Casa Vista Project

This project in Farmington, New Mexico, at 4230 N. Crescent Avenue, and my first in the Four Corners area, is a radical remodel and addition to an existing house purchased in 2001.  Remodels of this magnitude are unusual in this area due to the ready availability of undeveloped parcels.

The following images, with a caption and comments, illustrate the history, design and construction issues and results (as of April, 2006 with interior finishing not yet completed) of the Casa Vista project. Descriptive text follows below the pictorial section.

Architectural Design: Synoptic Designs, Dav Mar, Principle.

General Contractor: Energy Solutions, Inc., Fred Boshardt, President.

      Click on thumbnails below to open a larger image in a new window.

Front view of original house.

Yard dominated by circular driveway passing through covered entry portico.

Rear view of original house.

Note the right side of the house where the addition was placed.

Aerial photo of the neighborhood, early 90's.

House indicated by arrow. N. Dustin St. at the right. Choke Cherry Canyon at the left. Up is North.

View to SSE over Farmington and the San Juan R. bluffs.

Views extend to Angel Peak and Restless Mesa. Vignette's of La Plata Mtns.

View to ESE - houses on Sedona Court west side. 3:30 p.m. April 1.

Much welcome warm light reflected off houses into windows on east side of Casa Vista late afternoons.

View to ESE after winter snowfall.

Houses on Sedona Court create a pueblo village like scene.

View from Casa Vista of bluffs at sunset. April 1, 2006.

Notice freestanding towers at mouth of large canyon left center.

Vignette view of Mt. Hesperius in La Plata Mountains, CO.

Visible between houses on Cardon Drive from north verandahs of Casa Vista. Check the Colorado snowpack at a glance.

     Complete panorama from rear of      Casa Vista.

View of original rear yard.

Half of rear lot area was unusable because of mortared rock slope cover. Inadequate foundation under rear porch columns.

Modifications started on front portico.

Temporary shoring supports roof which will be used in expanded fully enclosed portico.

Laying front portico glass block.

151 sq. ft. of 12" Vue block custom sandblasted on inside surface. Will be grouted with color matched to stucco.

Installing helical piers for north addition foundation.

Addition has engineered foundation; reinforced cast concrete grade beams on helical piers driven to load bearing specification.

Formwork for addition foundation.

Overbuilt foundation on steeper north end of lot to preclude any future settling - a not uncommon problem locally.

Pouring north addition foundation.

Plain slab under enclosed structure being floated. Decorative concrete for north porch and patio to be poured later.

Framing for lower floor of addition.

Exposed aggregate porch and north patio slab also completed in this view.

Addition of OSB sheathing over lower frame completed.

Stucco stripped from original exterior, which become interior walls, on upper level .

Framing and OSB sheathing completed.

Extensive scaffolding required for construction access to exterior walls.

Front view of enclosed addition with porches.

Stucco brown coat on front portico. Framing for integrated wraparound awnings not yet begun.

Framing and sheathing completed.

Awning framing completed. Proprietary structurally redundant awning designed for this project for sun control and aesthetics.

Covered with building paper.

Final forms start to emerge.

Scaffolding tented to allow stuccoing to proceed in winter.

Extra cost incurred. Stucco application done preferably between March 15th and October 15th in this region.

Plasterer floating stucco on south front entry awning.

Constant dialog with trades required to insure generous 'adobe like' edge radii, they wanted to make them sharp per standard practice.

Rolling on primer coat.

Primer coat required to insure color match between original and new stucco on house after final color coat.

Trowel application of final color coat.

Color is Sto brand "Mesilla". Light primer undercoat provides 'glow' to color.

Shell completed. Yard unlandscaped.

Colored matched grout in glass block has warm tones, unlike white grout normally used, which looks 'icy'.

Front landscaping completed fall of 2005.

See Design Tools page for details of landscaping design and construction process.

Rear view of house complete.

Retaining wall at rear under construction in winter 2006. See final appearance below.

Rendering showing appearance of completed project.

Wall will have parapet fence on top and all will be stuccoed to match house, similar to north patio.

View front to rear of pierced awning columns on south side of house.

This porch off the dining room was original to the house but transformed by the wraparound awnings. Provides quick access to kitchen from front parking.

South front yard landscaping detail.

Xeric plantings. Native sandstone and river rock.

South front yard landscaping detail.

