Elegant indoor and outdoor living for year-round entertaining in New Mexico.
A desire for a flexible living space for year-round entertaining led the owners of the 2,800-square-foot Southwest contemporary, Spanish pueblo revival style home in the High Desert area of northeast Albuquerque to Diego M. Ruiz, president of Diego Handcrafted Homes. An NAHB Certified Green Professional, Ruiz incorporated Energy Star features while remodeling 1,000 square feet of the two-story home originally built in 2000, and adding another 1,400 square feet at the back of the house.
In addition to expanding the kitchen, dining room, and great room/patio, the project included a new soundproofed media/game room downstairs, an office, and an outdoor balcony on the second floor with deck access from the master bedroom. The backyard now features a sports pool, hot tub, fire pit, and a grassy children’s play area. Doing all of this was complicated by the yard’s size.
“The problem was that they had a small backyard that was only 60-feet wide by 30-feet deep to fit all their needs,” Ruiz explains. Access to the backyard area was limited by 3-foot gates in stucco block walls within a 5-foot corridor on each side of the house, and a 14-foot-high retaining wall at the back of the lot. The gates were removed before construction and replaced at the end.
Ruiz says they used the street in front of the house and the backyard itself for staging. “Much of the material and equipment had to be either wheel-barrowed or craned in and out,” he recalls. The loader used to dig the holes for the pool and hot tub was flown in by crane. An 8-foot-wide wooden chute was built, leading to a cul de sac on the opposite side of the retaining wall. The loader moved dirt from the holes to the chute so it could slide to the bottom. A second loader in the cul de sac transferred the dirt to dump trucks. After the dirt was gone, the first loader was craned out and the hot tub hole was covered with boards so the space could be used for staging.
Framing for a stone column that supports the upper deck had to be delayed until after the holes were dug because this area was the only access to the dirt disposal chute. Other framing was done while the pool excavation was underway.
Company: Diego Handcrafted Homes
Owner: Diego M. Ruiz
Location: Albuquerque, NM
Website: www.diegohandcraftedhomes.com 
The new 500-square-foot great grill room is flanked by a 21-foot by 10-foot high and 9-foot by 8-foot high foldaway glass door wall system. When the folding doors are open, combining the indoor and outdoor living spaces, the transition is enhanced by the ADA-compliant threshold. Opening the doors during pleasant weather, which is most of the year, doubles the living space. The folding door has a Douglas fir wood frame with aluminum cladding and high-performance triple-coat Low-E insulated glass. Although people often prefer pocket doors, Ruiz says stacked doors like this folding door were better for this project because the open doors stack outside so the view remains unobstructed. The door hangs from a ceiling track and is easy to open and close.
The great grill room also contains a kitchen with a 42-inch Viking grill and a 15-inch double-side burner with a 60-inch vent-hood attached to an exterior exhaust motor. A beverage fridge, sink, icemaker, counter, and storage surround the grill. This indoor/outdoor kitchen has an island with a granite countertop and a raised bar with a 6-centimeter double-thick granite top and rock-face edge with stools for seating. Adjacent to the room indoors is a half bath with a shower outside near the pool.
This combined family room/outdoor living space operates on a high-efficiency air handler refrigerated air/90 percent-plus furnace for winter use when the doors are closed, converting to a MasterCool evaporative cooler for comfort when the folding doors are open in summer. Separate ductwork for this evaporative swamp cooler system allows fresh air to blow through when the door is completely open, while keeping the space cool on hot New Mexico summer days.
“The brick floors were continued from the original home into the addition and throughout the exterior pool patio to create a seamless transition of spaces,” says Ruiz. Although he couldn’t find the exact same brick as the original floor, some of the old brick was removed and a pattern was employed to weave old brick in with new brick to make the difference less obvious.
The interior is enhanced by hand-hewn wooden beams and tongue and groove ceilings. The same ceilings are seen in the covered patio, which also features composite decking.
Stacked stone reminiscent of that used by the Anasazi Indians was used on both interior and exterior walls. Similar to fieldstone, these stones are dry stacked with mortar placed only behind them. The entire house and the courtyard walls also received new coats of stucco and paint.
An open-air balcony accessible from the master bedroom and the office was built on the second floor over the great room. It is surrounded by custom hand-forged wrought iron ¾-inch picket railing, which continues into a 6-foot diameter exterior spiral staircase to the ground floor. Half of this 600-square-foot balcony is covered and the rest is open. The balcony provides an overhang over the patio below.
