“Estas en tu casa.”
“Mi casa es tu casa.”
It’s easy to accept one of these traditional Spanish greetings at Desert Oak, a private vacation home: “Make yourself at home” and “My house is your house.” The state’s Hispanic roots reach deep into the ground here in Northern New Mexico, which means among other things that a sense of being at home, among family and friends, history and tradition, remain centrally important to the culture of the land. Desert Oak in Taos is an adobe home available to rent for either “viajeros,” travelers who want a short or long-term home away from home; families seeking a reunion place; or just for those who want to experience the real flavor of Taos.
Located two blocks from historic Taos Plaza, Desert Oak is set refreshingly far enough away from the hubbub of Taos to offer peace and quiet, yet close enough to satisfy shoppers and browsers in need of retail therapy. Fortunately for those who are constantly on the go, known in these parts as “patas clients,” (“hot-footed ones”). The home is also with easy walking distance of Taos’s many art galleries, museums, and restaurants. Longtime residents of Taos, Dr. and Mrs. Deveaux raised a family of four directly across the street. They remember how proud the Bacas were (Fred Baca was a pharmacist and former Mayor of Taos) of their prized home designed by architect Arturo Martinez y Salazar at the beginning of the century, in what was one of the original neighborhoods of Taos. Their daughter Rose Mary, whom Ms. Weissman purchased the property from, lived in the home until portions of its old mud roof collapsed. Mrs. Deveaux fondly remembers Rose Mary practicing playing her piano, sounding like a concert pianist.
When owner and architect Linda Oak Weissman first saw Desert Oak, it was slated for demolition. Luckily,her background and sense of imagination helped her to imagine beyond the roof that had caved into the dining room and the police tape that surround the structure. So she decided to buy and renovate the home in the mid 1990s and stayed with the project, despite walls literally crumbling in her hands during the home’s remodel. She remained dedicated to retaining the Taoseño spirit and flavor of the house while expanding the original floor plan. She created a home where the flexible plan allowed her to rent three to five beds and up to three full baths. When you walk thought the front door you are greeted by a compelling architectural element – a massive hand-hewn corbel and beam dividing the entry hall and living room. You are not in a dark old adobe home; four pairs of French doors and seven skylights let in the blue Taos sky. Weissman created a secluded courtyard with views of Taos Mountain.
Like so many other transplants who consider the Land of Enchantment their second “patria chica,” Weissman first came to New Mexico to ski (she was the first woman at the University of New Mexico to letter in nordic skiing) and to study architecture. After completing a Masters in Architecture at the University of Washington and working in New York City, seven years later Weissman returned to the state only to realize that northern New Mexico had “seeped into my soul.” (That’s ok – better late than never.)
Desert Oak has been a labor of love for Weissman, who considers spending more than twice the amount of the home on the renovation. She also refers to her personal touches as “caring and meticulous.” Her forte is taking traditional and familiar materials, using innovative ways such as the woven latilla fence surrounding the property. Custom furniture and other architectural pieces she has designed are found throughout the grounds. For Weissman, restoring Desert Oak was a process of coming full circle.
Desert Oak is available year round so guests can live the essence of Taos.
For more information: 575 770-2818 www.taosdesertoak.com
This article appeared in HighCountry 2003.