Placed sandstone boulders and low intersecting retaining wall. See Design Tools Page for construction.

Oblique view of portico glass block.

See-thru outside, frosted inside. Provides privacy, interior daylight, sound barrier and rear projection surface.

Appearance inside of GB when sunlit.

Ever changing pattern of light reflections and refraction's.

Casa Vista at night.

Comprehensive 12 VDC lighting system accents house and landscaping.

North entry at night.

Glass block window is in west wall of student/office suite study. Bedroom is behind bas relief mirroring GB window design.

Integrated bronze mirror glass.

Unique proprietary frameless design. Maximum possible viewing area for window opening. Insulated. Impervious to weather.

Windows at SE in lower guest den.

Mirror glass reflects the sky and neighborhood on the outside, provides total daytime privacy inside. No ugly aluminum or vinyl frame. Zero maintenance.

View of exterior stair connecting upper & lower N. verandahs

Skylight. Nichos with concealed lighting and air intakes. Recessed lighting above. Ceramic tile. Solid brass stair nosings. Custom steel handrail.

View of original kitchen.

Pink & blue Formica? I don't think so!  Useable basic layout but everything needs to be replaced down to the bare studs.

Kitchen stripped to bare studs.

Wall between kitchen and living room to be extended for cabinets and storage both sides. Note origional aluminum frame windows.

Laying granite tile in master bath.

Tile granite pattern matches solid granite countertops.

Installing oak plank flooring.

7" wide laminated oak planks laid diagonally to walls, pointing towards kiva fireplace in Lv. Rm.

Hanging grass cloth in Master Suite.

Note wrap-around lighting soffits at ceiling.

Wiring 400 Ampere electrical panel. 250A for house. 150A reserved for future addition of studio/workshop.

City electrical utility needed to install a new transformer dedicated to this house.

Multi-layered plaster wall finish in warm southwestern earth tones.

Used above oak chair rails in entry hall & dining room and entire west wall of living room. Recessed incandescent lighting.

Custom designed welded steel frame oven rack with laser cut stainless steel sheet facing.

Incorporates powered slide- out exhaust vent with roof mounted fan above upper microwave/convection oven. Lower oven is Viking gas fired forced convection with catalytic broiler.

Rendering of kitchen design. See Design Tools page for info.

Tambour storage units below uppers as shown were not used in the final design. Watch for photos of interior by Summer 2006.


Project Description - Due to the location, view and certain uncommon features of the existing structure I felt that the time and expense of a complete transformation would be worthwhile. Specifically, the tucked-into-the-hillside arrangement of the existing structure, the unobtrusive location of the garages (placed under the upper level and accessible by a driveway dropping down from street level), the large lot size (which was underutilized), a primary view from the rear, or private, side of the house (as opposed to a view from the street side) and the open space on an adjacent parcel on the north side (this land belongs to a house on the cul-de-sac below and will therefore remain open). An additional benefit is the vacant lot to the rear (east) with relatively undisturbed native vegetation that is held by an owners of a residence on the cul-de-sac below for the purpose of preventing development and maintaining their own privacy. Thus the only immediate neighbor is the house to the south, and occupied by fine people.

I believed that the basic architectural elements of the existing structure were sufficient to allow an end result to be consistent with, and a demonstration of, Synoptic Designs' capabilities. I am sure, however, that if the project had been designed from a bare lot that the results could have been even more interesting. Nonetheless, a remodel is a greater challenge than a fresh design; in that it is necessary to solve numerous problems that a fresh design would have avoided in the first place; it forced me to find creative solutions.

Entry from street level is via dual sidewalk/parking pads to north and south entry gates into the fully enclosed entry portico. The entry portico is one of the many distinctive design features of the house in terms of form. I believe that I can fairly say that this element is 'organic' in that it incorporates a major element from the preexisting structure (an open drive-thru portico over a circular driveway). The large area of 12" glass block (GB) uses a clear block (Vue pattern) that has been custom sandblasted on the interior surfaces. This interior frosting accomplishes several tasks and design goals.

The first is to admit large quantities of diffuse non-glaring light into the enclosed area, which provides space as a sculpture gallery. Secondly, it preserves privacy. Thirdly, it buffers against vehicle noise from the street. Fourthly, the clear exterior surfaces, in conjunction with grout color matched to the exterior stucco color, allow light to enter from the outside and bounce around, reflect from the grout (with a warm color tone) and then be directed back to passersby. Instead of the 'icy' feeling of the local standard white grout GB windows (which are common) the eye sees a warm flicker of light. Finally, the glass wall with frosted interior provides a rear projection surface.