“Having this outdoor deck above the great room gave the owners a 270-degree view of the mountains as they can now look over the one-story homes nearby, which is especially nice during the annual international balloon festival,” Ruiz says.
The remodeled original kitchen has new modified cabinets, granite countertops, a porcelain sink with backsplash, and Viking Commercial appliances. This includes a dual fuel range in an island with a downdraft exhaust underneath. More rustic lighting was installed in the kitchen, dining room, and breakfast nook. This hand-forged feel complements the iron staircase, which can be seen from the dining room.
The new office and media/game rooms each have separate Energy Star-rated LG mini-split HVAC systems with a head in each unit and the shared condenser on the roof. The owners wanted three zones for the heating and cooling systems as an energy saving measure because not all rooms will be in use simultaneously.
Energy Star-rated high-performance spray polyurethane foam insulation was installed in the ceilings and walls. All of the home’s exterior doors and windows were upgraded with energy efficient Low-E3 glass aluminum/wood clad replacements. The home was also re-roofed with thermoplastic polyolefin membrane roofing with reflective insulation underneath.
Folding door system: Sierra Pacific Windows
Appliances: Viking Professional
Bricks: Kinney Brick Co.
Stacked stone: Sunset Stone
Foam insulation: Guardian Building Products
Tongue and groove ceilings: Milled Lumber
Granite countertops: Arizona Tile
Paint: Kwal-Hanley Paint
Wrought iron picket railing: Custom hand forged
TPO membrane roof: Versico Roofing Systems
Mini-split HVAC: LG
Furnace/Evaporative cooler: Heil/Champion MasterCool
Exterior doors and windows: Pella and Sierra Pacific Windows
Fire pit: Custom made
Sink and faucets: Kohler
The owners made changes throughout the project requiring many change orders. The addition was originally planned for only 1,200 square feet but grew to 1,400 during the construction process because of these changes.
Some pre-existing problems were discovered as work proceeded. “After we started construction, the owners complained there was very little output through the HVAC vents,” Ruiz says. “We offered to remove the ceiling to see what the problem was. We discovered the mechanical ductwork consisted of inexpensive, inefficient flex ducting. We ripped out all of the ceiling and replaced two-thirds of the ductwork. We probably more than doubled the efficiency of the ductwork by converting to hard pipe with 45-degree metal elbows to reduce the friction on the air flow.”
The terraced 14-foot-high retaining walls at the rear of the lot posed a difficult logistical problem. These walls, necessary to keep the soil in the sloping backyard in place, were about 5 feet apart. The owner wanted to make the great room as big as possible, keep the yard level without using steps, and have a grassy play area. “The retaining wall closest to the house was already cracking because previous landscapers had added 2 feet of dirt next to it, making the weight too much for the wall to handle,” Ruiz notes. “So we built another retaining wall underground.” They dug a 4-foot-wide hole 6-feet deep and 30-feet long using a small loader in a 7-foot area between the failing retaining wall and the house. An extensive storm drain system was added throughout the backyard’s grass and the patio’s pavers, so water can drain out between the old and new retaining walls onto the landscaping.
The changes also increased the budget. Excluding the pool and hot tub, the initial estimate was $320,000. The final tally was $400,000. The additional cost for the pool and hot tub was $75,000.
The work required for this job would normally have taken six-to-seven months due to the unusual logistics required. Because Ruiz wanted to enter the completed project in the upcoming October 2011 Parade of Homes, the entire project was built in less than five months. This fast-track schedule required him to coordinate the work of the subcontractors carefully. When more than one subcontractor was onsite, he arranged their activities so each was working on a different side of the site or on a different floor. The fast completion schedule required doing things in a non-typical order.
In addition to winning a Silver Award in the Addition Over $150,000 category in Professional Remodeler’s 2012 Design Awards, this project has received a number of other awards. It was chosen for the Buyers’ Choice Award in the Parade of Homes.
It also was the recipient of the Homebuilders Association of Central New Mexico Remodelers Council’s 2012 Excellence in Remodeling Awards, receiving both the overall Grand Award and first prize in the $400,000 to $1 million category. The home was featured on the cover of the Council’s annual magazine, “Home Remodeling Guide.”
The exposure received from the many visitors who toured the house during the Parade of Homes has contributed to an increased remodeling workload for Diego Handcrafted Homes. “People who see the house are enormously impressed with its warmth, design, functionality and style,” Ruiz says. “The homeowners are delighted with the results and are enjoying their ‘new’ house every day.” PR