My Love Affair with Santa Fe

After a rangy 18-hour drive from the California coast, we arrived in Santa Fe at dusk the night before Halloween. The crisp fall chill in the air renewed us as we headed to the terrace at Rancho Encantado to witness the sunset over the Sangre de Cristo Range.

“It looks like a painting” I said to Marshall as I sipped warm tortilla soup, staring in awe at the distant landscape with shapes, colors and shadows that continuously rearranged itself into dramatic compositions, one more beautiful than the next.

New Mexico Art
New Mexico Art

As memories surfaced of living and working part-time in this majestic land for the past 14 years, I decided almost everything in Northern New Mexico resembled art. Not only the prehistoric mountains and golden aspen groves, but the whimsical adobe houses made of earth and straw with their sensual curves and colorfully painted windows and doors.

Casita Alegria

Camino Monte Vista
Camino Monte Vista

One night in the summer of 2006, in the tiny rural art enclave of Galisteo outside of Santa Fe, Marshall and I met a realtor who had a mysterious pocket listing in town. The next day I couldn’t wait to see the small adobe built in 1915 located in an old Hispanic compound on the dirt road – Camino Monte Vista – Way of the Mountain View. We love old houses and had looked at many in Santa Fe that had been stripped of their authenticity, but this property was different.

Existing Entry
Existing Entry

We put an offer on the house the next day. I was surprised and delighted by the spiral stairway in the entry although it looked like it belonged in a home on Cape Cod rather than in Santa Fe. I searched for every book I could find on historic New Mexican architecture and began dreaming of creating a more credible southwestern feeling in the adobe.

Stairway Underbelly
Stairway Underbelly

To create a relationship between the circular stairway’s flat white underbelly and the rustic feeling of the archaic adobe, I summoned Shawn Roland who has a master’s degree in fine art to execute my vision. He painted the undercarriage to emulate richly grained old wood that harmonized with the color of the adobe’s lintels and vigas supporting the ceiling.

Historic Architectural Elements
Historic Architectural Elements

After researching historic New Mexican architectural elements, I replaced the small traditional newel post and thin balusters with decorative southwestern balusters similar in scale to the weight-bearing lintels and vigas. Shawn painted the chunky post, handrail and balusters consistent with the underbelly that felt compatible with the aged location.

The Tiny Galley Kitchen

Kitchen/Hallway - Before
Kitchen/Hallway - Before

I was determined to think outside the box to not only enlarge the existing kitchen but connect it to the dining room which was separated by a wall. The adjacent hallway also needed rethinking to utilize the square footage in a more functional way.

Dining Room - After
Dining Room - After

We removed the wall between the tiny kitchen and dining room adding a lintel for support and installed a second pair of French doors opening to the patio that filled the space with light.

Expanded Kitchen -After
Expanded Kitchen -After

We also removed the wall between the former galley kitchen and hallway to create an open floor plan connecting the entry, family room and dining room. A black and cream checkerboard rug and antique red island crowned with a gray French zinc top grounded the colorful palette of the red, orange and gold kitchen.

Master Bedroom - Before
Master Bedroom - Before

The master bedroom had a small deck and several windows facing the Sangre de Cristo Range where light from the morning sun flooded in. I chose a bold striped linen fabric in warm colors that made me happy, not only in this room but on windows and doors throughout the adobe.

Master Bedroom - After
Master Bedroom - After

Referring again to my historical architecture books, I commissioned a local artisan to build a traditional New Mexican bed painted in glazed tones of apricot, green and gold. He even signed the headboard and footboard with his name, Juan, in gold script that elicited frequent giggles from guests.

My Garden Vision

Patio - Before
Patio/Garden - Before

Although the existing patio was as stark as the interior of the adobe, the adjacent outdoor space had great potential to expand the living area of the casita. The garden ran the length of the adobe and was even wider than the structure itself. Although I disliked the low adobe wall and unsightly telephone pole, I loved the old pear and cherry trees at the back of the property.

Patio – After
Patio/Garden – After

We raised the perimeter adobe wall from four to six feet.  Then, fortuitously, our neighbor built a coyote fence behind it creating even more privacy. We embedded custom concrete pavers in sand to compose a much larger patio on top of which we fashioned a curved banco where I piled colorful outdoor cushions and pillows.

The Outdoor Fireplace

Fireplace Area - Before
Fireplace Area - Before

The existing patio was plain and uninviting with electrical wires coming out of the adobe wall. A useless four-foot-tall metal pole was attached to one wall and the unsightly irrigation box plugged into the other.

