Visitas de Navidad Tour of Homes


Once again, the Socorro chapter of the American Association of University Women has arranged for visits to four custom-designed homes for the 2010 Visitas de Navidad Christmas Tour of Homes, from 2 to 5 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 12.

The home owners who have generously agreed to show their homes this year are: Deborah and Mitchell Card, 704 Buford St.; Louise and Richard Chamberlain, 117 Stallion Circle; Cynthia and James Fowler, 701 Buford St.; and Charlotte and Chuck Monette, 407 Park St..
Tickets are $8 each and include a map to the homes, with all proceeds to benefit a scholarship fund for women at Socorro High School and New Mexico Tech. The tour is AAUW’s only major fundraising project.
Tickets can be purchased in advance at Socorro Brownbilt, or at any of the homes on the day of the tour.


Deborah and Mitchell Card – 704 Buford St.

Punch your ticket for a trip to Colonial Mexico, where Deborah and Mitchell Card have created a world of old and new, saints and sinners, in a custom-designed home that was two years in the making.
Tall ceilings and large windows allow vibrant colors to shine, and softer colors to glow, while gentle curves and stuccoed walls reflect the owners’ desire for airy, comfortable living.
The Cards’ architect studied wind and sunlight patterns at the home site over several seasons, in designing the passive solar home with overhangs that shade the summer sun, and radiant floor heat throughout. The goal, beautifully realized, was to ensure that every inch of space be livable.
It celebrates the present, ever mindful of the past, from retablos and santos to a delightful bathroom decorated in the colors and culture of Dia de los Muertos. Look for a lantern-shaped chandelier of tin and glass, an enormous slice of amethyst rock, several images of St. Francis, and a wall quilt in a palette of bright hues made by Norma Lorang, Deb’s mom.
The purple-quartz geode greets visitors as they enter the window-lined great room with its 14-foot ceiling and kiva fireplace. An elliptical-shaped couch, covered in a burnt-orange leather, was custom made for Mitch, a lifelong educator now teaching mathematics in Magdalena.
It was Deb who chose the color palette, from deep rose in the entrance, to turquoises in the master bedroom. Cobalt blues, greens and spice are featured colors in the guest powder room with its tinwork mirror and wooden vanity. The skillful hand-painting was completed by their daughter, Elyse, an architecture major at Texas Tech University.
When she isn’t practicing quilting, a skill artfully exemplified by her mom, Norma, Deb works as a speech language pathologist with Socorro General Hospital. Deb and Mitch moved to Socorro just over a year ago and moved into their new home in March.
Cement floors resemble large blocks of stone, and santos rest in wall niches. Retablos hang throughout the home, along with Spanish colonial-inspired artwork, much of it from the Pink Store in Palomas, Mexico. This home was a family collaboration engineered by Bill Lorang with interior design by Norma.
In the dining area, a large cut of glass on a cactus-shaped foundation makes for a real show-stopper, over which hangs suspended lights encased in six, star-shaped metal polygons. A natural wood cabinet rests in a hollowed-out niche framed by a viga and covered in blue tile. Six, carved dining chairs complete the tableau. The open design of the living space brings the outside in and the inside out; in fact, the dining area floor extends to a wrap-around patio with its own kiva fireplace and cobalt-blue, pot-shaped fountain.
The first thing Deb picked out for the kitchen was a slab of granite called “red dragon,” a color reflected in dark-stained cabinets and the stove hood. Talavera tile in mustard, blues and greens, in a 3-D-styled “frame” line the sink and stove area; and green-covered stools provide casual seating at the bar.
In keeping with the theme of every inch of space counts, the guest bedroom features a pull-down, built-in Murphy bed and plentiful shelving in a quiet corner of the home. From there, follow your hostess to a combination laundry/sewing room, with its antique Singer machine, resting on a built-in cabinet.
A big, comfy sofa and recliner are key elements in the media room, redolent of the male “study” of generations past. A friendly horned toad rests on a wooden chest, while soft lighting sets the mood. Look for a second holiday tree in this room.
Completing the home is a spacious garage — and even the door to the mechanical room was hand-painted by Elyse.
Among the to-die-for features of the home is a walk-in closet that could double as a small boutique; recessed lighting and a tongue and groove wood ceiling; and a hand-carved figure of St. Francis, with birds perched on each arm, from the Weems Art Gallery collection.


Cynthia and James Fowler – 701 Buford St.

