Three Ways an Interior Designer Can Help You Find and Create Your Dream Home in Puerto Vallarta

If you are considering buying your dream home in Puerto Vallarta, working from the start of the process with a qualified interior designer can help you find and design the home of your dreams.

The following tips illustrate how a great interior designer can help create your dream house.

Assessing the Purchase

Walking through a potential home with your interior designer can give you some great ideas as to the potential of any given house. A designer will point out different possibilities and whether or not the property will provide the right space for you.

It is a great service that many people don’t even know exists. Finding a property that can fit your vision is very important!

Interior Design!

To those of you who have just purchased or are considering a new purchase, hiring a great interior designer is one of the best moves, and often overlooked moves, that you can make.

A designer will work with you to create a plan to turn a plain home into a dream home.

Moving from the US/Canada to Mexico

If you are moving from the US/Canada into Mexico,  and have a Temporary or Permanent Residence Card, you are allowed to bring personal household items and goods into Mexico one time. You should have a good plan in place to ensure that you don’t bring to much… or too little.

A designer is usually more than happy to help you determine your needs.

Umberto is happy to offer you a free consultation.

Great interior design does not just simply “happen.”

It is brought to you by a designer who has had years of experience in the world of high fashion….

… a designer who has worked with demanding clients of iconic worldwide status.

An interior designer known for his passion, for both his art form and his clients.

Great design comes from the well-known designer:

Umberto Ciccolella.

After 30 years of designing beautiful interiors for the rich and famous of New York and Los Angeles, Umberto headed south of the border eight years ago. After creating designs for high-profile clients in Puerto Vallarta, Buenos Aires, Punta del Este and throughout Central and South America, he has landed back in Puerto Vallarta.

While each country has stylistic differences, likes and dislikes, in the end all great design follows the same process.  This process ensures the perfect result.

Below I will share my design philosophy with you.  So, here we go. All the steps necessary to getting the results you want!

Our Initial Meeting

Eleven critical questions must be discussed in the initial meeting and start of the design process.  These are questions that only you and I can answer together:  

  • Who will be using the space and what are their various needs?
  • How many people will be using the space and who are these people?
  • What are your style and color preferences?
  • How long will the space be used? Daily? Monthly? Seasonally?
  • Is the property a principal residence, 2nd home or an investment?
  • What does the client hope to achieve through commissioning the work?
  • What is the scope of work?
  • What is the budget?
  • Do you have furnishing or are you shipping furnishings into the country?
  • What is the time frame for completion?
  • Are you comfortable with the design fees, payment schedule, contracts?

Great design looks amazing, beautiful, unplanned… but the truth is that interior design is a process. The perfect home looks as if it was born that way. The work behind the scenes in a great interior design is always invisible.  There is a process that creates this wonderful environment which is achieved through great vision and style. A creative collaboration between the client and designer. With a great interior comes lots and lots of planning. 

Creativity, collaboration and execution are the key.

8 key components of the design process:

  • Concept 
  • Scope of work
  • Budget
  • Planning
  • Specifications
  • Agreement
  • Execution
  • Completion

Details of each component:

Concept:  Every project is unique, but these are the key elements  of the Concept phase.  It is critical to understand the client’s vision to begin the process.

Style:  Understanding the client’s esthetic vision in design. It may vary from minimalist to over the top dramatic… or somewhere in-between.  Blending the interior with the exterior architecture is highly important. Fusing the client’s style with the realities of the project while creating a home that is grounded and unforced is an art.   

Discovering the client’s vision for this particular project is the keystone to success. Someone with very traditional taste might wish to stray from the usual and do something completely tropical due to the incredible surroundings. Color palettes, furniture, surfaces, spaces, architectural elements are all variables that can change with location and the type of property and how it is going to be used.

Function:   How will the house be used? Is it a primary residence, seasonal property, second home, or will it be rented out? If the home will be used as a rental property, this may influence the choices of finishes and fabrics.  It is also extremely important to know the amount of people who will live in the home, and the size and style of entertaining in the home.

Architecture:  The interior and exterior architecture are usually established, but it is important to fuse the architecture with the new design- whether that means staying true to the architecture or fusing or blending the architecture with harmonious styles.  It may also mean renovations -adding or changing architectural elements to create a fresh look for the vision of the finished project.

