At home in many houses

Pasatiempo - - PASATIEMPO -

Dou­glas Atwill signs his book at Col­lected Works Book­store

Dou­glas Atwill Houses (Box­wood Press) re­lates the sto­ries of the 59 houses the au­thor, painter, and builder has owned over a 40-year pe­riod, most of them in Santa Fe. First he tells of his days work­ing a Vir­ginia farm with his life part­ner Pete Ste­wart, whom he met at La Fonda in 1964. “Goshen Farm was an idyl­lic prop­erty for the two west­ern­born bach­e­lors, com­mit­ted lovers in a dis­ap­prov­ing county dur­ing a largely dis­ap­prov­ing era.” In 1969, they sold the farm and idled around France look­ing for a house to buy. “Out­side of Grasse, there was a crum­bling coun­try house of stone, cov­ered with an ochre-col­ored stucco, all the shut­ters akimbo,” Atwill re­calls in his beau­ti­ful, vivid style.

Later that year, they moved to Santa Fe and spent the next six years build­ing a se­ries of houses on Canyon Road. By the fifth, Atwill, Ste­wart, and “a cour­te­ous old man” named Or­tiz could lay up 500 adobes a day. On the in­te­rior walls, they worked to achieve a sur­face “like old-coun­try mar­ble” us­ing gaug­ing plaster, and they added two doors re­cy­cled from the old Loretto Girls’ School for a hall­way.

Atwill won­ders if Ste­wart would like the last of the 59, the house Atwill built and lives in now. “His taste was more el­e­gant than mine, tend­ing to choose bur­nished wood or painted sur­faces with Euro­pean an­ces­try. But it is now more than forty years since he died and maybe, had those years been given him, he would now share my love of sim­pler sur­faces, pine rather than ma­hogany, straight leg over cabri­ole leg, brass over sil­ver and cot­ton over ta­pes­try.” The fi­nal chap­ter is a won­der­ful primer on win­dows, doors, floors, heft, rect­an­gu­lar­ity, and other “parts that go into a Santa Fe house.” Atwill signs copies at 3 p.m. Satur­day, Dec. 3, at Col­lected Works Book­store, 202 Gal­is­teo St., 505-988-4226. — Paul Wei­de­man

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