The home is in the details
By Marissa Bond
The Las Cruces Bulletin
Walking up to the front door of 445 Palmer Road, you know you are approaching a home that has been appreciated.
Ivy clutches the corner of the house, framing the window and insinuating secrets, leading curious eyes past the weathered red gate into the courtyard.
Tom Snavely, theatrical set designer and one of the first home stagers to work in Las Cruces, knows how to use space to create mood and feeling, and his own home has been a canvas for his work.
“I’ve just been updating and adding on and renovating this house since we moved here almost 16 years ago,” Snavely said. “You know, you have to make a house a home, and that’s what I’ve been trying to do.”
The home was built in 1952, and Snavely has updated it to the needs of modern life while focusing on retaining its charm.
“I’ve always lived in older homes,” he said. “I love older homes, newer homes just don’t have the charm that an older home has.”
Snavely built the enclosed courtyard. The cloistered feeling sets a location that could be anywhere, but is distinctively, delightfully its own.
Passing through the front door haloed by the original, mid-century frosted glass panes, a dark charcoal accent wall in the foyer introduces a touch of dramatic elegance.
From the entrance, a formal living room continues the long list of Snavely’s detailed improvements. He coved the ceilings, easing the abrupt angles into smooth arcs, and added a decorative fireplace as a focal point. A large window, greened at the edges by curling ivy, looks into the courtyard.
“These windows are so large in the parlor, I didn’t like looking out onto a sidewalk and asphalt street,” Snavely said. “The courtyard now becomes part of the ambiance of the room, and expands the room, and just makes it more interesting — and more private.”
In the dining room, Snavely dropped the ceiling and installed recessed vigas. A small nicho, found at bargain and installed by Snavely, is another on-of-a-kind element bringing character and personalization to the home.
The kitchen is a vintage- lover’s delight. The gas stove is a functional 1950’s European antique, still functional, with built-in salt and pepper shakers and a timer.
“Here’s my favorite part — listen,” Snavely said. He opened the oven door, which greeted him with a thin, chirruping creak only years can provide. “You cannot buy that.”
The sink is an old double farmhouse sink Snavely found to restore the room to its proper era. The windows were also replaced with estate-sale period pieces authentic to the mid-century. The ceiling in the kitchen was low, so he simply got rid of it, expanding into the crawl space to bring more light and space into the room.
Snavely annexed the carport, creating more living space by turning it into a guest suite, privately situated down a hall from the kitchen and breakfast nook.
The guest suite is not exempt from the unique and deliberate details that make the homes unique. The eye first catches on a stunning mid-century crystal chandelier in the corner. Rather than the drab and impersonal plastic sheeting, the shower door is crafted out of two panels of an elegant screen. The sink basin is a galvanized metal.
The guest suite includes a sitting room with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves. But even the bookshelves are not staid and stuffy — they hide a secret room.
I cannot emphasize this enough — it has a secret room. With an impish grin — the only type of grin one can have when unveiling such a coy touch — Snavely leaned against one of the shelves and pushed. The bookshelf surrendered and slid back, revealing a small room. Snavely currently uses the space for storage, but what delightful magicks or tomes of Lovecraftian horror could such a space inspire?
The backyard seems equally full of potential — a set awaiting actors for tete-a-tetes and intrigue, young lovers and plotting villains. The yard is large, and well-balanced with open lawn space and surprising nooks. It was well-designed for entertaining, with an outdoor kitchen and a barbeque grill station. A three-tier fountain anchors one wall, and a jutting peninsula of a patio has been used in the past for live music.
The den holds a large working fireplace, the heavy brick lightened by the mantle Snavely created. Large portrait windows look out into the backyard, tinted for privacy and to keep the room cool.
The second bedroom was also expanded, walls moved and entry space added to invoke spaciousness. English paneling adds another personalization.
The master bedroom was added by Snavely. The bed rests, thronelike, in front of a standing wall, behind which are separate, his-andhers dressing rooms. Though he said the ceiling is only ten feet high, the space feels taller, grander. Another decorative fireplace creates an elegant vignette, and French doors open out to a back patio.
The bathroom, too, has been remodeled — but carefully.
“I could not get rid of the vintage bathroom,” Snavely said.
Mamie Eisenhower pink — think the softest hue of flamingo – with black and elegant grey details was very popular in the 1950s, and the bathroom tiles and walls feature the iconic color.
The sink is set in a hardwood bureau, and the addition tall shower and separate tub provide more space than the vintage bathroom would have had without sacrificing the charm.
The personal details, updates and renovations of the property are too numerous to list, and must be seen to be appreciated. The location is convenient to downtown, but in an established neighborhood shaded by trees. The home at 445 Palmer strikes a balance between the striking drama a host hopes for in entertaining the personalized comforts for everyday living.