The Loaded Trunk was founded by Jonna Robison, an interior designer with a deep curiosity and passion for traveling the world, connecting with artisans in different cultures and sourcing unique and beautiful objets d’art. Published seasonally, the magazine features a curated collection of travel, lifestyle, nature, art and design inspiration for a life well lived.
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On a gentle hill with a magnificent view of the Sangre de Christo foothills and the distant Jemez Mountains sits a remarkable and unique home, a house with a soul and one with a special story.
During a visit to Santa Fe, the current homeowners, Spencer and Lauren Lee, guided my husband and I through this most interesting and lovely home and shared it’s story with us. As we meandered through the house we were delighted with every gorgeous detail. The Lees, both gifted artists, have nurtured this house and the 5.5 acres upon which it rests, creating the artful, peaceful respite it is today.
20 years ago, construction of this home was completed by its visionary, the owner of an art gallery in Santa Fe. The architecture was inspired by circular motifs of Mayan and Incan architecture, as well as elements of Spanish Colonial style. High windows in the living room are tapered at the top and were patterned after the Temple of the Sun in Machu Picchu. Treasures were transported to Santa Fe from Mexico and South America, including a number of antique wood doors from Peru (the front door is over 300 years old) and 22 sets of antique shutters. A spiral staircase from a 19th-century Mexican church, which reportedly burned down, was also reclaimed. Remarkably, the house was built entirely around these doors, shutters and the staircase. A round window directly above the staircase was placed so the moon passes directly overhead during the autumnal equinox. In the kitchen and bathrooms, counters and shelves were built to accommodate the old doors and shutters as cabinetry. Hence, the wood is raw and beautiful in its old age. Can you imagine the history these doors have witnessed over the years?
The house was built using straw bale construction techniques, supported by wood imported from Mexico and Peru. A small door in the master bedroom, called a “truth door,” opens to reveal a glimpse of the straw. In typical New Mexican style, the walls were finished in plaster and stucco. The pale apricot interior plaster exudes a soft, warm glow throughout the house. The vigas (ceiling beams) were harvested locally from the nearby Jemez mountains. Walls in the guest bathroom shower and ceiling are lined with basalt tiles, the same material used for tool making by local Native Americans. Undeniably, all the materials seem at one with the land, including the floors of polished forest green Brazilian slate.
Artisans from Guanajuato, Mexico travelled to Santa Fe to build the entry rotunda and fireplace using rocks from the property, patterned after the Moorish influence in that city. Rose quartz crystals, also found on the property, were tucked in between the stones. Indeed, the details are superb.
Eventually, the original owners moved out and another family bought the home. Unfortunately, the property and land fell into disrepair.
In 2018, Spencer and Lauren Lee purchased the home. They were new to New Mexico, having spent 17 years overseas in Asia and Europe where Spencer spent his career with the CIA and where they raised their family. The Lees recognized the soul of this house and breathed new life into it. But it was not an easy feat. They soon discovered there were numerous issues with the interior. One day, shortly after moving in, Lauren called Spencer and exclaimed, “It’s raining!” When Spencer responded, “I know,” Lauren added, “Inside!” Rain was coming in through the chimney stonework and vigas. It even once snowed in the guest bedroom and bathroom!
The couple spent the first few years repairing interior issues and cleaning up the property, clearing overgrowth, laying 600 yards of rock-lined trails to create a loop through the landscape and much more (it continues to be a work in progress). They installed a Japanese soaking tub, planted a lavender garden (160 lavender plants) and created Zen gardens, complete with handcrafted wood rakes to rake the stones. The neighbor children love to come and play at “Quartz Hill,” where they collect pink quartz and arrange into spirals and other formations. They also helped the Lees create a map of this magical property. Not surprisingly, their three adult children and grandchildren love to visit and camp in the authentic teepee under the star-filled sky.
During their years abroad, the Lees gathered a wonderfully curated collection of antiques and objets d’art, including a collection of antique blue and white porcelain from a shipwreck in the Strait of Malacca. Every item has found its place in their home, joining the relics brought up from Mexico and South America. Both Spencer and Lauren paint, and their artwork is displayed throughout the space. Spencer is a portrait painter and recently completed a commissioned painting for a famed world leader. Furthermore, he is an author and has published a trilogy titled The Thirteenth Essene. Lauren is a mixed media artist and has received training in Tony Ryder’s classical Santa Fe studio. Her designer’s eye is evident with her artful arrangements throughout the home.
The Lees named their home Evercotê. Spencer explains, “It is a place name from my books—the last remains of an ancient, undying forest where two lovers, Läuril and Tælysin, retreat from the world and make for themselves an idyllic and lasting home after passing through many adventures. As it turned out, a great, final adventure remained for them.”
Spencer and Lauren have tended this house and landscape as you would tend a derelict garden, with a considerable amount of love and patience. The result is absolutely exquisite. A house with a soul indeed… and with two talented souls who have dedicated themselves to making it so.
November 19, 2023
The Loaded Trunk is a travel and lifestyle magazine founded by Jonna Robison, an interior designer with a deep curiosity and passion for traveling the world, connecting with artisans in different cultures and sourcing unique and beautiful objets d’art. Published seasonally, the magazine features a curated collection of travel, lifestyle, nature, art and design inspiration for a life well lived.