Paso del Guayabo, Jalisco
October 2010

You might call them a renaissance couple. I don't know if they sing and dance, but between the two of them, Kathleen Carrillo and her husband, Andy Marcus, paint, teach, cook, and do wonderful interior design. Perhaps more impressively, they recently achieved the near-impossible in Mexico, converting an obra negra (a half-finished, skeleton structure consisting a foundation and cement framework only) to a livable house, art studio, and B&B---in two months. Kathleen and Andy now invite guests to participate in art workshops or simply to enjoy their rural-chic guesthouse above the rushing Cuale River outside Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco.

With prior experience in real estate and remodeling houses in the United States, the couple began the project in 2008. At that point the jungle had begun to reclaim the half-finished structure, which had been started and then abandoned almost 10 years before. They contracted local builder Isidro Torres based on his willingness to turn the job around quickly and to use when possible local men from Paso del Guayabo and nearby Paso Ancho. Torres hired several dozen workers to work simultaneously on walls and landscaping, to install lighting, plumbing, and every other aspect needed to quickly turn this obra negra into a livable house.

Kathleen describes the house as "eclectic Mexican," adding that it is semi-hacienda style, with arched entries and other old-school design features. Andy, a former merchant marine, prepares meals for guests in the large, open kitchen. An artist by vocation, Kathleen repurposed copper fixtures and tubing found outside the building for bathroom plumbing. The pillow covers and bedding are hand-painted, and in fact details throughout the four-story house (including rooftop palapa) reflect her artistic flair. Kathleen's large-format acrylic paintings adorn the walls.

The structure's location above the river and the precise orientation of the house by the original builder provide excellent cross ventilation. The house is kept cool even in sweltering summers using ceiling fans only; there is one in every room. Guests can drink water right from the tap; mountain river water from several kilometers upstream is passed through a triple filtration system. Gray water is used to water plants.

Andy and Kathleen visited many parts of Mexico and considered properties in San Miguel de Allende and Oaxaca before deciding on this site above the Cuale River. They are proud that their B&B offers guests a "real Mexican, rural experience" which is nonetheless just 10 minutes from Puerto Vallarta: with its beaches, restaurants, and nonstop nightlife. Kathleen and other artists offer workshops in which participants---inspired by the rural landscape of wind and water, mountains and river---create works of art in various media.

For more information please see their website,

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