Im­prove your space with a re­model

Home - Santa Fe Real Estate Guide - - FRONT PAGE - By Paul Wei­de­man

ome­build­ing took a huge hit af­ter the Septem­ber 2008 fall of Lehman Brothers and other fi­nan­cial firms trig­gered eco­nomic cri­sis. Peo­ple couldn’t sell their older houses to fi­nance new ones; in­stead, they in­vested in home im­prove­ments. Many con­trac­tors went out of busi­ness. Oth­ers sur­vived by be­com­ing re­mod­el­ing spe­cial­ists.

One ex­am­ple in Santa Fe is Joel Muller, owner of Tent Rock, Inc. In Jan­uary, he was do­ing a whole­house re­model on Old Santa Fe Trail. His crew had re­moved most of the roof, many of the walls, and the wood floor — a newslab­will be poured over ra­di­ant-heat­ing tubes, re­plac­ing the old forced-air heat sys­tem.

A 1,500-square-foot ad­di­tion will be part of the sig­nif­i­cant re­model of the house, which may date to the 1920s. The walls were made of two dif­fer­ent types of pentile — the hol­low clay tile that was pro­duced by the old state pen­i­ten­tiary in Santa Fe in the early part of the 20th cen­tury.

Was the house in a sad state? “It didn’t ap­pear to be, but as we re­moved lay­ers, it was,” Muller said. “It had a dirt roof, the win­dows were in bad shape, in­su­la­tion was nil, the heat­ing sys­tem was an­ti­quated, and there had been plumb­ing leaks. Ba­si­cally it func­tioned fine as a house, but it needed to be mod­ern­ized in many ways.

“All the new walls will be adobe, but we are go­ing to uti­lize some of the pentile. We’re in­su­lat­ing the floors and do­ing the­walls with spray foam. There was an el­e­vated radon is­sue, so we’re do­ing radon abate­ment.” This in­volves thick va­por-bar­rier ma­te­rial to pro­tect the house, and un­der­neath that is a gravel bed, from which air is piped above the roof.

Muller es­tab­lished Tent Rock, Inc., in 1993. For the 10 years prior, he had a part­ner­ship with Chris Cooke, who now has Har­mony De­sign & Con­struc­tion. “We were in busi­ness as home­builders, in­clud­ing a cou­ple of pumice-crete houses. I built my own house, also pumice. We al­ways kind of did the trick­ier, al­ter­na­tive ma­te­ri­als and con­tem­po­rary de­signs.”

In the 2000s, Muller served on the board of di­rec­tors of the His­toric Santa Fe Foun­da­tion. He has done sev­eral restora­tions of his­toric homes. An early one, in 1999, in­volved the adobe Ge­or­gia O’Ke­effe House at Ghost Ranch north of Abiquiú.

“That was an ex­ten­sive, 2-year pro­ject. Juan Hamil­ton [the artist’s em­ployee and con­fi­dante] had just sold it to John and Anne Mar­ion,” he said. “We re­paired adobe dam­age fromwa­ter. And a lot of silt­ing had hap­pened com­ing off the Ghost Ranch hills and the house was set­tling.”

To rem­edy that, the crew put in new foot­ings and raised and an­chored the house on 20 he­li­cal piers— gi­ant screws driven up to 20 feet into the ground with a hy­draulic ma­chine. “It was a fair amount of re­hab to the foun­da­tion and all new plumb­ing and elec­tric, re­ha­bil­i­tat­ing win­dows and doors, and new ce­ment stucco — but there’s some mud plas­ter un­der the por­tales.”

An­other his­toric re­mod­el­was theWil­liam Pen­hal­low Hen­der­son House on Camino del Monte Sol. “It was a dif­fi­cult pro­ject,” Muller said. “We started out with new util­ity lines, re­habbed all the doors and­win­dows, and there was a lot of adobe re­pair. There were some rot­ted beams, so we did Dutch­man splices, putting in new­wood where the beams had rot­ted.”

Muller some­times works with ar­chi­tects and in­te­rior de­sign­ers, es­pe­cially on kitchen and bath­room re­mod­els. “A lot of clients feel more com­fort­able work­ing with some­body who can bring more to the ta­ble than they’re aware of, or who can help them limit the choices. If you just walk into State­ments and look at tile, it’s over­whelm­ing, there’s so much. But if a de­signer has nar­rowed it to a few, it’s a much cleaner po­si­tion. The same with plumb­ing fix­tures and hard­ware. It’s a nice edit­ing tool to have a de­signer for that role. And I de­fer to ar­chi­tects for de­sign.”

Tent Rock col­lab­o­rated with ar­chi­tect Trey Jor­dan and the own­ers on a hand­some re­model of aWil­liam Lump­kins house on the Camino.

“Look­ing back, we did more new projects in 2008 and since then it’s been ex­clu­sively re­mod­els, in­clud­ing two for Trey Jor­dan and one in­Vista Re­dondo on the other side of Te­suque,” Muller said. “We just did a tiny kitchen/ guest house for an artist cou­ple out onWest Alameda. It was a one-car garage that they in­cor­po­rated into their guest quar­ters and it turned out re­ally sweet.

“We do it all, in­clud­ing kitchen and bath­room re­mod­els.”

PHO­TOS COUR­TESY JOEL MULLER

Tent Rock Inc. aug­mented an old Wil­liam Lump­kins house with con­tem­po­rary ad­di­tions and other de­sign el­e­ments

A kitchen re­model on Camino del Monte Sol, be­fore and af­ter

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