Mother Earth Living

Desert Serenity: An Off-Grid Adobe Home in West Texas

A sustainability pioneer builds adobe homes in the Texas desert and has founded a nonprofit to teach others how.

This bed—carbed out of one piece of wood—came from the Ivory Coast.
Photo By Terrence Moore
As morning light dances in through the filmy muslin curtains, Simone delights in waking up in her adobe bed and looking out through the French doors to the Mexican Sierra mountains. The ceiling is fourteen feet high and ten feet wide. The bed is made of adobe bricks topped with a one-inch wooden platform and a magnet mattress. Simple furnishings allow the strength of the architecture to take center stage througout the house.
Photo By Terrence Moore
In the gallery, twenty-inch-thick adobe walls plastered with earth and water glow softly as light streams in from the French doors on three sides and from the clerestory windows on the east wall. Peeled vigas (beams) support the roof—topped by an observation deck—while multiple coats of turpentine and linseed oil bringa soft matte finish to the smooth adobe floors. Arden Scott's Spirit Boat sculpture hangs from the ceiling. On either side of the gallery are patios used as roofless rooms.
Photo By Terrence Moore
The two vaults frame the west patio with its fountain, date tree and bougainvillea. The sculpture, Spirit Gate, is by Arden Scott of New York. The carport is covered by a palm-frond roof.
Photo By Terrence Moore
This interior wall uses the smaller roof adobes, and the closet door was made on site. The ladder leads to a sleeping loft, and its rungs serve as rods to display mud cloths from Mali.
Photo By Terrence Moore
Handmade wooden cabinets hold pots and pans in Simone's spacious, light kitchen. From the window over the sink she looks out at the wildlife and, beyond that, south toward Mexico. Since the house serves as a model to show local people what is possible, cabinets and countertops were made on site, and appliances were purchased in Presidio. The dining table and chairs came from IKEA in Houston, Texas.
Photo By Terrence Moore
In the domed guest room, the roof is supported at each corner by an arched squinch. Recycled railroad ties form the lintels.
Photo By Terrence Moore
This covered porch or terrace, called a ramada, features a thatched roof that the work crew built from ocotillo cactus harvested from Simone's 500-acre property. The ramada provides shade for the home's south facade, and much time is spent here. Otherwise the house offers four dining spaces—three outdoors and one indoors.
Photo By Terrence Moore
The east-facing porthole in the bedroom is placed at the head of a built-in adobe bed to allow the sleeper to witness sunrises.
Photo By Terrence Moore
While this dome was first built to store tools, friends suggested that Simone use it as a meditation space or music room and some also called it a capilla (chapel). Now it serves as a guest room and holds two beds, a desk and a chair.
Photo By Terrence Moore
Simone Swan
Photo By Terrence Moore

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