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Santa Fe Style Homes

“The Santa Fe Style” has come and gone and will come back again to be guaranteed in clothing fashion as well as home fashion.

But the Santa Fe Style Homes have been around for centuries and will not leave anytime soon. They began with true adobe homes as the practical construction for the original peoples of the Southwest- the Anasazi.

They built their condominium-style communities of stone and mud adobe bricks, three and four stories high.

Traditional New Mexican homes today are built of adobe -- sun dried clay bricks mixed with grasses for strength, mortared with simple mud, and then covered with additional protective layers of mud.

The Spanish and Mexican residents who came to Santa Fe later in history continued this adobe style for it’s practicability in that it kept the home cool in the summer, and warm in the winter.

Few true adobe homes remain in modern Santa Fe. The majority are imitation adobe made of stuccoed concrete.

In the days when adobe homes were prevalent, it was a cheaper form to build with, but now the craftsmanship and tradition are harder to find and as a result more costly.

In the Anasazi communities the houses were focused around central plazas, villages incorporated circular spiritual chambers called kivas.

(Today’s Santa Fe Style Homes must have a fireplace or more than one. The style of the curved corner fireplace is called a Kiva fireplace)

Later on in the Spanish era in Santa Fe, homes incorporated the plaza of the Anasazi community into a courtyard in individual homes.

The courtyard can be found in the front of a house as a space you walk thru before entering the home, or in the backyard as a place to relax or both. It is usually a sensual experience of flowering plants and fountains.

The floor originally was made of mud and can still be seen on occasion in areas of the modern day homes. Tremendous packing is done and some sort of finish is done to maintain the hard packed earth with little dust.

Most floors in the Santa Fe style homes however are of tile, brick or some hard surface. Carpets can be found, but that is not the true Santa Fe style.

The roofs are supported by a network of vigas, long beams whose ends protrude through the outer facades, and latillas, small stripped branches layered between the vigas. Adobe homes are distinguished by their flat roofs and soft, rounded contours.

These qualities have not changed since its origination.

Another feature is the Portal (pronounced Poortaal). These in essence are patios that allow the home owners to extend their home out into the yard facing a beautiful vista of some sort. May thru October is portal weather. Dining and relaxing occur out of doors during this time of year.

These portals are usually framed by large local wood corbels (decorated part of columns) and the same heavy wood beams inside the house (vigas)

The details of Santa Fe Style homes include nichos which are small carved out spaces in hallways and on walls to display pieces of art or others things of value.

Bancos are the curved shelf like area around the fireplace in an adobe homes to display once again something of value or importance.

Arched and curved entryways, doorways and walls are very prevalent in Santa Fe style homes. They are part of the total curviness of this style home.

Doors, gates and cupboards in the Santa Fe style home are either actual old wooden doors or painted or carved to look like the old doors.

In the old days of New Mexico the doors and gateways were the true protection from the outside world. They were used to block intruders. So a strong formidable door had to be used.

The Santa Fe Style homes of today would have many of these qualities but may be replaced or intermixed with other styles such as Country, Ranch, or Mediterranean.

It really doesn’t matter what other styles are incorporated because if the home is in Santa Fe it has the “Santa Fe Essence” just by its location, history, and culture.

It is a style like no other- The Santa Fe Style Home.

Eileen Richardson

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