The Mexican Modernist Hotel To Visit This Year
A look inside San Cristóbal's design and community.
An outdoor fireplace stands in front of the hills of Todos Santos, at the poolside lounge of rustic-modern hotel San Cristóbal. “It’s a special place to welcome in the morning,” says Meghan Hughes, the boutique hotel’s General Manager. Natural light floods through the crevices of the hotel’s structure, and wooden-beams cast patterned shadows that complement the existing print of the already Insta-famous floor tiles. While the design of San Cristóbal is an aesthetic feast (one that is so good it hurts), the art and objects within the space were chosen primarily to maintain authenticity. “We sourced local, Mexican artisans for almost everything you see here. We want to reflect and support our surroundings, rather than disrupt them,” Hughes adds. The Austin-native moved to Todos Santos to lead operations at the newly-opened haven. She joined us for breakfast at Benno, the hotel’s restaurant, to talk design, culture, and a conscious approach to hospitality.
The hotel itself is a white canvas, speckled with muted pink textiles, turquoise tiling, green cacti, and wooden accents. “The architectural team, Lake|Flato, actually built the hotel in a way that considers the sun’s patterns, to incorporate shadows into the design itself,” Hughes adds. Light filters through the pergolas to create stripes of sun and shadow across the outer walls. Lake|Flato, the Texas-based firm, is known for its place-based creations and focus on sustainability. In describing the approach for San Cristóbal, the firm states, “Adjacent to a 250-year old fishing village with considerable charm, the design for the boutique hotel combines a thoughtful approach to architecture that keeps the area’s inherent, raw beauty.”
Texas hotelier Liz Lambert is responsible for the vision and execution of San Cristóbal. Lambert founded the hotel’s hospitality hub, Bunkhouse Group, under which a handful of design centric Texas and Mexico-based hotels operate. Design Director of Bunkhouse, Tenaya Hills, and Lambert set out to create a very specific feel at Cristóbal. The woven pillows scattered throughout the hotel’s lounge areas are made from Guatemalan fabrics, and the basket chairs come from Mexa Design Shop. Much of the hotel’s furniture comes from Guadalajara, including the sleek concrete tables and woven seats. But perhaps the most inquired-about design feature is the colorful tile that continues from the kitchen into the 32 rooms. Lambert and Hills worked to track down the designer of a tile they first saw while at a cafe in New York. Bunkhouse then licensed the tile, and consigned it in a unique color scheme of green, yellow, maroon, red, and pale pink. Together, the colors and design elements represent both the destination and it’s pared-down, Mexican modernist ambiance.
Another feeling one might pick up on while visiting San Cristóbal is a welcoming yet relaxed approach to hospitality. “The team here is amazing." Hughes shares. "The employees are encouraged to be themselves and share their knowledge and passion of the area with the guests thus creating a genuine sentiment of community and friendship.” The Bunkhouse Group comes from a very grounded place, striving to not only create a positive experience for guests, but for locals, too. “Nearly everyone that works here is a local,” she added, explaining that the group opened a hospitality course for people of the Todos Santos community. "Over 50 students signed up, and we enrolled them into courses focusing on the ethos, culture, standards of Bunkhouse.” The goal is to provide skills that will extend beyond the hospitality realm — an education that can be applied in life, also. The hotel encourages guests to bring new and unused items that are not easily found in the small community for donations, such as sporting goods, and partnered with Nike to donate sneakers to local kids. These compassionate, socially aware programs at San Cristóbal create a travel experience that reaches far beyond beautiful photographs, reconceptualizing what one expects from hotel stay.
Bunkhouse group is pioneering a new standard in travel and hospitality, both in design and ethos. As industry awareness becomes a new norm (within food, beauty, fashion, and more), implementing purpose behind our choices in consumption becomes second nature. The structure and design of San Cristóbal incorporate research and context, telling the true story of a region and community. Perhaps that is the ultimate objective and purpose of design, after all.