Photographs by James Fennell.
Situated one hour's drive south of Mexico City, the city of Cuernavaca is widely regarded for possessing the finest climate imaginable. Certainly best-selling author and sometime radio presenter Andrea Valeria has no intention of moving anywhere else. The daughter of Romanian poet Valeriu Marcu and his wife Christiane Grautoff (herself the widow of anti-fascist German dramatist, Ernst Toller), Andrea moved to Cuernavaca in 1990.
Andrea, one of Mexico's leading astrologers, is working on a new book entitled "Loosing Chaos" when we arrive. The book is named for her oldest and dearest Boston Terrier, Chaos, who passed away shortly before these photographs were taken. And perhaps Chaos is an appropriate name for the remarkable home she now shares with Chaos's seven surviving canine colleagues and her husband, Leon Garcia Soler, a leading political journalist with Mexico's Excelsior newspaper.
Andrea's motives for moving to Cuernavaca were not simply climate-induced. As a child, Andrea attended a boarding school here from which she would occasionally run away to the Aztec pyramid of Teopanzolco. Here she would sit and contemplate the wonders of the galaxy, an experience she relates in her acclaimed 1999 bestseller, Astrological Intelligence: A Practical Guide to Navigating Life's Everyday Decisions. It was these memories that inspired her to return to the city and, aided by architect Hector Roman, convert a 560 square foot sidewalk into this colourful open plan home, looking out onto the very same Teopanzolco pyramid. Here amid the friendly barks and languid yawns of the dogs and the clatter and rattle of the outside world, Andrea gets her head down to celestial writings.
And indeed one would surely require a sizeable telescope to make head or tail of the kaleidescopic contents with which she surrounds herself. Andrea does not believe in cupboards or filing cabinets. She feels everything should be on display, easily accessible at all times. Hence, where function begets decoration, so decoration evolves to be the most ingenious function there is.
Her house, known as "Andrea Cali", appears to be wholly supported by a metal frame in the centre, inspired by "the concept of an umbrella holding up the sky, stemming from the earth, alongside a pyramid". If that sounds complicated, look again at the photographs. Her living room wall is composed of a series of silver-painted oil drums stacked one upon t'other. The staircase plays host to a mass of exotic dancing masks from the village of Guerro. Chairs and shelving units exude the flamboyant charm of the Michoacan region. Strategically placed beneath an astrological painting by Dali is a cast iron "stove with eggs", created by Lucero Isaac. The dining room table is one half of a chandelier.
There is something delightfully dreamy about Andrea Valeria's home. It is as if you and the entirety of her possessions are floating in a most peculiar way.