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.

Before the small family room was dark and closed in with four walls
Before - The small family room was dark and closed in with four walls
After the family room expanded with the hallway removed
After - The family room expanded with the hallway removed

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.

Once the hallway was removed, the kitchen, family and dining rooms merged together
Once the hallway was removed, the kitchen, family and dining rooms merged together

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.

Before a low florescent lit soffet hung over the vanity and toilet in the tiny bathroom
Before - A low florescent lit soffet hung over the vanity and toilet in the tiny bathroom
After the newly appointed bathroom had 10' high ceilings and scallops galore
After - The newly appointed bathroom had 10' high ceilings and scallops galore

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 tub was replaced with a small shower on the left side of the tiny bathroom
The tub was replaced with a small shower on the left side of the tiny bathroom

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

How did Marshall know the ghost was a "he"?
How did Marshall know the ghost was a "he"?

“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.

Both hands on the old black wall clock were set to 3:15
Both hands on the old black wall clock were set to 3:15
Changes and strange occurrences continue next week at the mysterious old adobe
Changes and strange occurrences continue next week at the mysterious old adobe

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,

Toby and Linda Applewhite
Showing 16 comments
  • Jenny Duffy
    Reply

    Love the stories you tell. And my husband, a structural engineer, loves the 14″ piñon post for both form and function. I look forward to your next installment.

    • Linda Applewhite
      Reply

      Thanks so much Jenny! Nice to hear your husband appreciates the structural post we installed to support the lower level after removing so many walls. Hope you enjoy the next two installments on Casita Alegria! I appreciate you reading my blog and your gracious comments! Linda

  • Lynn
    Reply

    A delicious mystery, Linda. And the house is so full of angels! I love the intricate frame around the mirror – metal? carved wood? – so much character. Wonderful – can’t wait for the next installment.

    • Linda Applewhite
      Reply

      Hi Lynn, the frame around the mirror is hand crafted metal made by a local Santa Fe artisan. Thanks for noticing the angels which I didn’t realize were in so many photos. I love them! Hope you stay tuned for the next two installments with the finale being the transformation of the garden. I think you might enjoy that the most with your love of nature! I so appreciate you reading the blog and responding to it!! Linda

  • sandy spargur
    Reply

    Loving the mystery along with the new colors and details of the home. Beautiful clock with stories of it’s own….

    • Linda Applewhite
      Reply

      Hi Sandy, thanks for your lovely comments about the colors and details of the adobe. I’m sure that old black wall clock does have stories to tell. Hope you stay tuned for the next two installments of the transformation of Casita Alegria! Thanks for tuning in and commenting!!! Linda

  • Donna
    Reply

    Wowee

    • Linda Applewhite
      Reply

      Donna, Wowee -thanks for reading and responding to my stories about the mysterious casita. Tune in Monday for the next segment – hope you’ll enjoy!!!
      Linda

  • Sylvia
    Reply

    Your colors and decor are at home in the the southwest and the old adobe has new life.

    • Linda Applewhite
      Reply

      Hi Sylvia, I love the colors and feeling of the southwest. I dreamt for many years of rehabbing an old adobe. Loved every second of the process, strange occurrence’s and all. Stay tuned next week as the story unfolds. And thanks so much for your comments! Linda

  • Jody Serritella
    Reply

    Hi Linda!
    Your happy little casita is fabulous! Your endless energy and creativity for design is present in every room!
    The colors you chose are so vibrant they breath so much life
    Into the living spaces.
    I cannot wait to hear about how the ghost story plays out!
    My French courtyard redo still needs to grow in a bit more before I share photos.
    I hope your sweet Toby is doing well, and would love to see a photo if you could in your next post!
    Thanks for sharing!
    Jody and Willy (the Brussels griffon)

    • Linda Applewhite
      Reply

      Hi Jody and Willy, so wonderful to hear from you both! Thank you so much for your beautiful comments about the casita – you are most generous! I can’t wait to see photos of your French courtyard redo. You’ll learn more about the ghost on Monday June 11th. Toby is doing great but he wasn’t at Casita Alegria when I remodeled it as he wasn’t born yet. So I have not included him in any of the blogs but I promise you will see him in the garden finale coming in a week! Best to you and Willy! Linda & Toby

  • Lori Abrams
    Reply

    Oh, this is fun! I grew up in a very old area of upstate NY. Every single apartment we lived in, we had ghosts. In fact, after growing up, and newly divorced, my last apartment at the other end of the city, was the most haunted. My eldest boy still remembers some of the stranger things that have happened. Apparently, they like my light. 😮

    • Linda Applewhite
      Reply

      Lori, thanks for sharing your ghost stories. Impressive to hear the New York ghosts liked your light! Hope you will tune in for the next two blogs to see what happens with the New Mexico ghost. Thanks for reading and commenting. Linda

  • Kirby
    Reply

    All I can say is that ghost must recognize durn good designing when he sees (or hovers over it!).

    • Linda Applewhite
      Reply

      Kirbita, as it turns out that durn ghost does try his hand at designing as you’ll see in the next blog. Thanks as always for your spirited and comical comments!!! xoLinda

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Casita Alegria’s Ghost