By Elizabeth Wallace

Published on January 10, 2017

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Photography by JOAQUIN TRUJILLO

It took moving to another country 2,000 miles from her home in New Jersey for graphic designer Abby Clawson Low to find her dream house. When her husband, an attorney, was reassigned to Mexico City for work, Low was game for a change. “I had never been there. It was like nothing I imagined,” she recalls of that initial visit last spring. “The city is high in the mountains—with design and art and sculpture everywhere.”

Photography by Joaquin Trujillo

Text by Liz Wallace

Styling by Elaina Sullivan

Nockeby Sofa, $899; ikea.com

Aröd Floor/Reading Lamp, $60; ikea.com

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Photography by JOAQUIN TRUJILLO

On their first day of house hunting, the couple—who have three sons ages 7, 5, and 2—fell in love with a modern Mexican treasure in the Lomas Altas neighborhood: terra-cotta tile roof; stark-white stucco walls; interiors finished with custom details in cement, oak, and mahogany. Generous single-pane windows let natural light stream into the spacious rooms, while French doors in the living room open onto a lava stone patio, revealing a lush green backdrop of dense vines and wildflowers. In the open-air entryway, a glass ceiling protected by wooden slats plays off the Carrara marble floors, creating an industrial arboretum feel. “When the sun shines, you get these cool striped shadows on the wall,” says Low.

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Photography by JOAQUIN TRUJILLO

Furnishing the minimalist space was an undertaking. Low had been warned that original modern furniture could be expensive in Mexico City. “Friends told us to buy at Ikea, which they don’t have here. So we went the day before the movers came, and I bought sofas in neutrals and as many sets of shelving as I could fit in the cart!” That purchase set the foundation for the clean, utilitarian aesthetic. “I’m not a design snob. I mix a lot of high and low,” says the designer, who placed red-and-white plastic woven Acapulco chairs—typically used as lawn furniture—in her sons’ bedrooms. “I’ll buy furniture off the street and put it next to a Herman Miller chair or a George Nelson desk.” She cultivated relationships with local collectors, as well. The Florence Knoll conference table that anchors the dining room comes from an artist-designer who sells out of her town house, while the accompanying Bauhaus-inspired rope chairs are made by a local carpenter.

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Photography by JOAQUIN TRUJILLO

Low has more than made herself at home in Mexico City, but she continues to be inspired by her surroundings. “As someone who is creative, my brain is exploding here,” she says. “This place is like something you’ve just discovered but haven’t got all figured out.”

The focal point of the dining room is a chic Florence Knoll conference table and framed poster boards become color-blocked prints in a pinch.

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Photography by JOAQUIN TRUJILLO

The master bedroom houses a custom Acapulco bench made with woven plastic.

As a graphic designer, I’m always looking at how one object plays off another and the contrasts in color, material, and texture.”

Lerma Sofa by Akele, $3,570; www.akele.co

Pillow by H&M Home, $6; hm.com

Summer Fruit by Claire Nereim, $45; plantplanet.biz

Some Diagonal Lines to Brighten a Designated Space by Thomas A. Clark and David Bellingham, $35; shopbookshop.com

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Photography by JOAQUIN TRUJILLO

The boys’ rooms are cheerfully appointed with art and blankets from the city’s many mercados.

Varsity Monogram Pillow Cover, $14; target.com

Nyponros Duvet Cover and Pillow Set, $30; ikea.com

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Photography by JOAQUIN TRUJILLO

“I try to keep the kids’ rooms fun, colorful, and not too serious, then throw in something unexpected for good measure,” says Low.

Arod Work Lamp, $40; ikea.com

Sniglar Beech Crib, $80; ikea.com

Algot Shelving, $88; ikea.com

Vyssa Vackert Crib Mattress, $80; ikea.com