Modest infill house wins Grand Hacienda
By: Paul Weideman
Published online: Monday, September 10, 2012
Appeared in: Home, Santa Fe Real Estate Guide
Edition: September 2012 Vol. 15 No. 6
Also by Paul Weideman:
The house that won the Grand Hacienda Award in this year’s Haciendas — A Parade
of Homes isn’t the usual large, expensive place boasting fabulous views of multiple,
distant mountain ranges. Instead, it’s a 3,000-square-foot, $538,000 abode nestled in
on a Cordova Road site that’s almost invisible from the busy thoroughfare. “This is as infill
as it gets,” said Jesse Gries, principal of Green Star Builders, who built the house for his
family. “There was a dilapidated half of a basketball court here, and a gazebo with a little
redwood deck; we used the redwood for base plates for all of our walls.”
Gries has been in Santa Fe for 15 years and his wife, Karla Helland, is a 20-year resident.
They included some “Santa Fe style” elements: 200-year-old sabino beams and a simple
house design with soft, rounded corners. But after that it’s all clean, contemporary design
boasting cabinetry by his father and metalwork by Gries himself: terrific railings and stairs,
an entrance shade structure, canale pipes and cistern covers, and large, sculptural frame
elements in the rear patio.
There’s also a healthy hydroponic green wall at the top of the stairway to the lower level.
“It’s growing very well,” he said. “It’s a hobby but it also puts out a lot of oxygen into the
house.” The downstairs, basically basement, rooms are brightened by light wells with ivy
growing on the outside surface.
“In all the design details, Karla and I were really just satisfying ourselves, our specific
tastes,” Gries said.
The challenge for HVL Interiors, which the owners brought in to stage their house for
the Parade of Homes, was to “make it shine,” as Steffany Hollingsworth put it. Heather Van
Luchene added, “It’s not to upstage the house but really to put just enough furnishings in
to make it read well. We wanted to connect with the handcrafted quality of Jesse’s steelwork
and the cabinets by his father, so the rugs and some of the chairs are hand-made.”
“Also to let people imagine what they might be able do with a house like that, and to
dream: oh, I would love to live in this kind of context, this kind of lifestlyle,” Hollingsworth
said. “Because the house is so simple and light, we didn’t want to do things that detracted
from that. The furnishings and the art and the rugs that we selected all really blend so
nicely with the kind of organic elements and the very soft greiges and tones that we used.”
The Parade was a success for the builder. “I think we had 700 people on the first day,”
Gries said. “It seems like we had a good response; I have a meeting this week with someone
who may be interested in a project.”
It was his first Haciendas experience. For Christopher Wheeler, Wheeler Construction
& Design, 2012 was his third Parade. “I think the foot traffic was excellent. Last year we
were right in town and so it was very easy to get to, but I think we had at least that many,”
As in the Green Star entry, Wheeler and his wife, Yuki, who was the designer of their
Parade entry on Calle San Acacia (off Tano Road), did the house for themselves. “The two
things that come to mind about that are the home offices, which are separate from the
home, and that has to do with having the kids at home so it gives us a little separation. And
also the jack-and-jill bathrooms in the kids’ bedroom area. If that was for a client, most
likely those would have been bedrooms with their own private baths.”
The contemporary house is about a thousand square feet smaller than the house he built
for the family in 2006. That was intentional.
“It works much better for us,” he said. “Small is the new better. The floor plan is more
compact and the bedrooms are closer together, which makes for a more pleasant family life
and probably will be better for heating in the winter.”
The Wheeler home won the Grand Hacienda Runner-Up. “I heard that the judges were
split 5-4, which makes us feel good. I was very excited to see Green Star win. Our sort-of
argument for years was how can you give the Grand Hacienda to anything that’s not the
most expensive, biggest house in the Parade, and this year they didn’t just think outside the
box, they shattered the box.”
Speaking of awards, Palo Santo Designs won a whopping eight prizes for its two houses
on the tour. Among them were the Grand Green awards in both categories: for homes
under 2,000 square feet and for homes over 2,000 square feet.
The former, located on Cresta Pequeña near Cañoncito, is a fairly modest home — 1,213
square feet and valued at $350,000 — but with solid, earthy features including American
clay wall finishes and an unfinished adobe interior wall both for separation and thermal
mass. The LEED Platinum home on Southern Crescent west of Lamy is 2,700 heated square
feet and priced at $1 million. Cresta Pequeña has high-performance frame construction
and 2 Southern Crescent is a combination of pumice-crete and high-performance frame.
“The house on Southern Crescent is architecturally unique, designed by Justin Larson
[of the firm VFLA] out of Fort Collins,” said Palo Santo Designs’ Mark Girogetti. “It’s a
state-of-the-art green home, near zero-energy, which means it’s 84 percent more efficient
than a code-built home.”
Features there include passive-solar design, a high-efficiency heating system, and a
groundbreaking thin-film photovoltaic technology that is virtually invisible architecturally.
Palo Santo also won a special award for best bathroom. “That was I think in part because
of some unique choices by the owner, who went for a vintage, art-deco look with subway
tile and plumbing fixtures, and a freestanding clawfoot tub that has a window level with the
top for great views.”
The two Parade entries by Prull Custom Builders took all five awards in the top price
category. One on Aspen View, in Monte Sereno, is traditional and stately with tall stone
column supports outside and a traditional, open plan all on one level. The other Prull
house, on Lodge Trail up behind Bishop’s Lodge, is a neat combination of angles and
curves. Will Prull worked with architect Craig Hoopes and interior designer Lisa Samuels
on both projects.
The Lodge Trail house is accessed through a wonderfully landscaped courtyard. “We
had a lot of comments on the wall-plastering job, the cabinets, and on the fit of the
brushed-marble floor tile, which is set in a four-piece Leon pattern,” Prull said. “All three
fireplaces are noteworthy; they’re Ortal brand, made in Israel.”
He said the houses saw more than 200 visitors on the busier days.
“The important thing for me is that the people who came this year, besides the locals
and people shopping for ideas, are planning to build soon, where last year they were just
saying they wanted to build some day. There are real jobs coming out of the Parade of
Kim Shanahan, executive director of the sponsoring Santa Fe Area Home Builders Association, said the organization sold more tickets than in 2011. The home-tourists this time
saw an unprecedented variety. Just two or three years ago, a large percentage of the Parade
houses were in the Las Campanas areas. This year, there were just two.
“Also, the fact that we don’t have spec homes these days means people aren’t having to
go safe in order to appeal to many potential buyers,” Shanahan said. “It’s more a matter of
the owners doing what they want.
“I was encouraged that we had four entrants who I’m calling the next generation that
needs to be running this association in the future.”
He was talking about Jesse Gries, Mark Giorgetti, Chris Wheeler, and Shane and Rob
Woods of Woods Design Builders. “They really represent people in their 30s and early 40s
and for them, green building is not a matter of getting over a learning curve; it’s automatic.
That’s just what they do.”