A lighting soffit over the front door provides space and power for digitally controlled color LED light heads from Color Kinetics. The same lighting is installed to backlight the GB units in the ends of the north verandahs and in the north patio recess leading to the vestibule/game room. It would also be possible to install equipment to project still or video images, designs or patterns on the glass wall to be visible from the street. In conjunction with extensive low-voltage landscape accent lighting the Color Kinetics lighting ensures the architectural distinctiveness of Casa Vista, day or night.

Entry into the house proper is through a Synoptic Designs custom entry door. The solid oak frame holds a 3' oak door with dual bronze mirror glass lights (same glass as rest of the house); matching side lights with same glass. The door is relatively unornamented having stepped pattern corner blocks in all four lights. The large area of the door lights allows significant amounts of daylight into the entry hall and living room but privacy is little compromised because of the portico entry design.

Upon entry into the living area an earth toned ceramic tiled hall opens to the step-down, high ceiling living room with diagonally laid oak plank flooring. The obligatory kiva fireplace (and a very nice one with ceramic tile hearth and surround, Italian glass tile trim, wood/gas insert and convection blower) is in the northeast corner of the room. The farside of the living room (east) has a glass wall with door leading to the upper rear verandah. On the south wall of the living room built-in cabinets, bookcase and media center occupy the left side of the wall, a large arched opening leads up again to the dining room. The near right corner of the room contains a mini-bar with sink and fridge. Sink top is solid granite. Upper cabinets provide as a cupboard for beverage storage.

The dining room may also be reached on the upper level by turning right from the entry and following the hall past the home administration office/network server room (completely built-in with custom cabinets). The main kitchen (another is in the lower level, described below) is at the southeast corner of the upper level. It has 'captain's bridge' windows that overlook the best through-glass views in the house (the very best views of course, from the verandahs, are completely unobstructed).

Naturally the kitchen appointments befit such a Chairman/CEO (active or retired) grade house, e.g. 3-bay SST sink with restaurant style faucet spout, SST Sub-Zero fridge/freezer, SST Bosch dishwasher, SST oven stack with Viking Commercial forced convection gas oven with catalytic broiler, Kitchen Aid Superba combo electric forced convection and microwave oven, powered slide-out oven stack exhaust with roof mounted fan, Viking Commercial gas range (four burners, center hot plate/warming plate), Viking Commercial SST Range Hood with IR warming lamps and roof mounted fan, walk-in pantry, island cabinet with rock maple butcher block top, granite countertops, ceramic tile floor, breakfast bar on range peninsula, built-in rotating turntable for TV set (for viewing from the kitchen or dining room).

The dining room windows also have superb views over Farmington and the valley of the Animas and San Juan Rivers with towering bluffs along the south rim. Under and between the windows (east and south walls) are built-in window seat/enclosed storage cabinets and a glass fronted, lighted, display case with glass shelves.

Retracing to the entry, if one turns left the hall runs north, past the interior stair entry door (to lower level) and coat closet straight toward the entry door to the student/office suite. This suite (two rooms, two walk-in closets and full bath) works well either as a full bedroom suite or as an office suite (inner office/study with completely outfitted built-in office furniture, outer office (entry, conference table, bed space, bath access). Entry into this suite may be made directly from the outside via a door opening onto the upper north verandah. (and hence from the front and street). The La Plata Mountains can be seen (weather permitting) as a vignette from the north facing window and door of this suite, as well as from the Master Suite.

If, instead of proceeding from the hall into the aforementioned suite, one turns right at the bend of the hall there is access to the guest half-bath on the left and bi-fold doors into a large utility closet with mop sink on the right. Straight ahead is the entry door to the master suite. In the master suite entry hall there is a linen closet on the right. To the left is the master bath (again, with high grade appointments). Further right is the door to 'her' walk-in closet with lighted sit-down vanity, open shelf and enclosed storage cabinets, wardrobe, shoe shelves and accessory hangers.  

