I used to own a home that I liked to decorate. Well I guess I technically do still own a home – hi my renters! – but I’m no longer responsible for what goes on the walls or on the bookcases there. And here in our rental in Playa besides a few photos of the friends and family the rest of the home furnishings and decorations are all courtesy of our landlords. I used to like looking for ways to make our home more comfortable or for some great art to put on our walls but for the most part I’ve been pretty happy to be free of that responsibility. And then we went to Valladolid. More specifically we went to a place called Casa de los Venados in Valladolid and everything I thought I knew about home furnishings and decor went out the window.

Casa de los Venados is a private home owned by a very nice couple named John and Dorianne who are originally from Chicago but now reside in Mexico full-time. Every single day at 10 a.m. people ring the doorbell and they open up their private home and show these strangers around.

If you rang our doorbell at 10 a.m. in the morning you’d get two scruffy looking people, possibly still in their pajamas, and not too pleasant. And we’re most definitely not going to give you a tour of our apartment. But John and Dorianne? Well they’re friendly, welcoming, had regular clothes on. And? And they let anybody that shows up at their door in for a tour. Anybody. I mean they let us in and as I mentioned, we can look a little scruffy at 10 a.m.

So why are people pestering them everyday for a tour? First off, their home itself is a work of art. They bought the traditional hacienda style building in 2000 and spent years remodeling and restoring it from the ground up. Seriously, I saw pictures of the before and after and the difference is amazing. What they ended up with is an architecturally amazing property.

Courtyard at Casa de los Venados
This courtyard is situated in the center of their property with the house built all around. I think my whole house could easily fit into that courtyard.
Pool at Casa de los Venados
The walkway across the pool that leads to yet another part of the house that’s also decorated with beautiful art.

But the real reason people stop by everyday is to see their art collection. John and Dorianne own more than 3,000 pieces making it the largest museum quality collection of privately owned Mexican folk art. And the wonderful thing about their art collection is that it is put to use in every single nook and cranny of their house. It’s not behind glass or a rope, it’s just how they’ve chosen to decorate their home. And the way they have decorated their home with this valuable art is wild and wacky and absolutely wonderful. You do not have to be art aficionado or collector to appreciate and be in awe of what they have done. Every time we rounded a corner or entered another room our jaws would drop.

Entrance to Casa de los Venados
In the entrance to Casa de los Venados, just a “little” taste of what is to come.
Foyer at Casa de los Venados
This guy cracked me up because…well I have no idea what’s going on here.
Dining Room at Casa de los Venados
Their dining room. Looks just like yours, right?
Hand Clock
I’ve had to use my fingers to add before, but never to tell time.
Seating area at Casa de los Venados
An area right next to the bar. Interesting happy hour companions.
Jason and the skeleton
One of these things is made of papier mache, the other is made of tacos and beer. I’m not going to tell you which is which.
Figure on the wall
Everywhere you looked, up, down and all around, there was something to see.
Frida Room at Casa de los Venados
In addition to the owners living quarters, they have five guest suites for friends and family (I’m currently wondering if they need more friends) and they all are decorated in a particular theme. This is the Frida (Kahlo) Suite and is full of artistic homages to her.
Poker table at Casa de los Venados
The poker table. One of the very few pieces in the house that they commissioned. Well worth it I would say, I’d be willing to lose a few dollars there.
Skull at Casa de los Venados
As I’m sure you’ve noticed, skull and skeleton imagery is very prevalent in Mexican folk art.
Tree of Life at Casa de los Venados
A close up of one of the many Tree of Life’s. These clay sculpture are built around a theme, traditionally from a story in the Bible. They can be massive in size and each piece is individually crafted and then placed on the tree.
Mariachi Band at Casa de los Venados
You know the old saying, no Mexican folk art collection is complete without an oversized metal mariachi band. That is a saying, right? Well it should be.

There are a gazillion more photos I could have posted here, like I said everywhere we looked there was something else to see and we were encouraged to take as many pictures as we wanted (oh did we ever take them up on that offer). Here’s the kicker. John and Dorianne don’t charge an entry fee for people to come and wander through their home. They don’t open their home to help them make money to buy more art. All they ask for is a donation at the end of each tour, $60 pesos or about $5 which they turn around and donate to local charities. This isn’t a moneymaking enterprise for them, it’s truly a labor of love. They love collecting art and they love sharing that art with other people. They consider themselves “custodians” of this collection and have declared that in the long run the art will be endowed to a private foundation which will continue to show the home each day. So whether you’re in Valladolid tomorrow, next week or next year make sure to stop by, ring the bell at Casa de los Venados and check it out. I’m pretty sure they’re not done collecting so who know what you might see next.

Tours at Casa de los Venados are given everyday at 10 a.m. in Spanish and English, no reservations are required. Donations of $60 MS/$5 U.S. are requested.