Color Palette:  Color changes everything. Selecting the proper color palette is crucial and will set a mood and style for the entire project.  Working as a team and deciding on a range of color is a great beginning to any design project.

Scope of work:  It is important to define all the work within the project and detail what each item entails with estimated costs for each item.  With that information in hand, it is possible to determine a preliminary budget. 

At times, a client has a determined budget and with that information, it is important to talk realistically about what can be achieved for a particular amount.  This avoids disappointment and frustrations and clarifies the project.  Other times clients have a set sum of money to work with and that is the budget. Even with a smaller budget, much can be accomplished.

Budget:  The scope of work should make it easy to determine a rough budget.  The budget should be determined only after all aspects of the project are determined.  Changes and additions after work begins are not only more costly but can change the energy and outcome of the project.  The more detailed the plan the better the outcome.

Designing and decorating your home should be exciting and enjoyable.  As in most relationships, money can become a problem if things are not upfront and realistic.  It is always good to allow contingencies for unexpected expenses, but the more detailed and clear the plans and budget are, the more you can rest assured that the project will come in on budget.

Payment schedules are usually based on progress. A clear understanding of the payment schedule is critical. The contractors should be on a progress payment schedule as well as the designer fees.  The designer should be paid in phases different from the contractors, material houses or furniture companies. The contractors or “trades” involved in the project should also provide estimates of their work.  Any city permit fees need to be included in the budget as well as clean up, condo regulations and any other ancillary considerations.  In addition, physical changes other than decorating may require an architect and the accompanying fees.

Planning:  At this point, with the scope of the work and budget determined, it is
time to put it all down on paper. That includes a 1st draft of the floor plans, estimated costs of all expenses for the project and timelines. It should include lists of all contractors, materials, furniture, lighting, fixtures, designers fees… everything needed to complete the project from start to finish. 

This portion of the process gives the client a glimpse of the completed job as well as insight into whether the budget is within their expectations.  This is the moment to discuss changes, cuts or additions.  If this estimated cost far exceeds the budget, it’s time to look at scaling back the project or make adjustments in how the money is being spent.

Specifications - Research and Resources:  Researching finishes and sourcing materials/furniture, and then specifying them is critical to the design and budget. Contractors who provide quality workmanship on time and on budget are also of extreme importance. It clarifies what you’re getting and the costs involved.

Thanks to the internet, it’s easy to see all the choices available as well as samples of color, fabrics, texture.  This is the perfect phase of the project to resolve design and budget issues. There are endless materials, finishes and furniture choices; all great, but usually differ greatly in price. It’s a good time to look at costs and perhaps change the scope of the work or change furniture, fixtures, finishes or materials to keep the budget in line without sacrificing the integrity of the design.

Comprises made at this point will ensure you get the design you want without the problems of being over budget and overstressed. All these changes are on paper at this point and are quite simple to change.  In the later phases of the project they are costly and sometimes heartbreaking.

Agreement:  At this point the client and designer come to agreement as to what will be done.  Final plans and itemized budgets are prepared and submitted to the client for approval. It’s a final chance to address questions, concerns and possible changes.  After consideration, the final plans should be set and the agreement for the project signed.

Execution:  With all the details finalized, it is time to talk about a timeframe, start date, work schedule, progress reports, communications regarding progress and reviewing the design. It’s always a good practice to set up weekly updates or conference calls during the project. Open communication ensures that everyone is on the same page and up to date. Client site visits are great but may not be possible; in that case, photos of progress or video clips are critical.

Completion:  Once the work is completed and approved by the client, the final payments are distributed. Depending on the project, accessories, household items such as linens, kitchen equipment, art, may be included in a turnkey project or done after the initial project is complete as a secondary project.

In Summary

Hopefully this will give you some insight into how to enjoy the process of making your dream home into a reality.   I like to refer to the saying “Well begun is half done,”  or in other words-- a good beginning assures success.  

A good interior designer is successful when the finished product is your vision of comfort and style. Exactly what you wanted and cost what you planned to spend. It all comes down to the planning stages! Plan, plan, plan…. And then plan some more!  

Please feel free to contact me with any questions you may have. 


u m b e r t o
Interior Design Studio Puerto Vallarta

Design Tips

As featured on Banderas News March 23, 2012 - click to go to Banderas News online

Interior Design Without Limitations- Our Tropical Paradise of Puerto Vallarta

Complete Article
New products and materials have removed the boundaries on design and decoration in PV

Puerto Vallarta is an amazing, beautiful place to live; there is no doubt about it. Luckily for us, paradise has become more cosmopolitan with all possible amenities. Still, our climatic paradise poses a number of challenges when designing and decorating.