From the master suite entry hall one steps down into the high ceiling master bedroom. On the grass cloth covered west wall of this room is a built-in gas log fireplace with granite hearth and surround set in cabinets with bookshelves and enclosed storage. The north wall of the room contains the exterior entry door (from the upper north verandah) and a high mounted glass block window of similar design to that in the front of the house (and in the bedroom below). North and east wall are designed to accommodate a king-sized bed (properly located power and phone outlets) in either location.  

The east wall has two large bronze mirror glass windows enjoying the rear view. A lighting soffit with recessed lighting encircles the room at ceiling level.

On the south wall of the bedroom is 'his' reach-in wardrobe closet with mirror sliding doors and back next to the entry is the arched opening into the sitting room.  

The entire west wall of the sitting room is filled with built-in bookcase/ enclosed storage cabinets incorporating media center space and connections.

The north wall of the room is left for furniture and wall displays lit by the recessed accent lighting in the ceiling..  

The east and southeast corner of this room contain large windows to the primary views. The window sill height was designed to allow loveseats, chairs and side tables to be placed below the windows and facing the media center.  

The south wall of the sitting room contains a glass window/door wall and access to the upper east verandah.  

The verandah, accessible from living room and master suite sitting room contains ample space for dining and lounging. A pass-through to the kitchen was provided for convenience. Gas and electrical service on the verandah allow for bar-b-que grill or a gas log fireplace. Speaker outlets from the living room media center are provided on the verandah.

Speaker outlets from the various possible media centers are also provided in the kitchen and dining room, student/office suite study, master bath, master bedroom, sitting room, lower den and bedroom and, of course, the family room/home theater.  

Ethernet LAN connections are provided throughout the house leading from the server in the home administration office. Network, phone, CATV and Hi-Def satellite co-ax feeds are provided to all possible media center locations throughout the house. Lighting throughout is SmartHome remote controllable for lighting automation/scene setting.

The Master Suite, as described above, is located in the upper northeast corner of the structure, distinguished from the exterior as the room with two east windows. The room below, with a single east window is the bedroom of the guest/in-law suite (bedroom, study, full bath; lower level also has a full galley kitchen/laundry, family room/home theater, table games room (with through access to the north patio), lower stair hall with built-in storage and the garage entry mudroom with locker storage and bench).  

Dual roll-up garage doors with remote opener and a man door provide access to the passenger vehicle garage from the driveway area. Attached to this garage (under the main kitchen upstairs) is a dedicated home maintainance workshop with full lower and upper cabinets and wrap-round countertop/ workbench. Attached to the passenger vehicle garage on the south of the house is a fully enclosed hi-bay cargo vehicle garage with two bypass sliding doors (9.5 ft. w. X 9.25 ft. h. openings). One of these sliding doors could be outfitted with an automated opener.

After determining that the window arrangement of the bedrooms, described above, was the desired design choice I understood immediately that this arrangement (as viewed from the exterior) has an anthropomorphic association. That is, it looks like eyes and a mouth (on a face). Thus it was necessary to ensure bilateral symmetry of the window pattern to avoid unconscious uncomfortableness in onlookers that an 'off-center' arrangement would invoke. Making the lower window slightly wider than the two uppers both compensated in light ingress and view egress for it's being solo and reinforced the anthropomorphic element. The addition of the unique stuccoed integrated wraparound awnings for practical and stylistic reasons cemented the anthropomorphic connection as 'eyebrows and nose'.

A word about the wrap-around awnings. These were a design solution to both aesthetic and practical problems. Aesthetically, the rear of the house without the awnings would have been a big blank vertical wall (see pictures of the original house).

Stylistically, the awnings (along with their 'columns') break up the mass of the rear wall and lend a strong horizontal element to the rear face. Practically, the awnings serve as seasonal sun control. Although not entirely within my control (the maximum code allowed projection of such a feature into setbacks is two feet, the same as a roof overhang).

As it happened, this overhang on the east, combined with increasing overhangs on the southeast and south side and returning to a two foot overhang in the front and with the compass orientation of the existing house, provides near ideal shading.

Winter morning sun shines freely into the house (unless controlled by blinds or drapes) but a decreasing amount of direct light proceeds with the seasons such that complete window shading is achieved in summer midmorning. The awning structure is a proprietary design with structural redundancy, using both cantilever and post and beam elements to assure long term stability. During construction they often served as footpaths around the structure for the tradesmen with total solidity.

See the Design Tools page for information about the design process as used for this project.

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