The Mysterious Casita
Mystery is at the heart of creativity. That, and surprise.
– Julia Cameron
The magical remodel of Casita Alegria’s lower level was finally complete. The old adobe allowed me to remove both walls of the creepy hallway to expand the tiny kitchen and family room on either side. The previously dark and enclosed dining and family rooms now happily connected to a colorful, light-filled kitchen. And the wall between the entry and family room was also removed so the new piñon spiral stairway could be seen and appreciated from the entire lower floor. Plus, the doorway to the bathroom at the end of the hall was relocated to the family room next to the window.
Five Small, Dark Rooms = One Bright One
Removing the walls was no small feat, but thanks to my wonderful contractor, foreman, and a skilled structural engineer, we pulled it off. To keep the 76-year-old adobe safe and structurally sound, we anchored a fat 14″ piñon post into the concrete basement ceiling below and installed cocoa colored lintels in all four directions as headers in the ceiling transitions between rooms.
Bathroom at the End of the Creepy Hallway
The 24″ doorway that opened into a tiny white bathroom at the end of the hall became the west wall of the newly expanded kitchen. I was challenged to find an alternate access to the only bathroom on the lower floor, so I replaced the 5′ tub with a 3’x 3’ shower (not shown), creating just enough space for a doorway in the family room.
Once the low soffit was removed this small compartment had surprisingly tall 10′ ceilings which I emphasized by installing sconces above the vanity mirror and hanging two pieces of artwork, one above the other.
I call this using the vertical to pull the eye up, which made the tiny room look and feel larger. To visually expand the space a bit more and provide storage, I added recessed shelves where the hallway door once stood.
The lower floor of the casita, with five small, dark rooms and a hallway, was now combined into one light-filled multi-purpose space, complete with a bathroom and living room. Fortunately, Casita Alegria’s new essence continued to proudly display her historic southwestern allure, while simultaneously adapting to today’s lifestyle.
A Phone Call in Dallas
Although the casita’s upper floor and garden were still in process, I decided to take a much-needed break and head to Dallas for a high school reunion. Saturday morning, I was standing at the Neiman Marcus makeup counter trying on sparkly turquoise eye shadow with two of my childhood friends, Becca and Diane, when my phone rang.
The Second Strange Occurrence
“We have a ghost,” my husband’s deep voice murmured matter-of-factly. Dumbfounded, I excused myself, turned and stammered into the phone as I wandered aimlessly through the aisles of the Texas size store.
“I didn’t know you even believed in ghosts!” Silence… Then I finally asked, “How do you know there’s a ghost?”
“Last night when I went to bed, both hands on the old black wall clock were stuck at 12:00. This morning they read 3:15. He changed the hands on the clock,” Marshall stated casually.
“How do you know the ghost is a he?” I asked incredulously. Silence again…
The Black Wall Clock
“Maybe the battery died?” I said hopefully.
“There is no battery in the clock.”
“Maybe the wind blew the hands into a new position?”
“All the windows are closed.”
I was out of explanations. Yet, stunned that this man I had lived with for 14 years – a conservative banker who kept his hair impeccably short, wore a suit and tie five days a week, took the ferry to the financial district at precisely 7:05 AM, and earned three degrees in math at UCLA, Berkeley and Stanford – actually believed in ghosts…?
There’s No Other Explanation
Sunday morning, I said goodbye to my treasured high school friends and boarded a plane to Albuquerque. I couldn’t get the strange phone conversation with Marshall out of my mind. But when I walked through the front door of Casita Alegria and saw Marshall standing in front of the red kitchen island holding the old black and gold wall clock without a battery, I was speechless.
“There’s simply no other explanation,” he surmised, looking down at the clock whose two ornate gold hands still pointed to 3:15.
Then we heard a knock at the back door. I could see it was our genuine and level-headed neighbors Bruce and Laura, who lived quietly in the casita on the other side of the garden. I bounded to the door, opening it with a smile.
“Welcome,” I said effusively, happy for the diversion. The couple stepped inside, then Laura asked, “Did you know you have a ghost?”
Changes and occurrences continue at Casita Alegria with the transformation of the upper floor and garden as well as inexplicable surprises in the kitchen and living room. Hope you stay tuned!
For the love of mysterious surprises,