Conversation with Sylvie Sabatier of Hacienda Los Olivos
Todos Santos is a dreamy destination rising through the ranks of Mexican cities travelers are itching to visit. We have a few BoutiqueHomes in this beachy oasis, a few of which feature interiors designed by the LA-based French interior designer, Sylvie Sabatier. Sylvie owns one of these properties, Hacienda Los Olivos, so we chatted with her about that design process and what makes Todos Santos so special.
WHAT IS YOUR PROFESSIONAL BACKGROUND?
SYLVIE SABATIER: I used to be in fashion. Fashion is my past life. The first house I designed was mine and then some people approached me asking me who did my house and I said I did! So they asked me to help do the concept of their house, similar to mine. And now I’m on my fourth house, all in Todos Santos. I mean, I’m not an architect, I didn’t study architecture, I don’t have a degree. But I do interior design and house concepts.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR SENSE OF STYLE?
SS: I like very simple lines and no nonsense. I think I have a gift for space allocation–the layout of the room.
WHY TODOS SANTOS?
SS: I went there out of a fluke. I used to go to many other places in Mexico and I kept hearing about Todos Santos in conversation. So I went to check it out with my husband for a few days. There’s a really special energy to this place. Maybe because of its geographical location–it’s right on the tropic of cancer–there’s a certain energy. And we responded to it and we decided to buy some land at the end of the four days. So it was an impulse. That was 12 years ago.
CAN YOU DESCRIBE THAT SPECIAL ENERGY?
SS: In the beginning I was wondering, what am I doing here? It’s such a dusty little village, everything closes at 8. And it’s changed a lot. In a good way. Because the people that go there, the tourists, are very eco-conscious. So they are really in tune with the nature. So you don’t go to Todos Santos to party all night and get drunk like you would if you go to Cancun. Todos Santos is much more reflective. People into yoga and meditation, health-conscious and nature-lovers.
WHAT OTHER SORTS OF PEOPLE DOES TODOS SANTOS ATTRACT?
SS: There’s a big surfing community, it’s an artist community, lots of painters, musicians, a lot of writers. There’s a big expat community that lives there all year round which is nice. A mixture between Americans, Canadians, quite a few Europeans, and Mexicans.
WHAT WERE YOU AIMING TO ACHIEVE WITH YOUR DESIGN OF HACIENDA LOS OLIVOS?
SS: When I started making some drawings I realized one of my main attractions was the light. I wanted to be able to have the sunlight all day long. So basically, the only way to achieve that was to have every room be a whole house by itself with windows all around. So you have the living room and kitchen which has windows all around so from morning to night you have the sun coming through. And then you have four bedrooms and they’re all separate casitas–little buildings–with the same windows all around. So you have the sun from every room all the time.
DID YOU DRAW ON ANYTHING ELSE FOR INSPIRATION FOR THE DESIGN?
SS: I used the help of those decoration magazines. There’s a French one called Côté Sud and basically they have all these beach houses from Greece and south of Spain. Everything is very organic, natural, mixtures of concrete and natural wood. Very down to earth and not ‘sophisticated’ at all. Far from granite and marble and gold.
HOW DID THE CITY OF TODOS SANTOS EFFECT YOUR DESIGN?
SS: I had to adapt with the natural terrain. In Todos Santos, all of downtown is brick buildings. In the beginning I wanted to do a white house like I’m in Ibiza. But then I realized, no, I should take what they are doing here. So I did a beach house that really blends in with nature. If you want white marble floor, it’s not going to be your cup of tea. But I’d say 99% of the people who have stayed loved it.
HOW DID YOU CHOOSE THE COLORS FOR EACH INDIVIDUAL ROOM?
SS: Well, I found those tiles, they’re made in Mexico, and I’ve always liked checkerboard floors which sort of has a hispanic cultural background and also French. We have a lot of those in black and white in Paris, and in all of the old haciendas in Mexico. They are locally made and they had all those great colors. So I said, okay, I’m going to put one color in every room.
WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO INCORPORATE MOROCCAN AND BALINESE AESTHETICS INTO THE INTERIORS?
SS: I’ve always been in love with Morocco. I live in LA, so it’s too far to rent a vacation house over there, but it’s easy to incorporate the Moroccan style. Morocco is all about fabric and colors and texture. So it’s easy to just put a Moroccan fabric or a Moroccan carpet or a Moroccan throw on a bed. I’ve been to Bali two times and same story: I love their fabric, I love their bamboo furniture. So when I went to Bali, every time I brought back some chairs or something which I put in Todos Santos House.
DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE PART OF THE HOUSE?
SS: The living room. It’s a big room–100 square meters (about 1,000 square feet)–and it has really high ceilings because it’s the palapas style, and yet it feels very cozy because of the huge sunken couch–it’s almost 4 feet wide. At night you have a fire place going and you have a cocoon!
WERE THERE ANY OBSTACLES YOU HAD TO OVERCOME TO BUILD HACIENDA LOS OLIVOS?
SS: I didn’t have an architect, I just had a contractor. He couldn’t speak a word of English! And at that time I couldn’t speak a word of Spanish so we were very careful about miscommunication. You really have to be there every day. If you miss a week, you don’t know what you’ll find.
WHAT DO YOU HOPE GUESTS TAKE AWAY FROM A STAY AT HACIENDA LOS OLIVOS?
SS: A lot of times guests write me an email a day after they’ve checked in and they say, “Oh, it’s better in real life than it is in the pictures.” Which for me is a big compliment. And most of the time, even when they leave, they send me a note that says, “Thank you so much for sharing your house, we felt right at home.” It has a sense of intimacy. It’s a big house, everybody independent because all the bedrooms are separate, and yet you have the common living room where everybody meets for meals and throughout the day. So you’re together, but separate. You’re not on top of each other which is kind of nice.
ARE YOU CURRENTLY WORKING ON ANY DESIGN PROJECTS?
SS: I’m finishing one house in Todos Santos and I’m talking with some clients about starting their house too. They’re a young American couple who just moved to Todos Santos a year ago and they bought some land. I’m not doing twenty houses at once. I’m only doing one a year which is kind of nice because I can really focus on it and since I’m not living Todos Santos full time–I commute from LA–it’s perfect. If I was living in Todos Santos full time it would be a different story. I’d be working on more houses at once. But this is a good pace for me.
Learn more and book Sylvie Sabatier's Hacienda Los Olivos here.