Published on March 5, 2020

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Photography by Jennifer Chase; Styling by Limonata Creative

Tropical hotels are often synonymous with turquoise pools and sandy hues, but not for Katalina Mayorga. After cofounding El Camino Travel, a boutique agency focused on experiential trips in Central America, in 2014, she and her husband sold their home in Washington, D.C., along with all their belongings, to grow their company into its next phase. The first step: a vacation rental in the region that felt miles away from those cookie-cutter resorts. 

They originally had their hearts set on Colombia (where Mayorga’s parents are from), but a chance encounter with Jean-Marc Houmard and Yvan Cussigh, owners of the nearby Tribal Hotel, redirected their sights to a property they were selling in Granada, Nicaragua. Casa Violeta was born. “We wanted to create a hybrid between a colonial Nicaraguan home and a Moroccan riad,” explains Houmard, who built the guesthouse along with Cussigh a few years prior. 

They envisioned tiled arches and cement built-in furniture centered on an unusual palette: black and white. “It’s bold and graphic, but it also allows for the other colors to shine: the pink of the pillows, the green of the leafy plants, the reds and yellows of the Turkish kilims,” says Cussigh. Here, they share three ways to get the striking look. 

Go Beyond Paint

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Photography by Jennifer Chase; Styling by Limonata Creative

Houmard and Cussigh wanted the kitchen to reflect homes in the area while staying away from their typical dark wood features. They went for a strong contrast that would make the kitchen stand out: The duo designed black-and-white tiled floors (which were then created by local makers) and painted the colonial etched glass and wire mesh cabinets in an inky matte finish. A black polished concrete countertop and backsplash finished off the space. 

Think Small

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Photography by Jennifer Chase; Styling by Limonata Creative
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Photography by Jennifer Chase; Styling by Limonata Creative

To continue the two-tone scheme throughout, the pair hand-stenciled the baseboards and ceiling trim in various Moorish zigzag motifs. “We wanted to add details without overpowering the space, so we used Moroccan patterns that worked well with the tiles,” says Houmard. They even carried the designs on the base of built-in beds and sofas and along walls.

Don’t Stop at the Back Door

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Photography by Jennifer Chase

Cussigh and Houmard were adamant about continuing the colorway into the center courtyard to make the pool the centerpiece of the whole home. “We wanted to stay away from the traditional blue tiles and were going for a more urban look,” explains Cussigh. So they opted for black-and-white checkered tiles for the basin, trimmed with a smaller-scale diamond motif, and topped off the space with matching striped built-in daybeds. Against the palm trees, the unusual combo truly shines. 

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