Fireplace Area - After
Fireplace Area - After

The space changed dramatically by adding a sensual, curved corner fireplace with a side banco for seating that created privacy in this intimate space connected to the adobe’s dining room. The nichos were uncovered and embellished with hand painted tiles, interior lights and potted plants.

Living Outdoors

The Expanded Patio
The Expanded Patio

My days in Santa Fe were often spent outside, watering, deadheading flowers, pulling weeds, sweeping the patio and taking a break on the banco under the hanging pears with my coffee and morning paper. Marshall, Toby and I enjoyed lunch at the big round table typically shaded with umbrellas from the intense New Mexican sun. At night we built a fire in the adobe fireplace under the trellis, enjoying dinner and staying warm while we savored the smell of burning pinon.

The Ancient Adobe Will Be Missed

The Blue Spruce
The Blue Spruce

As you might have guessed from the video, we sold our 105-year-old Casita Alegria this past November. It is bittersweet as I will miss the little adobe with the private garden and intimate outdoor fireplace that I put my heart and soul into transforming. And I will miss the majestic Blue Spruce standing by our front door welcoming us with its quiet feathery branches. It gave us shade in the summer and pinecones in the winter as kindling for our three tiny fireplaces. Marshall and I will also miss our lovely neighbors, Milly and Robyn, who carefully watched over Casita Alegria and the Blue Spruce while we were away. We thank them both.

Library off Upstairs Deck
Library off Upstairs Deck

After purchasing and remodeling Casita Alegria, we did not realize the constant maintenance required to keep the old adobe leak free, ant free and moth free. The windows, doors and flat roof take a beating every year due to the harsh high desert climate, demanding continual care.

The Family Room
The Family Room

As we began the process of clearing out our possessions this fall, I realized how excessive it was to have two homes at this time when so many people are struggling to keep one. I believe selling our second home was the right thing to do.

We Love Santa Fe

Marshall & Toby in Cathedral Park
Marshall & Toby in Cathedral Park

I took this image on a beautiful day in late November just before we left Santa Fe to drive back to the West Coast. Marshall and Toby are sitting in the sun at Cathedral Park next to the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, built between 1869-1887 in Santa Fe’s Historic District. St. Francis is the patron saint of animals and nature as well as the City of Santa Fe.

Linda & Toby in the Garden
Linda & Toby in the Garden

I can’t tell you how grateful I am to have spent so much time in Northern New Mexico over the past 14 years. Toby and I appreciate you indulging us in this lengthy love letter to Santa Fe, Casita Alegria and the Blue Spruce.

Su Casa Magazine – DESIGN that makes you happy
Su Casa Magazine – "DESIGN that makes you happy"

It is the end of an era and I wanted to honor the property one last time. I am proud that despite her age, Casita Alegria made the cover of Su Casa and Traditional Home Magazine.

Casita Alegria Video

I hope you enjoyed the video at the beginning of the blog that Sotheby’s produced of Casita Alegria showing the city and mountains of Santa Fe. I will treasure it always, as I will memories of many of you here at our Design in the Desert Workshops.

For the love of The City Different and to all of you who read my blogs and attended my workshops – thank you!

Love, Blessings and Good Health,

Linda Applewhite's signature
Showing 22 comments
  • Marsha
    Reply

    So beautiful – proud of you!

  • Susan Bell
    Reply

    I had the joy of being able to visit Linda’s Casita Alegria in Santa Fe. It is perhaps one of the most beautiful homes I’ve ever been to and is a reflection of Linda’s soul. I was so inspired by the article in Su Casa that I searched for Linda’s contact information and asked her to help me with my house in Santa Fe. She has since been involved with remodeling my master bath in Houston. Linda
    and I have had a long friendship and she is one of the most beautiful and creative people I know. Thank you Linda with all my heart for all the joy you’ve brought into my life. I’ll miss you in Santa Fe.

  • Deborah Healy
    Reply

    Beautiful. Makes me happy to see the color, and design choices.

  • Jeanne Hensley
    Reply

    Thank you so much for taking us through your home, it is beautiful!. I have always loved your sense of color (who really wants gray walls!!) your sense of whimsey and playfulness. I have decorated my home from the colors in my favorite quilts, reds, yellows, blues and greens – and have borrowed so much from you about making my home personal and one I enjoy so much, I am currently in the process of have my kitchen redone with yellow cabinets!
    I would LOVE to see pictures of your home with Christmas decor.
    Blessings for a Merry Christmas and a much better New Year.

  • Sandy Hopper
    Reply

    OH MY! It must have been so hard to leave such a beautiful home with those lovely gardens. I trust you will make your Bay Area home just as enchanting as Casita Alegria.

