Santa Fe New Mexican
Welcome to ‘EJville’
One by one, local builder has created community of minimalistic spec homes south of Eldorado
His clients and friends call the place “EJville.” It’s a collection of more than two dozen houses — contemporary in styling and most reasonably sized — that E.J. Jennings has built south of Eldorado over the past decade.
At 67, he’s still a hands-on builder. It’s not unusual to find him on a ladder with a hammer in his hand. He constructs his houses one at a time, and the fact that he began successfully selling his spec homes in the shaky housing market of late 2010 is a testament to his grit and good reputation.
The heart of his work was Rancho San Lucas, located off Spur Ranch Road. He bought 22 lots from the landowner, Mary Anne Stickler, and proceeded to create a community.
It’s loose-knit, made up today of 22 houses on lots of between 3 and 5 acres. But it definitely has a character. The homes are “all kind of hard-edged, a minimalist look,” Jennings said.
They have simple, sleek living room fireplaces;
integral-color concrete floors; and Euro-style Ikea cabinets and stainless steel appliances in the kitchens.
But all that modernism is warmed up by exposed-wood ceilings. Jennings also likes putting a little straw in the concrete-based stucco mix for what he has called “kind of a goofy connection to the adobe tradition.”
His modernistic homes also have no wood on the exteriors. There are no lintels, nor are there Santa Fe-style posts, beams or corbels.
And that was a real selling point for Frank Zincavage and Susan Lefkowich. The couple moved from their home in the San Francisco Bay Area to a new house in EJville in March.
“I was a contractor for a few decades, and my own house was Craftsman style from the 1920s, and I was very aware of the fact that there’s no wood on this house,” Zincavage said.
“The metal canales and aluminum windows looked great,” he added. “I’m getting older, and I don’t want to be outside working on maintaining a lot of wood on the house all the time.”
He and Lefkowich had been visiting New Mexico since 1988. Once they decided to move to Santa Fe, they thought downtown was the place to be. Then they visited an old friend who had bought in Rancho San Lucas.
“This is the look that we always liked — clean and simple,” Zincavage said. “Living in the Bay Area as an artist, you always want to be in south of Market [Street], the old industrial area where you can find a warehouse and have tons of room.”
The two visited their new house before it was completely finished. That gave them a chance to select some of the finishes and ask Jennings to wire a 220-volt outlet for Zincavage’s electric kiln.
He is a potter and used to do it for a living in the 1970s. He also was the bassist in the 1980s New Wave band Romeo Void. (Remember the song “Never Say Never”?) Lefkowich is a painter and in the past worked at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, where she met her future husband. Until recently, she was the director of development for the
Berkeley music venue Freight & Salvage Coffeehouse.
Another advantage from their visit to the house while it was still under construction was Jennings was able to customize some walls.
“It seems like most of the people who are out here have some reason for wanting studio space,” he said.
Their new house, which has great views of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and foothills, is signature Jennings, but it is not in Rancho San Lucas. For the past few years, the builder has been designing and building a handful of homes right along Spur Ranch Road, just above that subdivision.
“I have six individual lots along here that I purchased, most from Joe Miller,” he said. “There’s just one lot left that I’ll probably build on and keep for myself.”
Last month, Pam Preston of Barker Realty had the last of the other five houses, a threebedroom unit at 19 Spur Ranch Road, listed for $625,000. It was already under contract by July 31.
Like Jennings’ other homes, it sported an open-concept design, with the living room and kitchen basically one large room. The homes, ranging from 2,200 to 2,400 square feet, have in-floor radiant heating, energy-efficient appliances and windows, plus a hefty insulation package.
“We use 2-by-8 framing and 14-inch joists in order to hold more insulation, so the walls are R-30 and the ceiling is R-52,” Jennings said, referring to insulation values. “The heating bill is only about $75 for the coldest month of the year.” All the homes are served by the Eldorado Area Water & Sanitation utility.
Preston had nothing but compliments for the builder she has represented for 30 years.
“His reputation is one of integrity and direct resolution of issues when and if they arise,” she said. “His minimalist design and functional use of space is an expression of how he runs his business. He is efficient, hands-on in all aspects, and delivers beautiful and peaceful spaces.”
Jennings’ home offerings on Spur Ranch Road are all taken, but in Rancho San Lucas, there are still six lots remaining, owned by Stickler. Will he build houses on them?
Jennings would only say: “Um, it could happen.”