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Beautifully Designed Exteriors of San Miguel de Allende



By Diane Chesla


I spent many days wandering around San Miguel this past winter and taking in all the breathtaking architecture. I paid particular attention to colors, stonework and use of symmetry (or asymmetry) on the exteriors. Back home in Canada I am an exterior designer and color consultant so this is the lens through which I look at buildings.


While there is incredible beauty in the architecture of San Miguel de Allende, I learned that the exterior facade often pales in comparison to the interiors with their courtyards, gardens, trees and other beautiful spaces.


As cities grow, however architecture evolves. Sometimes it’s done well and sometimes, not so well. Similar to interior design, there are guidelines for exteriors that make a house appealing to the eye. Here is an example of a house in San Miguel that incorporates these design guidelines:


The house facade is quite simple and it works from a design perspective because of the following:

  • Limited use of colors (pale yellow, dark grey, black, terra cotta)

  • The vine around the left window balances the size of the garage on the right

  • Terracotta color is used very minimally on the roof line and it is repeated in several places

  • Dark-colored metal accents are repeated on windows, the door, and the railing on the rooftop

  • Consistent use of cement around windows, front door, and garage door

  • The garage door is similar in color to the cement frame, so it doesn’t become the focal point of the house

  • It is difficult to see neighboring house colors but you get a glimpse of the muted blue to the left and the muted terra cotta color house to the right. The choice of a muted yellow in this house fits in with the neighborhood


In warmer climates like San Miguel, we also have plants to work with as an added design element on a facade. For instance, this beautiful bougainvillea defines the focal point of this building. The building is monotone in color with paint, cement, and metal all bearing a similar shade of light brown/grey. The juxtaposition of a flaming pink plant against a monotone background makes this facade stunning:


Balcones and Atascadero are neighborhoods that have several houses with striking symmetry in their exterior design. While asymmetry can be just as appealing in design, this is an example of a house that does symmetry beautifully:


  • This symmetrical design works because:

  • The same-shaped windows appear on both the left and right of the door, equally spaced

  • The planters are also left and right of the door and are equally spaced

  • The planters and plants are short to not interfere with the view of the windows

  • The color of cement is repeated in the door frame, windows & planters

  • The black of the door is repeated in the metal stands of the planters, window background, metal on windows, and the light fixture above the door


Stone is another design element that lends itself to creating a stunning facade. It is challenging to get stone right though because it usually contains several colors that have to relate to other elements of the exterior (i.e. painted walls). For this reason, when the stone is used, it is best to keep other colors on a house to a minimum.

The following house does stonework beautifully:


This house uses brown and grey as its main colors. There are tones of rose in the stone, but they are subtle and they complement the grey and brown. Additionally, the size of the stone on the entrance is well-balanced with the rest of the house and defines the entrance as the focal point. Note that the vertical stonework also works with the very plain-colored stone on the ground at the entrance. The color looks to be very similar to one of the colors found on the vertical surface. 


Purposeful asymmetrical or symmetrical design, repeating color, limited use of color, and repeating elements (e.g. metal) are all important in designing an exterior facade. While my husband and I did not intend to buy on our first sojourn in San Miguel, we were so inspired by the incredible design we experienced that we bought land and are now building our own house. I only hope that my observations and documentation of houses will help in our design and help others who are looking to renovate their exterior or build from scratch like us.

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