How to Get Rid of That Unsightly Unfinished Look

Those of you who have already retired in Mexico will know about the unsightly unfinished details that plague homes in Mexico. Let’s face it. Bare light bulbs are depressing. While there is no hope for what I euphemistically call our “cottage,” some homes and apartments do come close to being finished and just need a little help. One of my friends lives in such a place and she has given me permission to pass her simple, inexpensive home decor solutions on to you so that when you retire in Mexico you will feel more at home in your first residence.

Home Decor Tricks for Those Who Retire in Mexico


We’ll start with the most common and most obvious problem: Bare light bulbs. They are so depressing and it’s not necessary to spend years in Mexico, slowly becoming desensitized to how terrible they look. My friend’s solution? Buy fancy paper called amate at the stationary store and roll and glue it into tubes, then glue loops of natural looking twine onto one end to hang it over the bulb. The sheets cost around 30 pesos a piece which, as she says, is quite reasonable for a lamp shade. She sometimes had to improvise with dental floss to attach the shade to the base that the bulb screws into.


Surprised that bare bulbs are common in Mexico? Don’t stay blind to the realities of living in Mexico. Treat yourself to the all new Second Edition of Mexico: The Trick is Living Here. Retire in Mexico with your eyes open.

“…packed full of interesting stories and insights…” –Douglas Gray, LL.B. Author of 24 bestselling books including The Canadian Snowbird Guide



Let’s continue with a problem closely related to that of the bare bulbs. Bare wires sticking out of walls or ceilings where a light bulb or switch was intended, but has never been installed. My “cottage” has tons of these, but as I said there is no hope that my home will ever look finished. In my friend’s case her ceiling was white, so she cut out rounds of white foami (a soft, flexible foam sold in sheets in stationary stores to be used for art projects) and glued those over the unsightly wires. _____________________________________________________________


The electrical breaker box is mounted right in the middle of the most visible wall in my friend’s apartment. Can you see where it is? _____________________________________________________________
No. You have to look for it because she has covered it up with a color-coordinating table runner made of stiff fabric. The edges are tacked down so that if needed the cloth can be peeled back to allow access to the breaker box. _____________________________________________________________


When you first retire in Mexico you often need to get some privacy covering on windows for which curtains aren’t the best option. (You’re going to move again soon, you don’t have a way to sew them, there is no way to easily mount a curtain rod, you don’t have the money for curtains yet, you don’t have time to get curtains made, etc.) In my friend’s case, her apartment is on the ground floor of a small, well kept apartment building in a neighborhood where there is a housing shortage. People would come, peek in the windows, then knock on the door several times a day asking for information about renting in the building.

My friend’s solution is to cut squares of tissue paper, glue them onto a large sheet of white tissue paper and tape this into the windows she wishes to cover. It gives a stained glass effect that lets light in.


In her bathroom she used the same trick to add some color and hide ugly paint marks in the shower window. (There is another classic problem in Mexican rental housing – – paint splattered everywhere. Nobody ever seems to use a drop cloth or to mask windows.)



Q: What is the shell covering on the bathroom wall above the mirror? _____________________________________________________________

A: A rusty nail! _____________________________________________________________


My friend used masking tape and lighter colored paints on a darker background to create a tile-effect on the wall behind her stove. The paint helps disguise splatters. _____________________________________________________________


Here my friend has hung manta (unbleached, cotton) over the bricks surrounding her back patio. The manta provides a calming privacy screen. _____________________________________________________________


If you do feel like making curtains, ribbon tabs look nice, slide well on the curtain rod, and are easy to attach to the curtain material by hand. _____________________________________________________________


What is the problem my friend hasn’t yet been able to solve? Lumps of cement stuck on top of the floor tiles from sloppy work when the wall tiles were laid. I wish she did have a trick for this one because my cottage has a lot of this unsightly unfinished effect. When you retire in Mexico, if you figure out a solution for this one, please send me an email and tell me how you did it.

Note: Use your own discretion as to the safety of any of these tricks that you choose to employ. For example, be sure that the paper covering the light bulbs can’t become hot and catch on fire. In no event will we be liable for any loss or damage including without limitation, indirect or consequential loss or damage, or any loss or damage whatsoever arising from loss of property, health, data or profits arising out of or in connection with the use of this web site.

Back to the Snakes in the Banks


  1. Erik Jorgensen Oct 17

    Your friend is one creative woman with her decorating solutions. I could see her with a home based business to the expat community to help them solve the same or similar problems it sounds like all of you have with the need to make your living areas more presentable and personal. Just a thought…
    All the Best,

  2. Julia Taylor Oct 17


    Thanks! She is really smart. I’ll pass your idea on to her.

    Kindest Regards,
    Julia C. Taylor

Leave a reply

To protect against spam, each post is reviewed. Therefore your comments may not appear immediately. Remember to check back later to see if someone has replied to your comment.