Building a connection

Leawood family built five homes in Tulum—one for each of their children—as an investment in their connection to Mexico. 

Michelle Prier, born and raised in Monterey, Mexico, has been living in Leawood for 17 years with her eye on purchasing property in Mexico. About 10 years ago, Prier and her husband bought a three-bedroom condo on the beach in Playa del Carmen and rented the property through Airbnb. Then, while they were debating whether or not to build a house in Kansas City, her husband pointed out their desire to maintain a connection to Mexico for their kids. 

“We just thought about it, and then my husband one day told me, ‘You know what, actually, when you and I are gone, our kids are not going to have a connection with Mexico,’” Prier says. “I am very proud of my Mexican heritage, so we decided why not build something in Mexico and have an investment for each of our kids that would always bring that connection to Mexico.”

In 2017 they purchased land in Tulum, an up-and-coming area, and built five homes—one for each of their children. 

“Our hope is that when our kids are older and they have families, they can all go and stay there,” she says.

In the meantime, the homes are available to rent via Airbnb. The project itself is called Aldea Ka’an Tulum, and each home is named after each child. Prier appreciates the rustic, natural feel of Tulum versus the larger cities in Mexico, like Monterey where she grew up. 

“We love this area of Mexico,” she says. “Some people love Cabo, but we just love the crystal, turquoise water of the Caribbean. We like to get in the ocean, so we like that it’s always warm to get in.” 

The homes themselves are surrounded by jungle. It was important to Prier to keep as many trees as possible, so they had a Mayan shaman visit the land before they started building. Prier says he walked through the jungle and marked the trees that had to stay. 

“There’s trees everywhere, and we built around them,” she describes. "We also wanted a lot of windows. We wanted it to feel like you’re a part of the jungle, but at the same time we wanted beautiful homes that were comfortable to stay in.”

Along with keeping as much nature as possible intact, Prier hoped to distinguish the design so it didn’t just feel like any other modern home. To achieve this, they incorporated materials from the region, like rocks and wood. She notes the architects and interior designer successfully executed her family’s vision for the houses. 

“Everyone loves the view and loves the feel of the house,” Prier says. “They can feel like they’re in the jungle but still have all the comfort and commodities and safety.”

One unique feature is the shared backyards with wooden gates between the homes that allow for flexibility between the outdoor spaces. They also installed rooftop pools on some houses and ground pools on others, with access to both between two homes. Prier says they wanted to design a space where people could share moments.    

“If you have a couple of families and can’t fit in a house, you can rent two houses and feel like you’re in the same house,” she says. “But if it’s only one family, you can rent your own house, and then you have your own space. I find that to be special about the houses.”

Prier finds that when traveling to Mexico, staying in a house provides a more rich travel experience than staying in an all-inclusive resort. 

“I’ve stayed in an all-inclusive, and honestly I think I could be in an all-inclusive in Florida, and it would be the same experience,” she says. “I would like to encourage people to travel and experience the culture. Don’t be so planned so you can only go to an all-inclusive because you’re afraid to go out. There are a lot of places that are safe.”

For more information visit www.instagram.com/aldeakaantulum 

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