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A Santa Fe home with an impressive portal is prefect for entertaining indoors and out

by Janet Steinberg      photographs by Gabriella Marks

The waft of freshly baked muffins and grilling meats is no unusual occurrence at Lana and Ron’s home, but for visitors it’s an irresistible pull, one that merely hints at the culinary goings-on at this beautifully appointed northwest Santa Fe residence. Both Lana and Ron are petroleum geologists, now retired, but it’s their skill as master cooks, gardeners, and home designers that caught the eye of Su Casa’s editors.

Sited on a plateau surrounded by the Sangre de Cristo and Jemez mountains, the couple’s Southwest-style home, built by Frank Trujillo of Tierra de Zia Construction, captures enviable views from all sides, most notably from the expansive rear portal where gracious outdoor living happens during the finest months of the year.

Lana and Ron purchased their home in 2009 while they were still living and working in Houston. It had never really been occupied by its original owners, so they as the de facto first occupants had the opportunity to rethink a few design elements around their needs and hobbies, which include hosting overnight guests, growing and harvesting edible produce, and lots and lots of entertaining.

“We thought, how perfect that everyone staying with us would, like us, have their own space without being disturbed by another person or another person’s time frame,” says Lana of the spaces they envisioned. A major objective was a fully appointed outdoor kitchen, complete with pizza oven, for whipping up delicious dishes in a gorgeous open-air setting. The couple will tell you it’s because they share the goal of, as they put it so simply, “making people happy.” But a lot of deceptively hard work, coupled with creatively designed outdoor living spaces, goes into making such entertaining appear effortless.

Edits and additions to the house commenced almost immediately after they moved in. “We loved the architectural style and quality workmanship of the house,” says Ron. “But we wanted everything—the portales and gardens, the eventual outside kitchen, the additions, the brick masonry work extending from each room and portal—to look like one big, contiguous house that flows seamlessly together.” To that end, Trujillo and the Tierra de Zia crew connected the various portales running along the house above and below, lining them up into one long, continuous covered space.

Trips down to Madrid netted decorative rocks and boulders and beautiful, stone fountains made by Josh Gannon that are visible from both the living room and the portal, with unimpeded views of the Jemez Mountains and Los Alamos beyond. “There was no ‘move it a little to the left or right, Frank,’” Lana says with a laugh. “The wood and the rocks were simply too heavy.”

After living in the home for a year, Lana and Ron realized they needed a south-facing wall to block the winds from the outdoor kitchen. The wall accommodates a 48-inch grill, a warming oven, a Forno Brava wood-burning pizza oven, a Viking two-burner gas stove, and a Viking smoking oven. In his workshop (part of a studio/casita also added onto the original home), Ron built the pine wood gates and shutters that decorate the wall.

Even for two gourmands, practicality sometimes overshadows glamour. The kitchen’s granite countertops are “the color of dirt, because there is always dirt outside,” Lana explains wryly. They provide plenty of prep and bar-style seating space, however, and cover the stainless steel refrigerator, sink, and storage drawers. The outdoor kitchen and living spaces easily accommodate 50–60 people standing about; more intimate gatherings are held at a huge, rustic wooden table. Ron refurbished its sturdy chairs—a Craigslist find—as he did all the outdoor benches and chairs, and Lana sewed and/or weaved all of the textiles, cushions, and pillows embellishing the chairs, benches, walls, and floors throughout the house and portales.

After a great meal, guests might drop into comfortable seating for wine and conversation, gathering around the small kiva-shaped fireplace detailed with Mexican tiles. Looking at the house today, Trujillo is pleased with the deep, nearly 130-foot portal with its outdoor kitchen, as well as the fountains and landscaping. “Ron and Lana really knew what they wanted,” he says, adding that during the building process he got to experience his clients’ hospitality firsthand. “Lana made cookies for the crew every single day,” he laughs. “My crew never wanted to leave.”

Such generosity all goes back to the homeowners’ deceptively simple shared goal of “making people happy,” which they undoubtedly do. Ron, the master griller, and Lana, the master chef and baker, have created a comfortable, inviting home for wedding and holiday celebrations, wine and food explorations, and “regular” (by their standards, anyway) meals for their family, friends, and friends of friends. For entertaining indoors or outdoors, their home has become a favorite destination for many.


Tierra de Zia Construction

Kinney Brick

Outdoor Table
Mexico Lindo

Spotted Owl Timber