You know who does color really well? Mexico.

Personal Residence. These people are not afraid of color.
Typical Streetscape.
Typical Streetscape.

Last week I went with my family to San Miguel de Allende (in the state of Guanajuato), and visited Dr. Rust for his 70th birthday.

Dad and Sis. She is going to kill me for sharing this picture, but I love it.
Dad and Sis. She is going to kill me for sharing this picture, but I love it.

I grew up visiting to Mexico, but never have I traveled this far south, nor visited a landlocked city (my dad loves beaches). Although SMA doesn’t offer beaches it does have history and a very unique architectural style that entertained us for days. It was an inspirational trip and I highly recommend visiting if you haven’t been already.

SMA is built on a hillside and expands down into the valley.
SMA is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Cobblestone streets. Lots of greenery, color, and textures.

One public façade, three shared walls, and a courtyard define the standard building typology in SMA. Therefore, the single public Façade is usually jazzed up with an elaborate door, wainscoting, and color. There also seems to be a building ordinance within the city center that designates what colors you are allowed to use on the public façade and bans the use of neon lights; they are preserving history. Having grown up in a historically rich architectural environment myself, I totally support this.

I wonder what is behind those doors…
And those doors.

They also do landscape very well:

Cacti in a corner.
Cacti in a corner.
Rusted cacti sculpture garden.
I’ve got gutters and downspouts on my mind.


Drum roll please. Bbbbddddddrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

Ladies and gentlemen, as I promised in the last post: the Color Coat!


Courtyard colors are curing.
You can see some discoloration on the guest bedroom wall.

The color coat was by far the easiest step in the stucco application. It still took two days to apply, but required minimal tools and materials. There are some irregular color patches and rust stains we need to go over with a fog coat (a cement paint that evens out any discoloration in the color coat), so now we wait for Vallecios Drywall to find time in their schedule to come back and fix it.

The crew applying the color coat.
The crew applying the color coat.

Finishes a.k.a. Moving Inside

While the crew was outside coloring, Bruce and I moved inside to work on the interior doors.

Interior doors drying.
Interior doors drying.

Let me tell you what a saga these doors have been; upon immediate inspection the owner noticed the traditional trim profile on the doors, which did not belong in this house. She rightfully requested that they be different.

Profile received v. profile desired.
Profile received v. profile desired.

We ordered the doors from a company called Woodgrain Doors; don’t ever order anything from them. First of all their website sucks (red flag #1), and we were never able to see the trim detail before ordering (red flag #2 – ALWAYS try and get a sample or see in person before ordering anything – our mistake), their customer service is severely lacking (red flag #3), and the quality of the doors are suspect (red flag #4). We attempted to have new doors sent, on account of their misleading website, but to no avail. So, last resort, we routered out the profile to make them square. The one silver lining in the Woodgrain Door was still enough material in the trim even without the quarter round, and once modified they looked great. Unfortunately, we spent about the same amount of money in man-hours, fixing them, as they originally cost.

Steps required in fixing the doors:

  • Create a guide for the router
  • Screw the guide to the door
  • Router out Ovalo profile
  • Unscrew router guide
  • Patch screw holes with wood filler
  • Sand patches
  • Three coats of paint
  • Repeat steps 2 through 7 on both sides of 8 more doors
Bruce setting guide.
Bruce routing out Ovalo profile.
Bruce routing out Ovalo profile.
Bruce spray-painting doors.

It was a huge relief to have the doors done. Another fire extinguished.


After the doors, Bruce and I then moved on to painting walls and trim. While we have a lot of color happening outside, It is an entirely different story inside: white. The only variation being a glossy finish at the door and window trim; otherwise all the walls are matte. We decided to spray-paint the interior versus hand paint because of ceiling height, evenness, and ease. Although there is a tremendous amount of prep work when spray painting (you have to cover EVERYTHING you do not want painted) once it’s done, the actual painting takes no time at all. 80% prep, 20% painting. And, as Bruce was working with an amateur (me), it was a safe bet to lean heavily on the prep, which I could help with. In total, the walls required one coat of primer, and two coats of paint.

Windows and beams covered.
Windows and beams covered.
Spray-paint machine.
Door jambs covered. Spray-paint machine. Hallway primed.
Priming studio.
Priming studio.
Studio primed.
Studio primed.
Hallway painted.
Hallway and bedrooms painted.
Living room painted.
Living room painted.


In preparation for the tiling that will start on Monday, we finished out the guest bathroom shower with Durock, which is a waterproof fiber cement board required by code in all wet rooms.

Durock in guest bathroom.
Durock in guest bathroom. Tile sample on floor.
Slate hex tile up close.
Slate hex tile up close.

We used left over roofing material to make the door thresholds at all exterior doors. Ideally they will rust to match the other metal.


The client and I also went to Arizona Tile, in Albuquerque, to pick out countertops. We decided on a mix of honed black granite, and Meteor Shower (below). I like this granite because it is very different from typical granites, with the long white streaks running through the slab. I am excited to see it in place.

