Design Destination | Villa Petricor by CO-LAB Design Office

  • A sensibly designed holiday home in Tulum, Mexico, blurs the lines between inside and outside, advocating a carefree return to nature.

    ‘Petricor’: the earthy scent that typically accompanies the first rain after a long period of warm, dry weather. This was the chosen name for CO-LAB Design Office’s most recent project, a private villa in the beach town of Tulum. The familiar scent is a sign that the seasons are changing and that nature will again embark on the path of renewal. Inspired by this, the Mexico-based architecture studio have designed the villa around the notions of grounding and re-centring in nature so that we too can embark down the path of renewal. 

    The surrounding native trees, in addition to providing privacy, function as a lush backdrop to each of the spaces.

    The Site

    Given the topography of the Tulum area and the high density of trees, getting to know the site and its various constraints was crucial. Detailed tree surveys were conducted, which were consistently referenced throughout the entire project. “It’s not a light decision when we decide to move or cut down existing trees as there are many life forms affected when land gets developed,” CO-LAB partner Joshua Beck says. The plants and trees that surround Villa Petricor were there to begin with – so the architecture came second.

    “We work very hard to design projects that respect and amplify existing qualities found on a site,” Joshua adds. In the case of Villa Petricor, open-air spaces and proper orientation make way for a naturally-lit, passively-cooled house with a low energy footprint, while a series of tailor-made arches frame and draw attention to the garden.

    The custom dining table was cast directly on site. A locally-sourced marble was used for all the table and counter tops around the villa.

    “Seeing the traces of human hand work, the ageing surfaces and the passage of light and shadow on these surfaces inspires appreciation for the imperfect – which can help to ground and re-centre us all.”


    – Joshua Beck  

    Climate Constraints

    It may be the home of turquoise beaches, lush jungles and ancient ruins, but there remains a number of climate constraints attached to Tulum. Strong winds, heavy rainfall and high humidity are all things to consider when designing a building in or around the coastal town. 

    The floors of Villa Petricor are made of thick cast-in-place cement with a terrazzo finish, while the walls and ceilings are hand-polished cement; materials that can withstand their harsh environments. In addition to serving a practical purpose, these materials are also in keeping with the villa’s calming, grounding energy. “We are quite obsessive with the finishes on our projects and how they make people feel – both when looking at them as well as how they feel to touch,” Joshua says.

    Bespoke furnishings designed by CO-LAB Design Office emulate the calming tones and textures found in nature.

    On the ground floor, an open living space connects to the pool and garden through large arched pivot windows.

    Arched forms and hand-polished cement create a surface for the sun to continuously reflect off of, revealing the ‘perfectly imperfect’ handwork of local artisans.

    Grounding and Re-centring

    Villa Petricor is designed to exude a calming, grounding energy. There is a sense of wonder as one travels between the spaces, gradually discovering new touchpoints with nature. It helps that the palette is heavily weighted with the colours and materials found on site, reinforcing the ties between occupants and their surroundings.

    Seeing the level of craftsmanship and connecting it to its wider context ignites respect for both the designer and nature. Joshua summarises this in his own words: “seeing the traces of human hand work, the ageing surfaces and the passage of light and shadow on these surfaces inspires appreciation for the imperfect – which can help to ground and re-centre us all.”   

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