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Port of Call A full cast of characters, each a master of craft, found a calling in the quest to create a meditative home



ho could fault Odysseus if, in the end, he relished the journey as much as his arrival home? For a custom home design that took more than five years and the ranging expertise of more than 150 hands, the result, observes one of the home’s owners, “is quiet. And if it’s quiet, then it’s really about the people in the room, not the house.” The house seems humbled enough by the mountain ranges on either side of the foothills where it was born on a two-plot property in northeast Santa Fe. It was a vision forged to form by dedicated individuals from various companies, although as one of the owners points out, “Companies don’t build houses; people do.” What they built is a contemporary expression of unique contributions from their creative dozens; whether tiler, painter, or layer of land, just about everyone involved seemed swept into the aesthetic. Not that the task was without its share of challenges and demands. Yet when Calypso warns Odysseus: “If you only knew, down deep, what pains / are fated to fill your cup before you reach that shore, / you’d stay right here,” the epic hero retorts: “Add this to the total— / bring the trial on!” In a house built for simplicity, any miss is an eyesore. It’s not that they were watching over anyone’s shoulder for the caulking gun to slip, but the project was managed by two first mates: site supervisor, man of all crafts, Ramón Márquez, and the fiercely downto-earth and congenial, no-nonsense 120

TREND Fall 2015

Molly Prewitt, who recently started a new construction business. Under their leadership, which was especially necessary while the owners were still living in Melbourne, Australia, the site maintained a pace of expectation and innovation. With permit plans first drawn in 2010, construction starting in 2011, and finishes completed this year, the project was an ideal port of call for the inspired— a journey, like any custom home, composed of subcontracted and seemingly disparate parts, but ending with a single note, still and clear. Quiet. From the earth-colored concrete drive leading to the property, a path to the house is flanked by LED-lit reclaimed steel sculptures created by Taylor Mott. “In a strange way they are kind of like sentries, and they’re lights, so they’re guiding, defining, directing a space.” Mott, whose sculptures the owners first noticed at Ten Thousand Waves, articulates something about the house that may explain why fireplaces and shower cubes look like art. “Sculptures, all objects, have mass, but also a sense of mass,” he says. “It’s a strange thing, because it’s on a subliminal level. If you go up to a sculpture made out of very thin steel, say an eighth-inch of steel welded in a box, that would give you a very different feeling than if it were a solid box of steel, even if the outside surfaces were the same.” Mott was inspired to reference water when he visited the site. “Those pieces are untitled, but they are supposed to be waves—or mountains or rocks. They’re organic, natural shapes, together.” The sculptures guard a set of sliding

gates of smooth metal and glass by Clay Howard. These glide open noiselessly with the tap of a touchscreen that is part of the smart-home system. Satin-finished on both sides, the glass reflects the light anew from each angle, as if the chance to enter were fleeting, or the gate itself a hologram. This is offset by a set of enormous bronzeclad walnut entry doors, and within the front hall is the relief of horizontal lines to either side—an aluminum piece forged by Cordova-based artist Paula Castillo titled the boat. It has an understated patina, as if the roughness of memory could settle in the calm of metal. “I wanted to call it the boat because that’s kind of the metaphor I use for the house,” explains Castillo. “I was thinking about displacement and how beautiful that is. That, combined with being in that space, reminded me of one of the strongest spiritual experiences I’ve probably ever had. I was 12, up in the Manzano Mountains. I thought: I’m on a planet. It was almost orphanlike, but it was a beautiful, empowering vulnerability.” Castillo may be getting at the root of what custom design is all about, and why the act of arranging a home is such an expression of self and culture. Cubes of open, communal spaces sculpt the home’s center, with the living room and kitchen like a compass with mostly glass walls. From the kitchen, a small yard and grill area with Sangre de Cristo mountain views makes it look, in a trick of the eye, as if the entire outside were briefly in a glass room. Wide halls extend north and south to either end of the house, where