Meteor Shower granite.


They were no small decision.  We went back and forth whether to include them or not, but alas they were necessary.  We just couldn’t control the rust stains after a rain.  There are other benefits to having gutters, like clean windows, and controlling where roof water ends up, so all in all I am glad we installed them.  We hired Cisneros Sheetmetal Works to make and install the gutters – they have a seamless gutter machine.  These machines are quite expensive so they only had one gutter profile, which is more on the traditional side, but once the metal rusted the gutters blended in with the roof material.

Gutter profile.
Gutter profile on the seamless gutter machine.
Bruce lifting up the drip edge to fit the gutters under.
Bruce lifting up the drip edge to fit the gutters under.
The gutter and downspout metal is already rusting, minimizing their impact on the facade.
The gutter and downspout metal is already rusting, minimizing their impact on the facade.


We started installing the wood flooring! We are using Red Willow Woodworks out of Angel Fire for both the flooring and the custom cabinetry. They are very good, and can do modern style carpentry, but you are held captive to their schedule.


The first step in laying wood flooring is a 6” wide plywood border around the entire perimeter of the floor. Then a layer of thick plastic sheeting is laid, to prevent moisture seeping from the slab into the wood flooring. After, two layers of plywood are laid on top of the 6” plywood border and the plastic sheeting. Then the radiant flooring is turned on and a week later the slab should be dry and both the plywood and finish flooring should have acclimatized.

Subfloor laid, and finished floor stacked and acclimatizing.
Subfloor laid, and finished floor stacked and acclimatizing.

A week later…

Plywood guide for first row of flooring.
Plywood guide for first row of flooring.
Flooring laid out and ready to be stapled into place.
Flooring laid out and ready to be stapled into place.

The guys who are laying the flooring are aiming for a randomized pattern, so they lay out the pattern first and then staple it down.  Stapling goes quickly but laying it out takes time.

Paper laid to protect finished flooring.
Paper laid to protect finished flooring.

As of now they are almost done with the bedrooms hallway and part of the living room.  We need them to finish the living room soon, because the tile setter is coming on Monday to start tiling the fireplace.


We had two very important Utilities make their debut this month: Septic System and Propane Tank. Both are buried below ground, and both serve very different functions.


The propane tank, which houses liquid propane, is used to heat the water for showers, sinks, and radiant flooring. Fun fact: propane is a liquid, but it is the vapor that is burned to create heat. When Kit Carson Propane (a local propane company) fills up the tank, they only fill it up 80% because liquid propane expands into gas and requires that extra 20% of space.

The client, thankfully went with an underground tank, which was much more expensive, but worth the cost, as above ground tanks aren’t so pretty to look at.

500 gallon propane tank in the ground.
500 gallon propane tank in the ground.

(The propane tank obviously went in before the flooring because we needed the radiant flooring on to dry out the slab.)


Bear and Cubby Anaya of Bears Excavating installed the Septic System; another family owned and operated business. I grew up with Cubby (Joaquin) and never realized this was his family business. I was very impressed with Cubby’s knowledge of septic systems, and his dad was like: “Well duh! He’s been doing it since he was six!” It was really nice to see one of my peers doing so well professionally, and to be able to work together.

They installed the septic system over three days. Day one was trenching for the septic tank. Day two was installing the tank. Day three was laying the drainage trench and covering everything over with earth.

Oddly, the size of the tank is relative to the number of bedrooms in the house, as opposed to the number of toilets. There are two bedrooms so we have a 1000-gallon septic tank. The tank is only one part of the septic system. There is also the leech field, where the waste travels after passing through the septic tank. Within the leech field there can be multiple drainage trenches, depending on how much area there is. In our case we just have one drainage trench in the leech field because, we had enough room and we wanted the earth disturbed to be narrow, instead of wide.

Septic System
Septic System
Lowering the septic tank into the ground.
Lowering the septic tank into the ground.
Septic tank in ground. Trenching leech field.
Septic tank in ground. Trenching leech field.
Perforate pipe in leech field trench.
Perforate pipe in drainage trench. Gravel above and below pipe for easy percolation.
A layer of straw on top of gravel, before trench was covered. This might just be a New Mexico thing.
A layer of straw on top of gravel, before trench was covered. This might just be a New Mexico thing.

Hopefully the native vegetation will repopulate that area of disturbed earth next season, meanwhile it is an eyesore.

Speaking of utilities…

The Mechanical Room

What the Heck is going on in Here?! Our plumber Jason Struck likes to call himself Dr. Struck, because he believes plumbing is similar to surgery. I myself have always been squeamish around blood, and therefore have stayed away from this part of the house as much as possible. It is a messy area, but it is the “heart” of the house, according to Jason. This diagram is an attempt to understand, and organize, the components that make up the houses Circulatory System.

circulatory system

P.S. Happy Halloween!

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