When you buy a house, sometimes everything is in place and the way you want it. Just sign the papers and move in. Other times, you call the contractor and get to work.
For Kellie Harris, it was both.
The house she bought at 1520 Weimer in 2013 had been vacant for a couple of years. It was built in the 1970s by Ken and Louise Blair (past owners of the Sagebrush Inn) with many of the elements that came with architecture of that era: cut-up floor plan, compact rooms, archways, steps between rooms, long hallways, tile and rock floors, viga ceilings and skylights, a large backyard.
It begged for an overhaul, a gut job of knocking down walls and airing out the floor plan to bring it into the 21st century.
But Harris, a cosmetic dentist in Taos, saw a chance to combine the old with the new to create her dream home.
“When I was looking at it, my agent said, ‘I know you can do something with this,’” Harris said during a recent visit by Enchanted Homes. “It definitely needed updates in style. It was in a bit of a time warp, even had shag carpeting. While it needed modernizing, I wanted to keep the look of the arches and the adobe walls, the Spanish style and help it reach its full potential.”
Three years later, in her kitchen, Harris stands between a modern stainless steel, high-tech range and an ancient kiva-style fireplace. No walls have been taken out, spaces remain distinct and purposeful, much of the original tile and rock remain on the floors and there are still archways between rooms.
“The size of the rooms, how the layout is cut up, it feels cozy to me,” Harris said. “It’s old school, the way the house was meant to be. I did most of the design myself because I just somehow knew what I wanted.”
So what’s happened since renovations began three years ago?
There have been lots of tweaks and touches. Adobe walls got a new top coat, plus there’s reddish-brown bamboo flooring in a few rooms. The two smaller bathrooms got face-lifts and contemporary fixtures. The vigas in the ceilings all over the house have been wood treated, plus the fireplaces have been brought up to code. The folks at Vargas Tile managed to find tiles that transitioned flooring from one room to the next – no small task, given the variety underfoot in the house.
There’s a new sunroom on the west side of the house, bringing the total square footage to about 5,000. New large windows catch sight of a few sculptures and modest landscaping outside. Then the view goes full-bore Taos Valley: from Picuris Peak past Cerro Azul to the Jemez Mountains and distant Pedernal; around to Three Peaks, Two Peaks and Ute Mountain; the dark cut of the Río Grande Gorge; a hint of the Colorado peaks in the far north. And, of course, there’s a complete canvas of Pueblo Mountain and the Sangre de Cristos.
There’s now an entertainment room with a large bar, stools and chairs. The high bar is new, but the past lives with a Thom Wheeler metal sculpture embedded in the front panel and a back bar which once was at Ronnie Lee’s Supper Club downtown.
But the true nature of what the house has become can be found in Harris’ two most favorite rooms: the kitchen and the master bathroom.
The former area is “where we are” after work, said Harris. The kiva fireplace keeps things cozy as she moves easily from sink to range to central island among the warm, earthy colors of the room. The refrigerator has been moved into the former laundry room off the kitchen – along with a second sink, dishwasher and cabinets – to open up the kitchen for all who gather there.
“It was more important to move the fridge that seemed to block the flow in the kitchen,” Harris said.
A metamorphic mixture of golds, black, grays and a hint of blue adorns the granite countertops. Harris wanted enough black on the counters to match up with the sheeny black of the appliances. Granite Concepts of Taos installed it, right down to precision joints and patterns flowing from horizontal counter onto vertical splash backs.
“I wanted enough space in the kitchen to entertain, cook and just relax,” she said. “The kitchen is where people gather, and I wanted it to feel both comfortable and cozy.”
Down the hall and through the master bedroom, you find the master bathroom. No side space on this one – it looks and feels like a “room.” Sunlight disperses out of several skylights, highlighting soft tan adobe walls and a large vanity. There’s a hot tub, two-person shower with directional showerheads and an easy chair with a reading lamp. A large closet and dressing room sit just off the main floor, and the toilet is in a separate space, too.
The colors are earthy, comfortable, like the colors of the high desert landscapes in Taos. Bamboo flooring seems to warm the feet, and soft bathrobes hang nearby.
“This is where I start my day, I relax and get my thoughts together,” Harris said. “I wanted it to be spa-like, especially with the natural lighting. This is where I hang out – my sanctuary.”
Around the rest of the house, there’s plenty more work to do. The step-down living room in the back opens to a large backyard with two decks, a swimming pool, raised gardens and a 1,500-square foot casita – filling out the 3-acre lot.
A bit of local history resides in the backyard: It was the set for a 1990 Dennis Hopper movie, “Backtrack,” which starred Taos’ Dean Stockwell, Jodie Foster, Fred Ward – and Bob Dylan with a chainsaw.
Harris’ next project is an outdoor kitchen, complete with gas stovetop, counter space and plumbing.
But, for now, Harris is content to settle and sit in her eclectic, multicultural home that fits nicely between the style of old Taos and the latest fashion. One of the best compliments she’s had is when Ken and Louise Blair came to visit and were happy to see how much of what they had built had been retained.
“I love my house, I truly do,” said Harris. “This could be the spot for me; this house suits me so well.
“And, of course, one by the beach,” she said with a laugh.