“There is a saying that if you can make a business successful in Guadalajara, you can make it successful anywhere,” says Hotel Demetria owner and architect, Iván Cordero of his hometown. Sandwiched between two historic houses—Luis Barragán’s Casa Franco and Pedro Castellanos Casa Quiñones—Hotel Demetria, Cordero’s first building, is part of his larger effort to preserve Guadalajara’s architectural history and instill a sense of “social conscience in tourists and locals.”
His involvement with the project began when he saw that Casa Quiñones and an adjacent property were for sale. The house, built in 1930, is one of Mexico’s fist modernist buildings and boasts intricate tile floors, a floating staircase, an elevator, and unique multilevel structure. But the owners who sold the house to Cordero didn’t exactly see it that way: Cordero found food in the kitchen and many original pieces of furniture in the house, even though it had been abandoned for nearly fifteen years. Weeks of cleaning yielded Art Deco fountains under vines, sweaters tossed in corners, and an original sketch of the house by Castellanos, signed and dated.
Soon after, Casa Franco was up for sale. As Cordero puts it: “I got really lucky.” He made an offer and began to toy with the idea of placing a hotel between the two properties. Although some in the neighborhood were initially resistant to the idea, Cordero and Oscar Luna, now the hotel’s experience assistant, went door-to-door to chat with the community. Ultimately, they gained their neighbors’ trust and were able to move ahead with construction.
Now, just over a year old, the nearly 10,000-square-foot boutique hotel has 37 rooms and six apartments. The structure exemplifies many elements of Mexican architecture and design: mixing modern brutalism and functionalism with classic French and Spanish colonialism. Although the dark stone, cement panels, and glass façade are stark, the building has a sense of calm reminiscent of a monastery. By contrast, Hotel Demetria’s furniture, which Cordero sources from flea markets, has the bright homey aesthetic one expects from traditional Mexican design. The lobby serves as a gallery and event space, but when we visited it was only inhabited by Van Dyke’s portrait of the Duchess of Croy.
From the old convent tables in the bookstore to the pottery in the restaurant, every piece is for sale. Luna explains, “That is the point of a true boutique hotel: for everything to be available to the guest. Also, it allows our inventory to rotate and keeps things looking fresh each time someone visits the hotel.” An art store in the adjacent Casa Franco highlights artists from all over Mexico. “Often tourists won’t know what they are buying or the artists won’t know how much to charge. We buy and sell everything at fair prices,” Luna says.
Cordero and Luna have plans to continue to preserve historical architecture in Guadalajara, building on Hotel Demetria’s success to promote future projects like an apartment complex, currently under construction, and another art gallery, which is in the works.