Interior design is dependent on the use of materials such as paint, wood and fabrics. Without the specialized knowledge of an interior designer, a project in Vallarta can quickly go awry due to our climatic conditions.

We may live in paradise, but we all know that the sun, heat, humidity, and heavy rainfall can wreak havoc on our homes.  The trick is to choose materials wisely.  We now have a wide array of products available to us that make great design possible without constant maintenance.

The following are some tips when working with interior design materials in Puerto Vallarta:

Color Palettes: When picking your colors in Puerto Vallarta anything goes. Keep in mind that cool breezy colors create that casual, cool feeling that many of us are going for. Lighter colors are often better, but warm feelings may be evoked without feeling hot or heavy.

A blend of Mexican and modern color palettes is very popular in some of today’s most popular homes. Monotone and neutral colors coupled with art and accent accessories provide just the look many residents are look for.

Furniture: All wood furniture in your home should be a solid hardwood. Primavera or Parota woods are two popular choices in our part of the world.

If you fall in love with an antique or rustic piece of furniture that is pine or a soft wood, you should certainly have it sprayed for termites and check it periodically.

Upholstery: With the availability of hardwood frames, Dacron, foam, sumbrella fabrics, and other durable weather-proof cotton, any style upholstered furniture is available to us.  We are not limited to the old Vallarta style concrete bases built in banquettes, which are not all that comfortable and limit design.

It is important to still be careful to have some type of wood or man-made material feet on furniture to keep the furniture  up off the floor. This provides space for adequate cleaning and helps keep things dry.

Slipcovers are always an excellent option in Vallarta. These wonderful accoutrements are easily washable and easy to keep mold free. If stained, slipcovers are always replaceable, unlike the furniture they are protecting.

Window Coverings: Window treatments and shades are much better in Puerto Vallarta than other choices. Great window cover designs and technology specifically designed for sunny, humid climates are a wonderful innovation.

If curtains are a must for your decor, make sure they are sun resistant and tightly woven/stable fabrics. Some fabrics easily shrink or stretch in our humidity and sun.  Remember that your hard surface floors require cleaning and this can also be problematic with curtains. 

Art:  If you choose wood frames, use hardwood frames whenever possible with your hanging pieces. Once again, termites and mold can be quite problematic.

With the popularity of both traditional and modern oil paintings in interior design, special care must be taken to protect these special pieces from sun damage. Window shades, tinted glass, or shaded overhangs are preferable when protecting your precious works of art.

Paint: Ensure that you purchase paint with a high quality mold resistance. Primer is also critical to prolonging painted finishes. High quality mold resistant paints may seem expensive, but will save money in the end.

Floors: Floors should always be a hard surface in a tropical climate; stone, marble, ceramic, porcelain, or concrete are preferable. Wall to wall carpets are not advisable. It is almost impossible to keep carpets dry and odor free.

Wood floors are possible but highly problematic. These flooring materials are highly susceptible to humidity and warping.

Just remember that where dampness and humidity are king, so are stone-based floors or other hard surface flooring materials.

Area Rugs: In order to create a defined area with color and pattern, area rugs are a must in Puerto Vallarta. Once again, just be sure that the rug you choose is easy to clean and mold resistant. Also, keep in mind that hard surface floors must be cleaned frequently, and area rugs can create more maintenance.

If you use area rugs, make sure that they are easy to move so you can clean under them with ease.

Shade: With our hot sun, shade is always a consideration for residents of Vallarta. Sun and heat loads can be severely hard on finishes, art and furniture. Properly placed shades can help curtail any problems.

The French style retractable awnings are a great solution if you do not wish to block the sun for the entire day.  If you are using these type of awnings, the only good fabric choice is sumbrella.

Palapas are of the true old Vallarta style and create a perfect ambience. Many clients prefer traditional design material such as the Palapas. Unfortunately, these require quite a bit of maintenance. Luckily, every year new products that imitate the Palapas look through synthetic material are more and more available.

Terrace Furniture:  MicroTex rattan furniture is great and easy to maintain. Aluminum with mesh is also a great lightweight option. Cushions must be covered in sumbrella or a similar material.

