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Modern Life

SANTA FE, N.M. — Climb the spiral staircase to the meditation loft at Erin English’s home for a sweeping view of the Sangre de Cristos wrapped in rippling steel.

The 620-square-foot addition to English’s home, which she shares with her partner, is one of 11 contemporary structures highlighting the Santa Fe Modern Home Tour next Saturday. The self-guided driving tour showcases modern homes with unique building materials and views. The architectural styles range from an adobe based on Frank Lloyd Wright designs to corrugated steel. Another projects a modernist feel within its once-rural community by blending contemporary aesthetics and concrete with chicken houses, old barns and garden sheds.

Santa Fe’s Autotroph Design helped the couple renovate their home into a more contemporary and spacious structure, said tour curator Ingrid Spencer, a contributing editor and former managing editor of the New York-based Architectural Record magazine. The space combines simple lines and materials that blend with New Mexico’s rugged terrain.

If you go
WHAT: Santa Fe Modern Home Tour
WHEN: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. April 21
WHERE: Various locations
COST: $25

“It’s just incredibly simple and elegant and connected to the landscape,” she said.

English bought her Agua Fria Park Road home seven years ago. She and her partner needed space for her D.J. business and a painting studio. The pair once worked nearly on top of each other in an 8-by-10-foot room.

“She has these large paintings that were impossible for the little bedroom studio,” English said of the crowded quarters.

Constructed of cold rolled steel, the addition is designed to rust to match the earth tones of the original building’s stucco walls.

Galvanized roof panels ensure clean water is directed to a cistern to nourish the garden. A lowered canopy provides a shady patio.

The two-story loft brings light and height to an otherwise cookie-cutter layout. A poly paneled window wall diffuses the light, providing both privacy and illumination. Energy-efficient LED lighting brings sustainability. English added both built-in cabinetry and a sink to the space. Baltic birch ceilings and walls bring warmth. A dandelion-shaped paper Ikea chandelier casts starry shadows across the room. Pocket doors separate it from the original living room.

“This was a huge coup to pull off,” English said of the latter. “This used to be a window.”

“I’m interested in good design,” she explained, “and contemporary is where I find more good design now. In my music, I play minimal techno, and it’s nice to have minimal open space.”

Local writer Zane Fischer moved into his two-story “modern ruin” six weeks ago. Rammed earth, an ancient building technique using the raw materials of earth, chalk, lime and gravel, add both mid-century modernity and ancient construction. The technique has been revived in recent years as people seek more sustainable building materials. Builders compress a damp mixture of earth with sand, gravel and clay into a frame or mold to make individual blocks. The result is a “monolithic adobe block,” Fischer said.

“I’ve always liked ruins,” he explained. “A contemporary expression is kind of the goal.”

The home rises from the desert in a patchwork of earth and concrete. An adjacent Quonset hut houses an art studio and office. A hand-dug miniature arroyo winds around carefully placed young saplings, bringing them gray water from the inside.

“You can’t tell if it’s old or if it’s new,” Spencer said of the Autotroph-designed building. “It’s built of simple materials that weather. They have that rolling design; it’s like an industrial gas station.”

Fischer took an Arizona workshop to learn how to perform much of the labor himself.

He recycled the wooden block frames into a closet. A wall of gym lockers doubles as the kitchen pantry.

“I like things a little minimal,” he continued. “Some people find that cold, but I find that energizing.”