Casita Alegria’s Ghost
It’s easy to dismiss ghosts in the daylight.
– Patricia Briggs
In retrospect, not only did the downstairs of Casita Alegria feel creepy, so did the upstairs. The curved steps in the entry that wound their way up to the second level ended at a shallow, empty landing that first appeared to be a dead end. But a turn to the right revealed a second leg of the landing leading to the two upstairs bedrooms. Unfortunately, it ran adjacent to a pair of ancient French doors with old, cloudy glass and dusty, dated drapes that obscured most of the light.
Landing to Library
The landing seemed to be a perfect place for a small library to house books and display artwork. To incorporate a beam that dissected the landing wall, I designed a series of shelves that featured a hand-carved pilaster with a historic New Mexican design that appeared to support the beam above. I removed the somber drapes and old smoky doors and replaced them with new French doors that matched the historic ones on the lower level and let in much more light. Then I added a vintage tin chandelier to illuminate the landing and library at night.
The top and bottom of the 12” deep bookcases were trimmed in whimsical layers of scallops, repeating the same celebrated architectural element that appeared throughout the casita’s lower level. In the center of the wall of bookcases I left a large, vertical niche in which to place an ancient New Mexican bulto, or statue, of Saint Peter. Two old Mexican tin retablos were hung on the stairwell wall to the left of the new library.
From Gloomy to Gutsy
The gloomy master bedroom off the landing felt positively eerie. Its brown walls and woven shades filtered the light in a bleak, murky sort of way. I removed the shades, drapes and grimy windows, and replaced them with crisp, new glass openings custom-made to match the adobe’s original windows downstairs.
Back in the historic southwestern architecture books, I found a picture of an authentic New Mexican bed with a regional folk art feeling that I loved. A talented Hispanic craftsman hand built a replica of the bed in a California King size, and painted it in southwestern colors with his name, Juan, signed on the footboard. The same linen fabric used downstairs hung in vertical stripes on either side of the bed and horizontal stripes on the shade above the bed. Handmade bedding and pillows embellished the playful ensemble while apricot walls reflected light from the French doors opening to the tiny balcony.
From Shadowy to Shining
The existing master bath was hospital white, yet filled with dark pockets of dusky gray shadows. We gutted it and installed a deep gold limestone counter over a pale gold vanity with a terra cotta wall cabinet hanging above. Rustic matching mirrors and chandeliers adorned each sink. A white clawfoot tub sat across from the vanity adjacent to a wall stacked floor to ceiling with rustic concrete tiles and an arched nicho for soap and shampoo.
The Ghost and the Flower
One morning, shortly after completing the remodel of the upper level, I awoke in the grand folk art bed, descended the stairway, and smelled the fragrant pink lilies a friend had brought the day before. I had placed the large bouquet of flowers in a glass vase on the kitchen island. That morning one long-stemmed pink lily was lying beside the vase on the island’s zinc counter top.
“I swear I didn’t touch those flowers,” Marshall proclaimed as he prepared to catch a plane returning to San Francisco for a business meeting.
The Last Straw
That night, I walked into the living room to turn off the stereo and noticed the chair by the red armoire had been moved from across the room. I called Marshall immediately.
“Did you move the brown armchair in the living room?” I asked.
“No,” he said. “The ghost did it.”
After I hung up I said out loud, “Now you’ve crossed the line! You changed the hands on the clock, drank two cups of coffee that weren’t yours, pulled one of my flowers out of the vase, and now you’re rearranging the furniture. That’s my department,” I told the ghost indignantly. While lying awake that night watching the bedroom door, I made a decision: I’m calling a ghostbuster first thing in the morning!
Come back next week for Casita Alegria’s garden and ghost finale!
For the love of ghosts finding their way home,