Also, be aware that in the rainy season it is impossible to leave these cushions outside, so plan an area where they can be easily stored.

During the rainy season, it is also important that you store lightweight aluminum outdoor furniture indoors. High winds can easily destroy these pieces.

Sun Position:  If there is no shade protection, your interior may easily face the possibility of sun damage. Always remember that the sun in Vallarta changes position drastically from winter to summer. A terrace that only receives gentle sun during the winter may face harsh afternoon sun in the summer months.

Air Circulation: Being able to enjoy the natural climate and open-air feeling is one of the pleasures of paradise. Be sure to check for good cross-ventilation.

Ceiling fans are a wonderful, aesthetically pleasing way to create great cross-flow. Ceiling fans not only circulate the air, but also help with mosquitos and other annoying bugs.

Air Conditioning: The hot summer months often require air conditioning for comfortable sleeping. Mini-split air conditioners are very popular here and are often the perfect answer to the air conditioning conundrum.  With good design and planning, you can control zones of your living space without full-house central air.

When purchasing mini-splits, it is advisable to go a little oversize for the area you need to cover. There are virtually unlimited amounts of brands available. Always remember the old adage; you get what you pay for. This is especially in the case of mini-split air-conditioning units. Also, new a/c units are also much more efficient than a/c units previously available.

Roofs and Rain: Make sure that all terraces and roofs are checked yearly before the rainy season to avoid costly damages that could be avoidable through maintenance.

Plants: In Vallarta, you can keep a veritable jungle of indoor plants. After all, we are living in the “jungle.” Just remember that the environment can also cause mold and fungus to take root on your indoor plants. Always check and spray these plants as necessary.

Closets: Air circulation is critical in closets. Without a humidity control device or running an air conditioning unit, items left in closets need to be checked and aired out periodically to avoid mold damage. Shuttered doors or wood lattice doors allow some circulation and are recommended. 

Hire an Interior Designer for Peace of Mind

Hopefully, some of these tips will get you thinking about your homes, decorations and interior design materials here in Puerto Vallarta. Whether you are a new resident or have lived here your entire life, keeping your homes and decorations in tip-top condition is important.

Hiring an experienced, local interior designer with specialized climatic knowledge is a smart thing to do when designing. Local professionals take all of the climatic challenges into consideration when planning a design. If you do-it-yourself, make sure that you are as well versed as possible to all possible climatic respects.


May 4, 2012

How to Get the Interior Design Results You Want… and Stay on Budget

Great interior design is THE most important element in creating your perfect living space. Whether it’s a design for a newly built home, a renovation, or a complete makeover of your present space, interior design adds both a great deal of value and style to your home and your life.

Naturally, when you begin a new interior design project, it is important to plan, plan, plan. And stay on budget. Before you get started with your planning, however, you must speak with your designer about your budget. Be it big or small. Knowing how much you are comfortable to spend up front makes the entire process smooth and seamless.

A great interior designer keeps you on budget. That’s because they plan for anything and everything that you might need in order to get things done.  Style colors, furniture, construction costs, contractors… everything.  

Make sure that you use an interior designer who works with you from the start. From a pre-defined budget that you are comfortable with. This makes the design process easy.  

So how to you achieve the interior design of your dreams with a specific budget in mind?

Proper design, planning and organization are of the utmost importance. When working with a professional, make sure to follow each of these steps:

Designer: Hire a reputable interior designer for all or parts of your design. A designer with a great depth of experience in the field will be able to show a comprehensive portfolio.

These consummate professionals will help you navigate the world of contractors, tradesmen, suppliers and vendors, or work as your agent.  A great interior designer is your advocate.

Planning:  This is the legwork part of interior design. Don’t take anything for granted. Each element has great importance in the grand scheme of your design. The more you plan up front, the less you’ll have to do while the project is in process or on the back-end.

Organization: We’re not talking about your dresser here. We’re talking about paperwork!  Contracts, samples, budgets and timelines.  All a very important component to any interior design project.

If you are able to keep things as organized as possible, everything moves smoothly. Naturally, a good interior designer may be contracted to take care of most of this work for you.

It’s important with an interior design project that you find any possible problems during  the planning stage. Changes made later are usually much more expensive and might ruin your budget.  

Remember. When creating a stunning new interior design:  plan, plan and plan some more!

Umberto Ciccolella