Zalapa Renovations, El Retiro

  • Snelling's first residential interior renovation, for the Zalapa family.

Old Castle Hill Road, Round Corner, NSW (late 1940s)

For Carlos Zalapa y San Leon, a Mexican diplomat, bon vivant, and entrepreneur, Snelling designed alterations to a fibre-cement house which Zalapa purchased in western Sydney during World War II. Zalapa’s daughter, Consuelo Guinness, said this was her family’s weekend retreat. Snelling created a new living-dining room with a cocktail bar, opening to an outdoor terrace with a stone barbeque, where they hosted ‘fiestas’.

The dining area was furnished with two refectory tables (aligned end to end), an upholstered banquette and several Snelling line webbed dining chairs. Rough-sawn oregon ceiling beams were installed, with the original ceiling painted dark brown to cover surface blemishes. Seagrass matting covered the floor. Above the dining tables, a copper-shaded pendant lamp could be raised or lowered. Hanging across a wide bay window behind the green banquette were sill-length gathered curtains featuring a tiger print pattern in pale chartreuse and cream.

In the living zone, upholstered lounge seats in green and terracotta were oriented toward a large stone fireplace (existing). Opposite, a bookcase, desk, and hi-fi cabinet appeared to float off a soft yellow wall; this screened views between the living area and cocktail bar. The bar was faced externally with Japanese oak boards, and shelves were provided inside for bottle storage. Timber furniture on the outdoor terrace was painted white to contrast with the garden and sky.


—Unknown newspaper (Holiday and Travel), 1949, ‘Mexico in Sydney’, 17 October, pp. 38–39.

—Cooper, Nora. 1952. ‘Australian home remoulded for Mexican family’, The Australian Home Beautiful, October, pp. 36–9.

—Guinness, Consuelo. Personal communications, ca. January 2004.