other details.
The hacienda offers an array of spaces for relaxing and entertaining in Cabo style, including a spacious living room with a striking limestone fireplace wall created by local stonemasons and a dining area defined by a handcrafted table and kicky blue and white chairs. The open kitchen features custom cabinetry and doors made of indigenous parota wood, natural stone countertops, handblown light fixtures, and sleek ivory counter stools for casual meals around the center island.
The ocean-facing courtyard includes an outdoor living room, a dining area shaded from the sun, and a row of ivory chaise lounges complete with matching umbrellas. An infinity pool and spa offer a perfect vantage point for spotting whales, while a rooftop deck is an ideal spot for sipping a fresh-squeezed lemon-lime-orange margarita and watching the sun set over the mountains, drawing another picture-perfect day in San José del Cabo to a gentle close.