Newell Turner has been consumed by an obsession that he has finally addressed in his new book, Mexican: A Journey Through Design (Vendome). As the veteran magazine editor and publisher (who is still in the editorial trenches) admits, “I have devoted myself to American interior design, always trying to answer the question, What is American style?” While he largely defined that style for himself and the millions of readers of the magazines he edited, he has been asking himself yet another question. What actually is Mexican style?”
He has been traveling to Mexico since the early 1990s, increasingly obsessed with its aesthetics, architecture, interior design, history, and very ethos. His subsequent examination of and immersion in all things Mexican is so detailed that upon sitting in a Maya hammock, his feet dangling from what he considers a piece of furniture, he had an epiphany: “This was just the beginning of my understanding that, as with so many things in Mexico, beauty is rarely straightforward, symmetrical, or rigid.”
Upon buying, with his partner, a casona (a grand home) in Mérida, while spending more time in Mexico, away from the United States and its “dark, cold Northeast winters that were becoming increasingly unbearable to me,” he began to document via Instagram posts his discoveries. Turner has an uncannily keen eye for discerning patterns in nature and finding them reflected in the built environment. Through his photos (and those of others), he takes readers through all eras in Mexico—Pre-Columbian to Colonial, Art Deco (the latter evidenced by the accompanying photo showing the 1928 Casa del Pueblo in Mérida) to the present day.
Turner is obsessed with the meaning of home. “My story is a classic expat story: the combination of an escape and the search for something missing in my life.” He has found a new home in Mexico, a place so appealing that he seems to be encouraging all of us to follow.
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WRITTEN BY DAVID MASELLO
This story appeared in the Fall 2023 issue of MILIEU.