  • bob lewis
    Reply

    …you done good, girl…congrats on all…hny…

  • Danelle
    Reply

    NOW THAT IS PERFECTION! WHO COULD ASK FOR ANYTHING MORE? YOU MUST HAVE HAD A WONDERFUL TIME COMPLETING THIS LITTLE GEM. MY FAVORITE SOUTHWEST DESIGN OF ALL TIMES! WHAT A TALENTED WOMAN YOU ARE!
    DANELLE

  • Nancy
    Reply

    Wow! I loved Casita Alegria and I can’t imagine how hard it was to sell her. But you gave valid reasons why. I am purchasing Traditional Home so I can remember your beautiful and cozy Santa Fe home.

  • Janice Tenorio
    Reply

    You did such a beautiful job creating a place of elegance and warmth.

  • Kirby Kendrick
    Reply

    What a lovely tribute to your time in Santa Fe, Linda! How lucky the new owners are!

  • Barbie Derby
    Reply

    Lynn, what amazing memories of Casita Alegria so loved and enjoyed, what a wonderful and beautiful vision you had for her! This won’t be the end of your visits to Santa Fe you have to many great friends there, plus those beautiful mountains are always calling!

  • Stuart Piontek
    Reply

    I am so lucky to have been able to enjoy the magic of Casita Alegria. The memories from the time we shared there will never be erased. I haven’t seen the before pictures until now. What a reminder of the soulfulness you intuitively breathe into a space Linda. It is with bittersweet emotion that I bode my own farewell to that magical adobe. Although It represents, in part, my own initial experience of Santa Fe – I am also certain that the beauty and spiritual depth of New Mexico is not yet finished with us.

  • Pam Roats
    Reply

    I see you have a jim Wagner portrait. What galleries do you by your at work. You have great taste.

    • Linda Applewhite
      Reply

      I’m a long time Jim Wagner fan! I bought the fantastic self portrait of Jim last year at Park Gallery in Taos which was hung in the family room. I purchased Woman with Birds in her Hair which hung over the bathtub off the master bedroom at a private showing in Taos of Jim’s work about 15 years ago.

  • Lynn
    Reply

    You’ve made Casita Alegria a work of art, Linda – congratulations on the cover of Su Casa. Although leaving this home that you’ve poured so much love into, I can barely imagine the adventures you will embrace as you remake your home in California. Oh, and the huge blue spruce – pure majesty! Thank you for sharing this journey with us.

  • Torild
    Reply

    Linda,Marshall and Toby,
    What a beautiful tribute to Casita Algeria.
    You took an old lady and made her a vibrant young exciting Woman again, with much trial and tribulation you have now handed it over to new owners, may they respect and cherish the place as much as you did. It must be such a wonderful feeling knowing that you have a restored this beautiful place and left so much love behind for the next decade.
    The video was delightful.
    Thank you for sharing this adventure.

  • Linda Smathers
    Reply

    Linda, thanks so much for sharing this!!!! I’m sure you will feel bittersweet about selling for a long time, but I believe you made the right decision. Your before and after pics and the video are outstanding. I sent the link to a childhood friend of mine who has lived in Albuquerque for about 30 years.

    What a joy to see a pic of Marshall! He looks good, I like his beard, and I can just hear him talking from looking at his body language: some things just don’t change! You look happy and Toby is precious. I am amazed at Pearl’s energy at 15 1/2 and I imagine Toby will reach that age and beyond with all the love and care you all give him.

    I hope your holidays are safe, fun and as enjoyable as they can be during these times. Stay well.

    Much love,
    Linda🎄🎁🔔❄️❤️

  • Alexandra Weibel
    Reply

    What an absolute gorgeous piece of art Linda!!!! I wish I had the chance to visit. And your blog reads like a marvellous book! Truly love your style!

  • Debra Eve
    Reply

    How bittersweet! I’ve been following you for years and absolutely love your whole style esthetic. Casa Allegre was my “dream house.” But now to find way to memorialize her spirit in my own little California manufactured home. Can’t wait to see what you do next!

  • Jennifer Duffy
    Reply

    I thought of you when I saw this quote today:
    “My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style”
    ― Maya Angelou
    Happy Holidays to your and yours Linda.

  • Norma
    Reply

    Thank you for sharing such a sweet and beautiful home in Santa Fe. I know the memories will last a life time.

    Happy Holidays

  • MARLA
    Reply

    Oh my oh my oh my!
    You know I adore your style already and seeing the video is just entrancing!! Bet you sold in 4 minutes!! The beauty of that entire space just hits me between my eyes and knocks me out with its beauty. Thanks for sharing your tribute. Happy new year to you and yours. A special Bonne Annee to Toby from Marilyn!! ❤️

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