Dreams do come true, if only we wish hard enough.
– Peter Pan
For much of my adult life, I dreamt of buying an old adobe in Northern New Mexico. Finally, one crisp summer night in the tiny town of Galisteo, a few miles southeast of Santa Fe, I shared my dream with a stranger at a dinner party. To my surprise, the woman described a secret old adobe for sale in a Hispanic compound on the historic east side of Santa Fe. I lay awake that night marveling at the synchronicity of the evening. As I tossed and turned, I wondered – could my dream of buying an old adobe finally come true?
The small 1930s adobe was tucked off a gravel road named Camino Monte Vista – path of the mountain view. It was located near the Santa Fe Plaza, steps from where the Old Santa Fe and Old Pecos Trails split. As I opened the black wrought iron gate, an enormous, magnificent blue spruce greeted me. Surrounding it were towering emerald green conifers lining a thick, crusty brown adobe wall that encircled the Hispanic compound. It was love at first sight before I took one step inside the old adobe.
I couldn’t believe our good fortune. Although small, the adobe had great bones and had not been ruined as had so many historic homes in Santa Fe in efforts to modernize them. As we looked at other homes for sale, Marshall and I became convinced that the secret adobe was indeed a rare diamond in the rough, and purchased it several days later. We named it Casita Alegria – happy little house. I usually advise my clients to live in their homes for a while before remodeling, but because this was a second home where we would not be living full time, I immediately began to dream of ways to make the tiny dark rooms larger and lighter.
The seasoned adobe was outfitted in traditional Southwestern style with stark white walls, deep brown narrow-planked floors and rustic round vigas the color of dark chocolate spanning beadboard ceilings. Old-fashioned radiators reminiscent of giant dentil molding were inset below funky, dirt-stained windows. Royal blue and white floral drapes contributed to the cold feeling pervasive throughout the home.
Going Against Tradition
The living room was the biggest space in the house, with three windows overlooking the garden and a corner fireplace embellished with colorful Mexican tiles. Going against tradition, we replaced the old floors with sand colored wide-plank white oak and painted the walls apricot. I found an old Turkish rug the colors of a New Mexico sunset, and added a vintage black piano, a red antique French armoire, and two cream and crimson plaid wing back chairs.
Historic New Mexico Scallops
Although the living room’s color palette was a departure from the traditional brown and white, my research into the region’s architecture told me that scallops like the ones on the fireplace were an authentic detail used in historic New Mexican homes.
I designed a vintage-looking scalloped sofa and placed it opposite the fireplace. It was flanked by two Spanish Colonial tables with lamps made from old hand-carved candlesticks. In a stroke of luck, I found an antique Mexican coffee table embellished with tiny scallops on its edges. A large, whimsical contemporary painting I found on Canyon Road in Santa Fe both grounded and enhanced the room’s colorful palette with its bold black and white geometric design and pops of vivid red, orange, blue and green.
Casita Alegria’s Secret
Stay tuned in the next few weeks for more on the transformation of the nearly 100-year-old adobe and the garden that surrounds it. You’ll see before and after images of the garden, entry, kitchen, family room, master bedroom and bath.
And you’ll learn what secret Casita Alegria was hiding. Join me in the weeks to come as I share the adventure of the secret old adobe!
In the love of color and scallops,