If there was ever anyone destined to live just a two-minute walk from the sea off the coast of Mexico, it’s Doug Schneider. Hooked on surfing since his early teens and drawn to the Mexican language and culture surrounding him growing up in Southern California, it’s no surprise he now owns the jaw-dropping Casa La Laguna in San Jose del Cabo, Mexico. In retrospect, buying and revitalizing the classic Mexican hacienda-style home on the ocean was the most natural beginning to Doug’s Mexican adventure, one that continues today on his half-acre palm-filled compound just steps from the sea.
When Doug Schneider was house-hunting in Mexico, he often stopped to surf—as his search was just as much about finding the right location to ride the waves as it was about finding an incredible house. Even looking at real estate with a broker had a surfing component. “We’d surf in the morning and look at houses in the afternoon,” he says, laughingly acknowledging that even with the practical task of finding a house at hand, he wouldn’t give up his special solo morning communion with the ocean.
From the moment he first saw Casa La Laguna perched on the ocean’s edge, Doug was smitten. And why that house? It was simple: “The short answer is, I love the ocean. I was passionate about Casa La Laguna’s three-mile-long secluded beach with rock formations, and it was so close to great surfing.” And, of course, the house is in Mexico, a country he has been fascinated with since childhood.
Doug is as Californian as they come. His family’s roots are in the orange groves and in show business—the two most central California industries—and California’s roots are Mexican. To be old-stock Californian is to be bathed in all things Mexican, from the language, the architecture, the foods, and the friendships. “Mexico is in my DNA,” Doug says.
The property, with its outdated house and somewhat neglected grounds, was ripe for revitalization when Doug found it in 2006. Working closely with his wife, Marilee, Doug didn’t want to do a simple renovation of a traditional Mexican hacienda-style home like so many others in the area. The 1980s house had a lot going for it, the couple said, but they wanted to reinterpret it and—while still honoring the Mexican architectural traditions—instill contemporary energy, a coastal spirit, and a touch of Balinese aesthetic. “We came up with the idea of Bali-meets-Mexican-Hacienda,” he says.
With architect Eduardo Valenzuela, the couple set out to brighten and modernize the structure. The idea was to create a Mexican beach house with breezy architecture open to the sea, with an interior that nodded to the tropical Southeast Asian island they both loved so much. For two years the duo worked on their project. They kept the timeworn wooden ceiling beams and Mission-style red clay barrel tile roofing. They retained and added a series of arches leading from space to space in the arcade. And they added huge windows throughout the house, each with jaw-dropping views of the sea. “You can see white water and the beach from every section of our house. Every bedroom has an unobstructed view,” Doug says.
They loved the heritage Mexican style that included the natural hues and textures of the plaster, wood, travertine and consuela, but on that serene backdrop didn’t want to fill the house with rustic, heavy dark wood Mexican furniture, the staples of traditional hacienda-like homes. Instead they wanted to harness the Balinese aesthetic and sought out handcrafted furniture of bamboo, rattan, and teak. Once the interior work was completed, the couple went, as Doug describes it, on a “treasure hunt” in Bali (which naturally included a lot of surfing, too) where they bought furniture, paintings, masks, and sculpture. They bought so much of it, in fact, “we call our media room our Balinese art museum,” he says.
Marilee loves every single piece of furniture, sculpture and art that they bought in Bali, many of which are one-of-a-kind antique and vintage pieces. The couple outfitted the rooms with rattan beds, broad-armed rattan lounge chairs, a side table carved right out of a tree trunk and a Balinese weaving table. But it’s a pair of eight-foot tall, hand-carved teak shadow puppets that truly stole her heart when she found them. This particular ancient form of theatrical puppetry called Wayang is still seen on Bali and throughout Indonesia. “If there was ever a fire or flood these would be the first pieces I would save,” she says.
Each of the six beautifully designed bedrooms has special treasures inside as well. There’s a hand-carved teak framed mirror in the second master bedroom and a century-old dresser in another bedroom. That too is made from teak, though it is neither Balinese nor Indonesian. A Dutch craftsman made that special piece of furniture from the time Indonesia was still a Dutch colony.
Of all the rooms, the “room” Doug has perhaps the most fondness for is the garage where he stores his surfboards (just six or seven of them, he jokes). While the interior of Casa La Luna is magnificent, the outdoors is the draw when you have a home on the beach with perfect weather, quiet coves, and tide pools. “As soon as I saw the undeveloped part of the lot, I knew what I could do with it,” Doug says. In addition to outdoor dining and lounging areas, the couple installed a palapas bar and a two-level pool for guests who are ocean-shy but still love the water. And, Doug adds, there are lots of places to just sit and just gaze at the sea. With a bit of luck, visitors can see whales passing by, as this part of the ocean hosts the biggest yearly whale migration of the area. The more adventurous can even paddleboard or kayak among the creatures.
Guests might not want to ever leave the confines of Casa La Laguna, though, since Doug has three teams of chefs on call. Attentive and discreet service is provided by a staff of butlers, and the management team of Angel and Tina Castillo are the guardian angels watching over the whole operation. Tina, Doug points out, is also a highly regarded masseuse—so why leave at all? For art lovers, however, there’s the draw of San Jose del Cabo’s weekly art walk, and for epicureans a vibrant farm-to-table food scene is just a short ride away from the villa. But guests won’t want to be away too long, Doug says, laughing. There are starry nights at the fire pit, the ocean breeze, the sound of waves, and the three-mile long beach illuminated by the moon.
“That’s where you’ll find me,” he says, laughing. “Unless,” he adds, “I’m still out surfing!”