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On its exterior, the recently opened Hotel San Fernando in Mexico City’s colorful La Condesa neighborhood boasts a cool mint green—but inside it’s the half-pink walls that lure visitors to book one of the 19 guest rooms in the former apartment building.

Keeping original details from the 1947 structure—stained-glass windows, curved breeze-blocks, an exterior shade—was important to Paige Henney, director of design at Bunkhouse Hotels, who worked with local architects and contractors to transform the space’s style, which she calls “a Mexico City version of Art Deco,” into a workable hotel.  But those pink walls? All new.

“The rooms were solid white when we came in,” Henney says. “But we did notice, in the previous renovation, that there was a wall transition at about wainscoting height—there was a drywall finish below and a stuccolike finish above.” The team loved the texture but felt like it wasn’t being shown off in the best possible way. Plus, they were hoping to use La Condesa’s famous pink somewhere in the project.

So they went to Comex, a Mexican paint company, and stocked up on the vibrant coral shade Emilia, then applied it halfway up, right to where the wall changes textures. Henney was lucky to have a natural line to follow, but she says if you are trying the look in your own home, painter’s tape and a level would give you a similar payoff. (“Just be extra-careful when you’re pulling back the tape so you don’t take the color with you,” she adds.)

The result added warmth and coziness to the rooms, and in some cases tricks the eye into thinking there’s furniture where there isn’t. For example, above a bed, the paint acts as a headboard. The trick to a no-fail illusion, Henney says, is avoiding the line intersecting outlets or poles, which can be hard to match up perfectly.

Once the walls were done, she added contrasting furniture to make it all pop, a proud homage to the authentic, not to mention vibrant, charm of the neighborhood. 

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