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Finds eroded shack, revamps it into heritage landmark home

When Ju Tan and Courtney Janak searched for a home in Santa Fe’s historic downtown neighborhood, the only affordable spot was an un-permitted shack on a corner lot well-exposed to passersby and in danger of the adjacent eroding hillside.

“The lot sits in a depression and I remember the first time I came, I thought, ‘oh, this is really bad feng shui’”, explains architect Tan. “It didn’t feel good at all, but when I walked into the site somehow I felt like it could work, there could be a nice nestled feeling within the site to build a house.”

They filled in what had been a literal cut in the hill, built retaining walls, and began nestling their home onto the small lot. To achieve the required Pueblo-Revival style look of the neighborhood, they opted not to use adobe since it would have required an expensive 4-foot-thick wall (to reach efficiency standards) and instead built with stick frame and a stucco/cement cladding in earth tones.

Appreciating the feel of natural materials, they chose adobe for the floor and Tan spent weeks treating it with a linseed oil finish (for both colors and as a sealant).

With no real carpentry experience, Tan built most of the shelving and much of the furniture in the home using recycled wood. He created a stain for the kitchen cabinets and shelves using a mix of vinegar, rusted metal, and water.

The roof is outfitted with wooden “canales”, rainwater drains projecting out from flat roofs on Santa Fe Style houses and water is captured in barrels with a total capacity of 300 gallons which Tan uses for watering.