Cliff hanger

When visitors comment on the seamless transition from the outdoors to the interior of his cliff-top Jemez Springs home, owner/builder Mark Feldman doesn’t even try to suppress his grin.

The compliments are sweet confirmation that Feldman has succeeded in bringing indoors the stark beauty of a rugged New Mexico building site rimmed in Jemez-red bedrock and golden volcanic tuff.

“The drama of the site is so great, you want to honor that natural beauty,” says Feldman, founder of Albuquerque-based High Desert Construction. “This house is all about dramatic views.”
Rising out of a stony cliff along N.M. Highway 4, the high-style home is a blend of New Mexico’s classic Pueblo and mountain styles infused with a strong contemporary element best illustrated in the dramatic sheer windows, simple and minimalist furnishings, and generous use of concrete, tile, and stone.

“It’s a very deliberate look designed to give a contemporary, modern feeling,” says Feldman’s wife, Dede, a state senator. “The site is very stark, and the house is in keeping with the site. If you look directly across the canyon, it’s a sheer cliff. There is no room for frivolities. No room for anything extra. It’s a desert sort of look and the desert allows no compromise.”

Set on a two-acre lot crisscrossed with two major arroyos that carry water off the mesa top, the home’s very foundation is sunk into the bedrock that breaks the surface around the building site. The natural terrain slopes with a differential of 20 feet, and Feldman is quick to give credit to his “gutsy, but careful” local excavator John Kennedy, who took care of much of the preliminary site preparation.




Photo © Kirk Gittings
An intimate seating area around the hearth balances the spaciousness of soaring ceilings and abundant view windows in the living room.

“In the Jemez Valley, the easy, flat lots are gone,” says Feldman, who has designed and built nearly a dozen homes in the Jemez area over the past decade. “I’m not afraid to build on steep, difficult sites.”

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