Home at Last

New Mexico Magazine | SantaFe.com - August 16, 2015

A family finds the perfect Santa Fe adobe – and more than a couple of surprises.

When Nicole Rassmuson and her husband, Harlan Flint, were house hunting on the historic East Side of Santa Fe one early summer day, Nicole saw lilacs blooming by the door of a charming old adobe and fell for it immediately. “It reminded me of my grandmother’s home in Sweden,” she says. For Harlan, who spent part of his childhood in Santa Fe before starting a career that took him all around the world, the place represented a homecoming.

A cinematically picture-perfect scenario? Perhaps. Move-in ready? Not quite. Endearing as it was, the nearly 100-year-old adobe needed some serious work. The couple had the house and its guest casita thoroughly inspected before they bought it, so they had a pretty good idea of what they were getting into. “We took a risk,” Rassmuson says, “since you never know what you’ll find once you start tearing a house up.”

But in an old home made of mud-and-straw bricks, you can pretty much count on finding something interesting.

“With adobe, especially old adobes, whenever you open them up—surprise,” says Seron Houlberg of Denman & Associates, a Santa Fe construction-and-remodeling firm. As supervising foreman, Houlberg got a down-and-dirty view of this home’s problems while he ran the six-month renovation project. The first issue was a soggy bog under the kitchen, which came from the slope of the lot and funneled a seeping stream below the house in damp weather. That moisture saturated the adobe walls and wooden floor joists resting directly on the ground. Mold and rot thrived. Surprise!

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