For the Birds: A Healthy Home in New Mexico

While creating a healthy home for her beloved parrots, a New Mexico eco-developer gets an education in green living.

| January/February 2009

  • The bathroom is a serene oasis with mountain views. Oceanside Glasstile recycled glass tiles surround the sink and bathtub. The Elite Bath sink came from nearby Santa Fe Hardware.
  • Local artist Thomas Kyland carved these wooden street signs topped with metal bird silhouettes.
    Photo by Paula Baker-Laporte
  • A timber-frame breezeway joins the house, office and garage structures.
  • Local cabinetmakers Wood Design created Bonnie's built-in cherrywood entertainment center.
  • Bonnie, Echo and architect Paul Baker-Laporte.
  • Pewter backsplash tiles create a sleek kitchen. Along the top shelf, Bonnie displays her collection of baskets woven by Wounaan women in the Panamanian rainforest.
  • Straw bale homes typically feature a “truth window,” which provides a peek into the walls. Bonnie’s was made by local artist Diane Moreno.
    Photo by Kim Kurian
  • Bonnie’s home consists of three structures: The main house is 2,325 square feet and includes two bedrooms and two baths. A 460-square-foot guest house and a detached garage are both connected to the main house via a timberframed breezeway, which also defines an entry courtyard and aviary.
    Photos by Daniel Nadelbach
  • Bonnie’s home consists of three structures: The main house is 2,325 square feet and includes two bedrooms and two baths. A 460-square-foot guest house and a detached garage are both connected to the main house via a timberframed breezeway, which also defines an entry courtyard and aviary.
  • Made cozy by the Tulikivi stove, the dining room features built-in benches made of formaldehyde-free boxes with a low-VOC finish.
    Photo by Kim Kurian

The road to Bonnie McGowan’s home offers a few clues about the clay-straw, nature-inspired home at its end.  After passing through Pecos, New Mexico, a sleepy village nestled within the high desert wilderness, and past a few farmsteads, the forest service road climbs through a dense forest. A few miles up, a birdhouse perched on a gate pole and a carved street sign for Silver Feather Trail mark the entrance to the Birds of a Feather community, the gay and lesbian retirement community Bonnie founded in 2006.

Bonnie conceived of the community more than 15 years ago, then spent three years finding the perfect site: 157 acres of secluded, peaceful forest and meadow. After spending another five years planning the community, in 2006 Bonnie built the community flagship—her own home.

Bonnie was determined to build a home that would enhance the beautifully wild site she’d worked so long to find. “I wanted my home to feel like it grew out of this landscape,” she says.

Bonnie was also committed to creating a healthy home for her two parrots, which are more sensitive to chemical exposure and unnatural environments than humans. She asked our company, EcoNest, to design and build one of the clay-straw homes we specialize in.



A little birdy told me

Parrots are extremely sensitive to their environment, so their needs drove many health- and eco-friendly design choices. From foundation to rooftop, Bonnie’s home meets protocols for smoke-free and pesticide-free builders, using additive-free concrete and low-VOC glues, sealants and finishes; eliminating asphalt and formaldehyde; employing low-electromagnetic-field wiring; and enhancing the home’s peacefulness with an isolated mechanical room.






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