An Adobe Home for Nesting: Natural Home of the Year Runner Up

Looking toward retirement, a couple builds an adobe home they can share with the birds and other creatures that inhabit the high desert ecosystem of Colorado's Western Slope.

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Connie and John Willet learned a lot about sustainable building as they worked with designers Marc and Diane Schevene on their adobe home near Crawford, Colorado. Even more satisfying, however, was the unexpected journey of personal awareness about what their dream home and dream life — truly entailed.

They took the first step in the journey six years ago with the purchase of forty acres and an existing well at 8,500 feet elevation on Colorado’s rugged Western Slope. John, an emergency room physician, needed a quiet retreat to offset the stress of his occupation, and the couple was also looking toward retirement. The property has stunning views of the surrounding peaks and mesas and is alive with a high desert ecosystem with which Connie and John hoped to coexist peacefully.

For roughly seventy-five dollars per square foot (not including a photovoltaic system), the Schevenes designed an adobe house to wrap around the existing cedars so that Connie and John, both avid birdwatchers, could festoon the trees with hummingbird feeders. "I think one of the nicest things is that people think the house is old,’’ says Connie. "Part of that is the way it’s built around existing trees.’’ The overall effect is one of harmony with nature chipmunks, butterflies, hummingbirds, and songbirds provide year-round activity all around the house.

The 1,872-square-foot home with a 700-square-foot detached garage feels larger than it is because of the open floor plan and lack of interior doors, but it still retains intimacy. "We wanted things to flow and move, without any sharp lines,’’ remarks Connie. This was achieved through sculptured walls and arched doorways throughout the house.

Check out the November/December 2000 issue of Natural Home for more on this adobe home, including:

  • Building with pressed adobe blocks made onsite
  • Involving the local community in your building project
  • Working with an architect to create a dream home on a budget