“Danson House” Weekend Houses
“Weekend Houses takes you on a tour of twenty-seven wonderful retreats. The New Mexico home of Casey Coates Danson is highlighted here. Ms. Danson added a two-bedroom guesthouse powered by solar.”
“Danson House” – Tesuque, New Mexico
Text by Penelope Rowlands
Photographs © Mark Darley/Esto
Almost everyone who goes to New Mexico seems to fall in love with the place, and Casey Danson, a Los Angeles-based environmental designer and activist, is no exception. “I basically started coming to Santa Fe about twelve years ago because it called me,” she says. “I’d go every four or five weeks and come home just like a new person. It’s powerful spiritually because of the whole convergence of mountains there. It has a strong spiritual force.”
The seven-acre property in Tesuque, just north of Santa Fe, that Danson shares with her two daughters is a fertile patch of green in the otherwise arid-seeming Southwestern landscape. A well-known irrigation ditch, the Acequia Madre-”the ancient mother ditch,” as Danson calls it-passes through her property, bringing with it lots of greenery and peaceful, streamlike sounds.
When Danson first came upon her house and land, both seemed gloomy. “It was an extremely unfriendly masculine house,” she recalls. Its exposed terra cotta-colored adobe-style walls, without a plaster overlay, seemed hard edged. In addition, the building was surrounded on all sides by “black patios with huge four-by-four foot columns that blocked the view of meadows and fields, including the most beautiful willows and elder trees I’ve ever seen.”
Also blighting the property were “hundreds of seven-ton stones,” according to Danson, who says these were used by a previous owner for the celebration of solstices and other natural events. “They blocked the house in from any connection to the earth or view of the land. You couldn’t even see the mountains.”
Danson had the land cleared; as for the house itself, she expanded it by adding a master bedroom, passageway, and bath, along with a tiny back patio, bringing the total footage up to four thousand square feet. She brightened the dark exterior by adding pale color coated plaster to the adobe walls and painting its gray roof tiles red. Inside, she had the dark brick floor replaced with one of light Colorado stone. She also added a two-bedroom guest house that is completely solar, in keeping with her professional interests (Danson’s firm, Global Possibilities, promotes the use of solar and sustainable forms of energy).
LEFT: Danson’s house in Santa Fe’s Tesuque area, which was about a dozen years old when she bought it, was completely renovated. She had the roof painted red and covered its adobe-style walls with diamond-finish, color coated plaster.
RIGHT: Inside one New Mexican dwelling, a view of another. The painting, of a pueblo house, is by Dan Namingha, a Hopi-Tewa artist who created most of the art in the Danson home.
The property’s most charming addition just may be the seventeen by-twenty-one-foot outdoor room-”it’s a living room, really,” Danson says-where much of her family life takes place. “We have lunch and dinner in it, and we entertain. We sit out there in the winter with a fire in the outdoor fireplace. It’s just a beautiful place to be.” She also added a half-moon-shaped garden in front of the kitchen, “sort of like an altar facing the east.”
Danson wanted a romantic, very feminine interior. “It’s a very pink and red house, only for girls,” she says with a laugh. From upholstery to artwork, much of the inside is conceived in these pale shades. She sculpted the figurative bronzes that dot the rooms her self. Other pieces here are mainly by local artists, including Dan Namingha, a well-regarded New Mexican painter of mixed Hopi Tewa extraction. The stone carvings throughout were done by a Sioux medicine man named Stormy RedDoor.
Not long ago, Danson thought of selling the place, but it wasn’t meant to be. “I was thinking of sizing down, but then I came out to the house,” she recalls. “There was a purple sunset and the grasses were swaying and the birds were calling and I realized there’s no way I could ever give this up. It’s a very special place.”
LEFT: In the renovation of her New Mexican adobe-style house, Danson added French doors and replaced black brick floors with Colorado stone. The chaise longue is French provincial; the blanket, Mexican.
RIGHT: In the study, a colonial Mexican bench and a painting by the late Santa Fe artist Susan Hertel. Danson wanted a feminine interior, and kept the color palette pale throughout.
LEFT: Just beyond a guest bathroom, at the back of the house, flows the legendary Acequia Madre, the ancient irrigation ditch that, along with the nearby Tesuque Creek, keeps this part of Santa Fe green