Note: I received a free stay at Nima Local House Hotel. All opinions expressed are my own.
Mexico City is not often considered a paradise destination. From the perspective of many outside Mexico this gargantuan city is often envisioned as noisy, chaotic, crowded, and even dangerous. Yet look a little closer and Mexico City ends up revealing other, more representative dimensions: artistic and cultural vibrancy, design sophistication, culinary innovation, leafy parks and avenues, and urban luxury.
These elements are perhaps best exemplified by Colonia Roma, an elegant neighborhood near the city’s central core, and in miniature by Roma’s newest and most exciting hospitality project: Nima Local House Hotel.
Colonia Roma is composed of leafy residential and commercial districts displaying mansions of exquisite French inflected architecture, chic bars, cutting-edge fusion diners, typical Mexican restaurants, quirky cafes, cultural corridors full of independent art galleries, and many a used bookstore.
Walk down Avenida Alvaro Obregón and you will get a vision of a young, hip, edgy Mexico City. People in sharp suits and fine dresses cross intersections on the city’s bike-share. Impeccably groomed and trained dogs prance calmly along the crowds, following even better groomed owners. Café terraces brim with spirited patrons. Galleries pulsate with the latest in global artistic trends.
Feel free to take a stroll down some of the less flashy residential neighborhoods. Mexico materializes before your eyes in all its complexity and variation. A taquería serves workers on their lunch hour. A non-descript mezcalería hides a universe of artesanal spirits, the products of unique histories and production techniques from all around the country.
Meanwhile, your eye wanders from one impressive mansion façade to the other, from French Baroque, Regency, and Rococo inspired creations to more whimsical architectural concoctions that could only have arisen in Mexico. This tapestry of color, material, and food reflects the history and culture of Mexico as it congeals in its most refined elegance in Mexico City.
Exhibit A: You come across a façade of French Rococo magnificence. Before you rises a gated, double-entry door made majestic by thick stone moldings. These are crowned by an elaborate pediment that opens onto a stone-framed oval window topped with finely carved royal wreaths. Shrubbery lines the base of a large main window set in richly carved stone moldings that prop up a top floor balcony with delicately patterned iron railings. This dignified edifice ends at a gorgeously molded frieze that buttresses a lush terrace garden. Altogether these elements add up to a truly magnificent first impression, which hints at the stately elegance that characterizes every detail of Nima Local House Hotel.
The former home of Guillermo Tovar y Teresa, a politician and art collector, Nima’s interior architecture, particularly the courtyard and the terrace garden, reflects a schooled artistic eye. Furnishings and decorations display an equal preoccupation with fusing the most illustrious European and Mexican designs and materials: from plush sofas and fine marbles to earthy woods. Some of the stone moldings and iron railings in the house formerly belonged to the most important historic spaces in Mexico, such as the Zócalo, Mexico City’s main plaza.
It is no coincidence that this interior space was designed with Wabi-sabi aesthetics in mind: the space has a general effect on the body of relaxation and refined awareness to detail.
And what a feast for the mind and senses! Coffee tables and stands exhibit art, photography, and architecture books that through their pages pull readers into the immensely rich world of Mexican culture. A beautiful chess board sits near the impressive fireplace, awaiting relaxing evening matches. A cocktail stand featuring fine spirits and all the implements necessary to mix a stiff drink is open for use by patrons. At any time of the day you can sit and enjoy a fine whisky in the plush and comfortable living room, browsing through a photography book, the whole panorama glazed by the soft light of an elegant chandelier. Before long you forget that you are in the middle of one of the largest metropolises on earth.
Even though the atmospheric elements are enough to relax body and spirit, the human attention and courteousness of Nima’s staff will make you feel almost at home. Guests are received in the main living room area and offered local fruit-flavored waters and gourmet coffee. Carolina and Bernardo, two of the main hosts at Nima, are attentive and warm while also being respectful. There is a high likelihood you will run into Nima’s creator, Regina, a sophisticated Chilango (the term for Mexico City locals) who personifies Nima’s poise, elegance, and hospitality.
The rooms, like the rest of the house, are impeccable and brimming with fine details. Large windows fill the space with light. Pale woods and pastel colors give the spaces an airy, weightless feel. Courtesy Mexican snacks will be tastefully arranged on your bed upon your arrival, while the bar features fine Mexican wines and treats. Once again, attention to detail is evident in every feature of these rooms: from the pillow menu to the comfy robes and slippers and the fine furnishings and implements in the bathroom. These rooms are a microcosm of the Mexican high-sophistication of the house, which in turn is a microcosm Roma. If Roma is a retreat from the hustle and bustle of Mexico City into a more refined ideal of Mexican culture, then the rooms at Nima are a retreat into the most intimate luxury.
There are two other spaces worth discussing, spaces central to the Nima experience.
First there is the rooftop garden. High-walled so that the city is screened out, you feel as if you are immersed in a French garden. Lush, overflowing with plants, pleasantly furnished, it is the most impressive space in the property. Its pièce de résistance is an impressive stone fountain with a ferocious carved lion fountainhead. Once again, the refinement of Nima lies in the details: another cocktail stand sits ingeniously in the covered area of the terrace.
Finally there is the incredible downstairs courtyard, which looks upward unimpeded to the skylight three stories above. From this courtyard one can step into a beautiful dining area with a stately dinner table. Here you are likely to be served a refined Mexican breakfast, perfectly balanced like everything else at Nima.
In terms of experience, Nima is equipped to make sure your stay away from home does not interrupt your lifestyle. Yoga, massages, and healthy foods are accessible to guests, as is high quality internet and other services such as Netflix. The property is minutes away from fine dining options. The ownership at Nima is also aware of the link between its house architecture and the fascinating history of this neighborhood, and will be happy to discuss it and to link guests up with neighborhood tours.
I have heard of people in the art world refer to Mexico City now as what Berlin was in the 80s. Whatever that means, it surely means that Mexico City is now an epicenter for developments in the arts and in design, that creative people worldwide have it increasingly on their radar, and that Mexico City pulsates with a sense of possibility for constructing new aesthetic and cultural horizons. Its illustrious cultural history, monumentalized in murals and massive architectural works, idealized in the refined mansions of Roma, and made palatable in the fusion of its complex cuisine, is embodied in Nima.
In fact, the creation of Nima speaks to the convergence of cultural forces that have made Mexico City such a space of tradition and possibility. If you are a designer or artist or a creative personality of any type and you have not been to Mexico City, perhaps you should begin your exploration of the immense Mexican cultural universe at Nima.
This post was written by Juan Pablo Melo, Co-Author and half of the traveling couple behind www.CoupleTakes.com. Photographs by the other half, Laura Vlieg.