thoroughly modern minimalism

thoroughly modern minimalism
View Gallery 6 Photos
thoroughly modern minimalism
thoroughly modern minimalism

by Jessa Cast
photographs by Amadeus Leitner

rescued and reimagined, an Albuquerque home is part art gallery, part laid-back living space

Loft dwellers Chris and Kathleen, along with their six-year-old son Alexander, loved their space but were ready for a larger home. Fond of an ultra-modern design aesthetic but equally attracted to living in the heart of town where adobe reigns, they had some difficulty finding a structure that fit the bill. That is, until they stumbled upon a lucky—and unlikely—opportunity, a spacious, dreamily modern, 5,000-square-foot house that had been vacated while only partially completed. The property had lain vacant for years, frozen in time.

Tucked as it was into a quiet neighborhood, on a cul-de-sac street peppered with homes of similarly modern slants, it had the potential, with a bit of investment and heart, to be Chris and Kathleen’s perfect home. They were able to purchase the house in March 2017, thereby rescuing the property, and that slice of the neighborhood, from decay.

Everything’s brilliant white, the furnishings and art all minimalist and modern classics—very carefully collected, curated, and placed. But it isn’t a museum.

Not everything in the house suited their tastes—striped cabinets, dark walls, gray stucco, and floor-to-ceiling gold tile in one bathroom, for example—but they looked past those quirky “personality traits” and imagined how it could be molded to their own style. There were plenty of aspects about which Chris and Kathleen were quite excited. “It had some really good features,” says Chris. “We kept what we liked, got rid of some things, and pulled it together in a cohesive design.” The two most prominent features, a grand staircase in the entry and a stunning oculus overhead, make for such a dramatic effect that they were definitely keepers. “There’s so much cool light that happens in the house throughout the day,” says Chris. Indeed, with so much glass atop the entry, sunlight casts varying patterns on the walls, hour by hour.

Renovation took about eight months. The original wood floors were retained and refinished, as well as a wall-mounted toilet in the downstairs powder room. Perhaps the most visible change to the house was the complete white-washing of both the interior and exterior. Black walls were repainted white, and an unfinished gray stucco was also redone in a vivid white. Avid midcentury art collectors, Chris and Kathleen enjoy using the crisp white walls as a backdrop for their admirable collection, which includes pieces by famed artists, furniture designers, and architects—Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Rauschenberg, Frank Gehry, and Ellsworth Kelly, to name just a few.

The homeowners’ cheeky sense of humor can be seen throughout the house. In the powder room, Chris pays homage to his college days, when his mother would stock him up like a bathroom tissue warehouse. “That toilet paper is for show,” he says winkingly of the vanity’s toilet paper “art” installation. “It’s not to be used.” Outside, they installed a swivel-hinged side gate, purposefully wide enough to drive a riding mower through. The joke is that the patch of grass could be mowed by hand in mere minutes. Also, they don’t have a riding mower. To toy with guests visiting this art-filled home, they’ve put a Warhol Brillo footstool in the living room, adorned with a stack of miniature versions of the same. Art? Nope. Just a footstool and some paperweights, they explain, laughing.   

The downstairs layout includes Alexander’s room, bedecked with his own selections from his parents’ art collection. “It’s cool putting art in his room. He loves it,” says Chris. Next to that is the guest room where, most nights, Chris and Kathleen sleep, to be close to young Alexander. Down the hall is the TV room and office, a.k.a., the “fun room,” with Chris’s library tucked charmingly into a former laundry machine–ready closet. Formerly a mother-in-law’s quarters, this room has its own radiant heat and air-conditioning.

“We call it comfortable minimalism. Very simple; not a lot of stuff, not a lot of clutter. Everything is usable.”—Chris, homeowner

On the opposite side of the entry foyer is the wine room. The bottles are thoughtfully grouped and laid out as in a wine store, labels exposed, as one might expect from astute art enthusiasts. In the bright, cheery kitchen the cabinets share vertical space with windows that look out over the yard. Adjacent, the dining room showcases an original Jean Prouvé dining table and chairs. Open, airy, and social, the kitchen, dining room, and living room are essentially all one space, bordered by a wall of sliding glass doors to the backyard. Everything’s brilliant white, the furnishings and art all minimalist and modern classics—very carefully collected, curated, and placed. But it isn’t a museum. Kathleen and Chris mean for it to be inviting and lived in. “We call it comfortable minimalism. Very simple,” says Chris. “Not a lot of stuff, not a lot of clutter. Everything is usable. It’s a functional space.”

Upstairs, Alexander delights in a stepped-down playroom with a glass wall overlooking the entry foyer. Here, he and his friends can play in a unique space, flooded with light, never far from his parents’ sight. Across the landing, double doors open to a sumptuous master suite. “This is the room we don’t use,” Chris says wistfully. “When Alex spends the night at his grandparents’, we’ll come up here and it’s like going to a hotel.” Another example of their humor: They’ve turned the bidet into a planter.

A lucky find turned into a benefit for all. The neighborhood avoided a derelict lot, Alexander grows up with a daily world-class art education, and Kathleen and Chris get to enjoy the fruits of their artistic labors.


Remodeler and Painting
Sam of All Trades LLC

Builders Source Appliance Gallery

Art Galleries
Charlotte Jackson Fine Art
Richard Levy Gallery

Gemini GEL

A/V System
Paradise Village

Cabinetry and Bathroom Countertops
Los Ibarra Custom

Front & Interior Doors
Santa Fe Door Store

Gates and Metal Fabrication
Southwest Wrought Iron & Welding

Glass Work
Albuquerque Custom
Shower Doors