Enchanted Homes

A featured home: Simple and spacious

Alan Powell designed and built a LEED® Platinum home on the principles of low maintenance, durability, and eco-consciousness


Alan Powell is a celebrated national designer known for his custom homes and carefully crafted woodwork. His 2-bedroom/2-bathroom house at 16 Macario Lane in Des Montes (the Rim Road area) has been featured on home tours.

Standing in the great room of the home with its expansive southern views, Powell said, “One of the most striking comments people make to me is: ‘This feels really good.”

Craftsmanship and location

Evan Blish, qualifying broker for Piñon Investments of Taos, said, “You can’t overemphasize the quality of the craftsmanship in this house.

Having seen thousands of homes in a long real estate career, I can say, you just don’t see every last attention to detail which has been made in this home.”

Blish also referred to the home’s proximity to Taos Ski Valley. “The Rim Road is such a good location to access the ski valley. It’s just a straight shot down the road; it’s super convenient.”

A green vision

Powell is an Accredited Professional in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®). This national rating standard is administered by the U.S. Green Building Council. Residential and commercial buildings are scored across a wide range of “green” (i.e., environmentally sustainable) factors.

“I use three types of wood throughout the whole house: Alaskan yellow cedar, bamboo and maple. They are all Forest Stewardship Council-certified. They come from a managed forest, so there is no clear-cutting,” Powell explained.

Powell built his home to LEED Platinum standard, which is the highest scoring any structure could achieve. This 2,500 square-foot home has a comprehensive list of sustainability measures such as: xeriscaping, grey water reuse, water catchment in cisterns, energy efficiency, passive solar gain, indoor air quality and managed care of the open field adjacent to the home –– just to name a few high-level features. More eco-conscious details are also designed and built into the home.

When asked about his commitment to the environment, Powell explained: “To understand and design for the future, it is the direction we must develop as a civilization. Taos inspires environmental sustainability when living here. The vast amount of experimentation that occurs in Taos is unique, that is, from a national perspective of projects that I have worked on.”

A nurturing home

Powell intentionally built the home to be low maintenance and durable in the extreme seasons of heat and cold. On the exterior, he used three different types of material: Alaskan yellow cedar siding, a corrugated metal wainscoting and traditional stucco.

“At the base where it gets a lot of ice and snow, I didn’t want to be constantly repairing the stucco,” he said.

Powell’s other idea was durability. As an example, a LEED requirement is to have all wood 12 inches above grade. So he built the portal on a steel base.

Entering the home, guests are greeted by a simple architectural layout complemented by spacious design principles. A wall of 8-foot-high windows welcomes in the southern views and changing light.

“The space is designed from a Hindu process called Vatsu design,” Powell said. Indeed, Powell refers to designing the home and features within based on Asian influences, mystical concepts, esoteric ideas and a mathematical grid.

Kitchen for nourishment

The kitchen is in the east of the great room’s open floor plan. A countertop of man-made quartz composite is a grounding element in the airy space.

“This is a material you can’t stain; it’s very resistant. It does not leak radon or any other gases. It meets the pure air standard set up by LEED,” Powell said.

While the homeowner is cooking and entertaining, guests have an uninterrupted view of El Salto to the east as well as to the open meadows.

Bamboo is used for the kitchen cabinets and wall coverings. Powell built the pantry door and nearby second bedroom door out of bamboo. The result? Guests feel an exuding warmth and comfort from the seamless woodwork in the kitchen.

The modern appliances include a Frigidaire refrigerator, a Bosch four-burner stove and Bosch dishwasher. The Franke sink is paired with a Hansgrohe faucet.

“This was my first experience with a composite sink of granite, Silgranite. The idea was to make the sink and countertop be as one. The color was almost identical, both happened at once, color and material when I saw it,” Powell said.

A relaxing bath

The master bedroom is en suite. A 280 square-foot bathroom showcases a standalone Wetstyle soaking tub with a freestanding floor-mount Hansgrohe faucet.

“Hard work, skiing and a lot of activity requires a soaking tub,” Powell said.

An eco-toilet helps conserve water; as well as all faucets are waterwise faucets with 1.5 gallons per minute water flow. The house is plumbed for grey water though it is not connected at present.

A double sink is built into a composite countertop, and the sink’s mirror is framed with the same limestone tiles used for wainscoting the walls.

The cement floor accents the room; a black dye was put in the cement trucks and it was mixed into the concrete. The bathroom also has a large walk-in closet and a sliding door to discreetly keep laundry machines out of sight.

High square windows allow in abundant light while affording privacy. “Two windows are aligned with the tub and that view creates space instead of a tight wall,” said Powell.

Master craftsman

Powell designs and builds carefully crafted furniture; some pieces are built into the home, such as the master bed and the hidden-television cabinet in the great room.

Given his profession and expertise, it’s natural to presume he built the 1,500-square-foot wood shop that accompanies the home. But he didn’t.

“This building was here first. It was a furniture studio,” Powell said of the traditional territorial-style building.

The studio is a standalone structure that is physically detached from the main home. To visually join them on the exterior, Powell installed a steel beam to make a connection between the two buildings.

Standing in the courtyard with the setting sun softly, bathing the lounge chairs and easy landscaping, Powell referred to the relaxed nature of the courtyard as “an outdoor room.”

The studio has the plumbing, heating and insulation requirements to convert to a guesthouse. Or, its front door can be enlarged to make the structure into a garage.


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