Double doors carved from solid-mesquite and dating back to 1835 Colonial Mexico proved to be the cornerstone of the custom-built home of Cynthia and Jim Fowler, an appropriate metaphor for a couple known for their hospitality and culinary expertise.
“It was the first thing we bought,” said Cynthia, an art historian by education, and gourmet cook by avocation (she wrote a food column for a local newspaper for years), who sold her food-based business, Southwest Spirit, five years ago. Jim is the former program director for the IRIS-PASSCAL seismological facility on the New Mexico Tech campus, and both are avid entertainers.
Enter through the foyer, designed around a table made of travertine from Stonewall, Texas, and designed by Cynthia, and topped with a slice of polished glass, where a holiday tree will greet visitors. To the right is a tiered partition adobe wall that overlooks the dining room and on which sits a whimsical fellow named Watermelon Boy.
But the surprise treat is a kiva-shaped-and-styled powder room to the left of the entrance. Cynthia calls it a “magical space that just happens to be a bathroom” with its “petroglyph” artwork and round skylight. Look for a low-rider car off in a corner behind the door.
The Fowlers moved into their custom-built home 10 years ago, and have entertained as many as 40 guests at once. An open-designed living space leads to a covered patio that follows the contours of the home, with a thatch of fig trees, built-in Weber grill, outdoor fireplace, and playful stools fashioned from plow seats by Bill Lorang.
“We wanted a home that was comfortable for entertaining, where people would gravitate to the patio,” said Cynthia.
Picture a sidewalk café with scattered tables, a tiled mural by Socorro artist Elizabeth Alvarez, and a panoramic view of the city.
If the heart of a home is its kitchen, then the Fowler’s is a warm one, with its Thermador five-burner gas stove and double-oven; not to mention the colorful creatures who guard its culinary secrets, including San Pasqual, the patron saint of cooking; a lady-of-the-night figurine; and an entire pottery family, all given names by Cynthia.
Her glassed-in shelves were custom-designed by Vaun Allen of Magdalena, whose work can be found in other rooms, including the laundry! Another colorful character is an Oaxacan-designed ram head painted in hues of “Socorro Turquoise” that guards a walk-in pantry.
Brown leather furniture, a tall antique wooden cabinet and a kiva fireplace share space in the living room with a Russian tribal rug and an 1890 Germantown rug. Look for a lamp formed from a Saguaro root, a Pennsylvania Dutch church pew and an antique Navajo rug hanging on a hand-troweled plaster wall.
The living room leads to an elongated library — an interesting, wonderful space – with full-length shelves devoted to books and collectibles, including pottery from Mata Ortiz and by Alice Cling; and accented with a vintage Persian rug replete with its own “cutting” history. A reading couch completes the setting, and can be moved for intimate dinner parties.
Walk from the library to the Uncle James Room with its pre-Civil War-era bed, tasseled lampshade, framed vintage cartoons and family photos. The Fowlers have two married sons and three grandchildren.
A second wing of the home houses the master bedroom and bath, with eight-foot French doors leading to the patio – in fact, each of the bedrooms has similar access. See if you can imagine moonlight patterns that form on the wall opposite a trio of square windows above the bed.
Of particular interest is an angled hallway that leads to the master bedroom designed by Amy McCoy of Socorro.
Keep in mind that the fantastical characters that share the home with the Fowlers, and each individual piece of artwork, has special meaning for the couple. In the words of Cynthia, “They seem to belong in the house.”
Look for sailing trophies, specialty food awards and “Potti,” a charming, full-cheeked cherub who cannot fail to delight.
Refreshments will be served in the Fowler home.


Charlotte and Chuck Monette – 407 Park St.

Satisfy your curiosity about Casa de Flecha, also known as “the castle”, with a visit to the home of Charlotte and Chuck Monette, brilliantly dressed for the season with several ornamented trees and a miniature twinkling Christmas village, courtesy of Debbie DeMoss, eldest of the six Monette children.
The home returns to the tour by popular request, and also by the gracious hospitality of the couple, well known by generations of Socorroans. They are parents to six children, 15 grandchildren, seven great-grandchildren — and to so many of us “adopted” family as well.
The original home dates to 1885, a wedding gift from a wealthy rancher named Luna to his only daughter, Rufina Abatia, and it is here the daughter died. The Monettes bought the home from the Stauders, who moved in after the Holm Bursum III family had rented it.
Mostly, Charlotte remembers crying over all the dust when they moved in, and that the renovation has never really ended.
As you might have guessed, comfortable and spacious family living is the foundation for this three-storied masterpiece as evidenced by an outsized open-styled kitchen/dining/den replete in brown leather covered furniture and a long dining table that seats only a fraction of the extended Monette family.
For the record: Charlotte and Chuck recently celebrated their 53rd wedding anniversary as part of a dinner party of 29.
Superman-themed wallpaper and a piecemeal arrangement gave way to a completely renovated kitchen designed for efficiency, but with plenty of space for its many cooks and little helpers. Hostesses will point out the original back door of the home, four bricks thick! — and explain that each load-bearing wall was built on its own foundation.
This is where the family lives, an addition to the home with access to a large patio off the kitchen, and to a guest room with separate amenities and a glass block-lined wall and hot tub.
It’s where family members gather for potluck every Sunday after Mass at San Miguel.
They use a side entrance that leads to a pool room and a recognizable icon — a Brunswick billiards table that originally belonged to the famed Hilton family, and that matches the bar at the Owl Café in San Antonio, an icon of its own.
Tour guests, however, are invited to park on a southwest gravel lot and to enter through the east-facing front door that faces Park Street and opens to a long hallway and rooms that bring back elegant times and graceful personages. One can imagine calling cards, women’s hands clad in gloves and dashing men leaning an elbow on one of two marble fireplace mantels made in France.
A chandelier that once glowed with candles leads to a first-floor guest room; look for an almost-hidden treasure, a player piano tucked into a cove.
From here it’s up the stairs and to the childhood bedrooms of Debbie, Denise, Danny, David, Darren and Donald Monette, no longer the scene of bunk beds and sibling spats. Instead, visitors will find Vivian Drewien (Olsen) paintings, others of which hang throughout the home; and colors and textures better suited to adult tastes.
And keep an eye out for oil-pastel portraits of the Monette children, and other items that offer glimpses into their future personalities — plus a baby grand piano and Charlotte’s collection of miniature Nativity sets.
But we digress … to a tea room housed in one of the twin towers, and arranged by Betty Foutz, mother of Marliss, Danny’s wife, and a gifted decorator; Marliss Monette and Denise Schrum will help Betty with holiday decorations.
Other delights await; but, first, homage to a Christmas display that once occupied an entire automobile showroom, and that Debbie DeMoss will recreate in her parents’ home on Dec. 12.
A tradition she once shared with daughter, Tammy, the miniature holiday village glows with an illumination that is all about family — here, there and everywhere.
This home will feature music and singers arranged by Elise Brower.


