settling in

exterior view
View Gallery 8 Photos
exterior view
living room
swimming pool
outdoor living
kitchen and dining
kitchen with island
rec room with wine bar

by Lisa Truesdale
photographs by Chris Corrie

an Air Force couple comes full circle landing in Albuquerque

After nearly three decades traveling around the world as an Air Force family, Ken and Suzanne Sersun could have chosen anywhere to retire, but New Mexico had captured their hearts decades ago. So, they headed straight here.

Ken first fell in love with the Land of Enchantment in 1993, while stationed at Kirtland Air Force Base. He spent his free time skiing at Red River, eventually purchasing a townhome there. After being transferred to the Pentagon, he met Suzanne, and then brought her to Red River on their honeymoon in 1997. “We both loved it,” Ken says, adding that Suzanne had a bit of a head start, having lived in the area as a teenager.

So, when it was time to settle down after all those years of living in just about every corner of the world, Albuquerque was a no-brainer. Choosing a lot in the High Desert neighborhood was a given, too: “There are some building restrictions here,” explains Suzanne, “but we wanted the views of the Sandias and the hiking trails.”

Finding Common Ground
Ken and Suzanne purchased their lot in 2017. Although they totally agreed on the musthave features for their custom home—having gathered inspiration from all their previous homes—they had drastically different opinions about the home’s design style.

“Ken’s vision sounded like a rustic log cabin, while Suzanne’s vision was sleek and modern,” says Diego Ruiz of Diego Handcrafted Homes, the award-winning designer and builder the couple chose after meeting him at the Parade of Homes. “We ended up with ‘midcentury mountain modern,’ but we all refer to it as ‘Bass Pro Shops meets Nordstrom,’” he quips.

Intent on capturing both personalities, Ruiz designed a gold-certified green home that perfectly blends the two seemingly disparate styles. Throughout the 3,800-square-foot main house and semi-attached 800-squarefoot casita, the modern features that Suzanne prefers abound—like the open floor plan, dramatic 16-foot window wall in the great room, large pivot front door, stainless steel cable railings on the balconies and black metal cladding on the roof overhangs. Ken gets his way too, with exposed wood beams, handscraped walnut floors and rustic Texas limestone.

I’m a triathlete, and I wanted a forty-foot lap pool. It didn’t
  really fit the design at first, but Diego made it work.
–Ken Sersun

The couple is thrilled with how Ruiz was able to accommodate both of their visions as well as incorporating their desired features. Suzanne’s dream kitchen is based on a photo she clipped as inspiration years ago. “It’s the same colors and vibe and shape, and I’ve always wanted a [service] pantry,” she says, adding that she even scored built-in spice racks on either side of the stove. “I’ve wanted those forever.”

As for Ken, he says his four-car garage is the one he’s always envisioned, complete with what he calls his “OCD storage system.” He loves hanging out in his rec room, built for entertaining with a fully stocked bar, a glass wine cellar and a pool table. Out back is another of Ken’s faves: “I’m a triathlete, and I wanted a forty-foot lap pool,” he says. “It didn’t really fit the design at first, but Diego made it work.”

The casita, which includes a guest suite that sleeps six, a kitchenette and a sauna, also has a multipurpose room that Suzanne uses for yoga and Ken uses for business meetings. “I guess I wasn’t ready for retirement after all,” he laughs, “so I bought a Chick-fil-A franchise.”

Overcoming Obstacles
Start to finish, the project took about three years, and it wasn’t without its challenges.

“Ken and Suzanne wanted a two-story home with the office upstairs, to be able to fully capture the 360-degree views,” says Ruiz. But a steep lot, height restrictions and a natural arroyo stood in the way of their dream.

So, Ruiz revised his design, carving into the side of the hill and dropping the house 9 feet below the top of the lot grade. “We were worried that it was going to block the view of the mountains,” he explains, “but it blocked the view of a neighboring house instead. It was a very happy surprise.”

Landscape designer Luke Resnick of Agua Dulce Earthscapes then terraced the slope in front of the house and covered it with rocks. “Now, it looks like it’s flowing right up into the mountains,” says Ken. “It adds privacy, but it’s also gorgeous.”

Making It Personal
Thinking back to Red River, Ken says that spending time there over the years certainly influenced the design of this house. “Red River has been the only sense of consistency we’ve had throughout our military career,” Ken says. “We would return nearly every year to visit, and it provided a sense of stability; it’s the place our son knows best as his home.”

So, when Red River Ski Area replaced their original red double chairlifts with quads, Ken and Suzanne purchased chair #99 as a reminder of their happy times there. Although they originally wanted to hang it up out back, out of sight, Ruiz had other ideas.

“Diego said: ‘No, it’s okay to have some whimsy,’” Suzanne says. “He turned it into a swing and mounted it right out front.”

“It’s pretty special to us, and we’re glad we listened to him,” Ken adds. “It’s part of our history.”


Home Design/Builder
Diego Handcrafted Homes

Audio/Visual System/Central Vacuum
ABQ Sound & Vac

Builders Source Appliance Gallery

Ventana Fine Art

Bathroom/Kitchen Fixtures

I’m The Blind Lady

Cabinetry/Custom Furniture

Arizona Tile (supplier)
United Stoneworks (fabrication and installation)

Mountain West Sales

Flooring/Kitchen Backsplash
Stonewood Flooring

Front Door/Interior Doors
Santa Fe Door

Gates and/or Metal Fabrication
ADE Wrought Iron LLC

Agua Dulce Earthscapes

Turn On Lighting

Pool Design & Build
Pelican Pools LLC

Sliding Window Wall/Windows
Sierra Pacific Windows