Richard and Louise Chamberlain – 117 Stallion Circle

Three white birch trees, the only ones of their kind in the Western Hills subdivision, beckon visitors to the home of Louise and Richard Chamberlain, a reflection of family and the diverse, but compatible, interests of its owners.
She loves to cook, and what culinary queen wouldn’t love pull-out kitchen shelves; he loves rocks, and no geologist could resist a slab of Australian “granite” frozen in motion. See if you can trace the rock’s tectonic history throughout the home.
Louise and Richard met in 1964 as students at New Mexico Tech. After graduation, he joined the U.S. Navy and at one time ported in Hong Kong, where he bought a rosewood hope chest that returned with him stateside in 1969.
Today, Louise is director of Auxiliary Services at New Mexico Tech, and Richard is a senior field geologist with the N.M. Bureau of Mines and Geological Resources.
The three-bedroom, three-bath home offers a mini-tour of the couple’s histories — and, later of their two sons, Robert and Chris. Robert, now living in Florida, served two tours in Afghanistan, and made his parents a book of photos and written memories of that time of his life; Chris fell in love with the land and lives on the Chamberlain farm in Pennsylvania. Each is married — Robert and Reiko have a daughter; Chris and Sandie are expecting a baby girl in February.
Let’s start with the front room with its player piano, photos of Chamberlain ancestors and a glass case with its Llardro, Hummel and Royal Doulton figurines, silver baby cups and collectibles from Alaska, Spain, Sicily; and an Acoma turtle Louise says is her husband’s alter ego.
Louise’s kitchen was completely gutted a year ago and rebuilt for efficiency, from the clean lines of its cherry cabinets (and those pull-out shelves for flavored vinegars and spices) to its eye-catching “Austral Coffee” granite counter tops, formed just as the crustal rock was starting to melt (called migmatite).
Richard could give you an entire treatise of the rock’s history; in particular, follow its pink tint to a hall bathroom vanity and the master bath.
Dark-emerald carpeting complements the ambience of the living/dining area with its solid mahogany table, cream-brick fireplace and a softly curved couch upholstered in a vintage-looking fabric that ties in both the antique and modern furnishings.
Look for a Civil-War era Lincoln armchair covered in a tapestry made by Richard’s mother, an antique reading chair and footrest, and Australian artwork.
The boys’ bedrooms also reflect the past and present. In Robert’s room is a military plane he drew in eighth grade and a latch-hook wall hanging of a railroad engine made by Richard’s father. Chris’s room has taken a patchwork path as Louise’s passion for quilting progresses.
Pennsylvania memories take the shapes of a dresser, chiffarobe and pedal-operated Singer sewing machine in the master bedroom with its naval-themed linens and the rosewood hope chest. A pen-and-ink drawing depicts the Chamberlain family home in Pennsylvania on land now occupied by a suburban mall.
A southwest-facing addition offers wide views of the mini-park-sized backyard, once the site of Army games with neighborhood children. It’s a comfortable niche with furniture dressed in clean cotton striping and a lamp table and artwork that once belonged to Margaret Fent, a long-ago public school teacher in Socorro and good friend of Louise’s.
Watch for a grandfather clock, an antique poker table belonging to Richard’s father and lots of books, plants and sunlight.
The study off the addition and leading to the garage is a masculine space with its military maps and its organized simplicity. A senior hostess will be there to show visitors a photo calendar of the Pennsylvania farm, home to livestock and acres and acres of grassland plus woodland.
Ask about the transition from the home’s passive-solar roots to a contemporary gas-fired continuous flow heater unit that provides “hydronic” heat in the winter, and the pressure tank for the private well that provides irrigation for the backyard.
And keep your eyes open for photos of the boys growing up, plus their new granddaughter!