Far Niente: A Masterpiece by Santa Fe Home Builders and Architects


We are thrilled to present Far Niente, a custom-built green and sustainable home in Santa Fe. This project, a collaboration between the renowned WAMO Studio Architects and the adept Palo Santo Designs, exemplifies a unique blend of the owner’s vision and Santa Fe’s architectural ethos.

Design Philosophy: Santa Fe Architect’s Vision

The architectural design of Far Niente, crafted by Santa Fe architects, features:

  • Contemporary Santa Fe Style: Emphasizing stucco walls, parapet roofs, and an orientation that captures the Jemez and Sangre de Cristo Mountains.
  • Old-World Craftsmanship: The home’s interior showcases plastered walls that play with New Mexico’s light, creating depth and character.
  • Modernist Architecture: Clean lines and tranquil forms pay homage to Santa Fe’s pueblo revival architecture, with notable features like exposed beam ceilings and open covered portals.

Far Niente: The Essence of Santa Fe Living

Named after the Italian phrase ‘dolce far niente’, meaning the sweetness of doing nothing, Far Niente is a tribute to the laid-back lifestyle of Santa Fe. Living here offers:

  • Clean air and sunshine
  • Majestic mountain views
  • Rich wildlife and diverse flora
  • Opportunities for hiking, biking, rafting, and skiing
  • A dynamic play of light across a high desert landscape

Collaboration with Robert Reck Photography

Our partnership with Robert Reck Photography, a highly acclaimed name in New Mexico architectural photography, has beautifully captured the essence of Far Niente. Visit Robert Reck Photography for a glimpse into this exquisite property.

Home Specifications

As a premier Santa Fe home builder, we proudly detail Far Niente’s features:

  • Stunning Location: Perched on a bluff near the Rio Grande Gorge.
  • Home Layout: A 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom main house with a detached studio, totaling nearly 3000 square feet.
  • Unique Amenities:
    • Entry courtyard
    • Two large covered portals
    • West-facing star gazers courtyard with an outdoor firepit
    • Detached studio with expansive views of the Western Jemez Mountains

In conclusion, Far Niente stands as a testament to the skill and creativity of Santa Fe architects and home builders, offering an idyllic retreat for those seeking the serenity of Santa Fe’s landscape and lifestyle.

Stucco and the Santa Fe Style:

A Comprehensive Guide


Building a custom home in Santa Fe? Chances are, you’ll be considering stucco finishes for the exterior of your home. If you’re new to the desert Southwest, stucco might be a first-time experience for you, despite having seen it on various commercial buildings elsewhere.

The Prevalence of Stucco in Santa Fe

In Santa Fe, stucco is more than just common—it’s the norm. Virtually every residence in the city and county features stucco as its primary exterior finish.

What is Stucco?

Stucco is a cementitious exterior cladding, generally applied manually using trowels. The application process usually involves 2-3 coats to achieve the desired texture, often a sponged finish for a sandy look.

Technical Aspects of Stucco

Not Structural or Weatherproof

Contrary to some beliefs, stucco is solely an aesthetic cladding; it neither provides structural integrity nor acts as a weatherproof barrier. These roles are fulfilled by other systems integrated into the wall.

Addressing Cracks

Cracks in stucco shouldn’t be a cause for alarm as long as your wall system is properly constructed with the necessary structural and weatherproofing elements.

Warranty and Maintenance

  • Limited lifespan with differing warranty periods depending on the manufacturer.
  • Subject to routine maintenance and eventual replacement.
  • Recommended biennial inspection by a stucco contractor, or sooner if issues arise.

Aesthetic Opportunities

Infinite Color Options

Stucco offers a multitude of color choices, particularly in synthetic systems. Custom color matching is also available, similar to paint.

Traditional vs Synthetic

While traditional cement-only stuccos offer fewer color options, synthetic elastomeric stucco finishes have largely supplanted them for their durability, longevity, and color variety.

Making the Right Color Choice

Guidelines and Restrictions

  • Check architectural guidelines if building in a Home Owners Association area.
  • Be aware of city or county zoning restrictions on color.

Factors to Consider

  • Complementing exterior windows and doors.
  • Compatibility with other exterior elements like wood or steel.
  • Coordination with external flooring and lighting fixtures.

Final Thoughts

Working closely with your architect and builder will enable you to design a cohesive and stunning exterior color palette, with stucco acting as the unifying element.

For further insights into custom home design, exteriors, or stucco, feel free to reach out. We look forward to hearing from you.

Coming Soon:  Completion of Phase 1 of the Studios at Parkway


Palo Santo’s flagship operation, the Studios at Parkway, is presently under construction and set to be completed by January 2024. This new commercial development is situated in Santa Fe’s burgeoning Siler Rufina District, a hotspot for arts and industry.

Location Highlights:

  • Proximity to Key Attractions: The location is within walking distance from popular sites like Meow Wolf and the Rufina Taproom.
  • Business Park Adjacency: It’s right next to the bustling Richards Avenue Business Park, featuring over 100 small businesses.
  • Scenic Views: Although located in a commercial-industrial area, the development offers views of the Sangre de Cristo mountains.
  • Outdoor Amenities: The project is adjacent to city open spaces and trails along the old Acequia Madre.

Phase 1 Details

Phase 1 of this ambitious project is nearing its completion, and it will feature 15 new commercial condominiums designed in a boutique-industrial style.

Key Points for Phase 1:

  • Status of Units: All 15 units are currently under contract, pending sale upon completion.
  • Lease Opportunities: There are still leasing opportunities available for small businesses interested in this location.
  • Contact for Lease: For more information on leasing, reach out to Leslie Giorgetti at [email protected].

Phase 2 Plans

The next step, Phase 2, has 14 additional commercial condominiums in the pipeline and is close to receiving its required permits.

What to Expect in Phase 2:

  • Permitting: Scheduled to be processed very soon.
  • Groundbreaking: Expected to start in early Spring 2024.
  • Availability: Units will be available on the market in early 2024.
  • Pre-Sale Opportunities: Due to the rapid sell-out of Phase 1, prospective buyers are encouraged to contact us immediately for pre-sale opportunities.

Siler Rufina District: A Business Haven

The Siler Rufina District is vibrant and unique, home to an array of locally-owned small to medium-sized businesses. The area is peppered with restaurants, coffee shops, offices, light industrial workspaces, and warehouses.

  • Limited Leasing: While there are still some lease opportunities in the district, Studios at Parkway is one of the very few offerings for sale.

Developer’s Vision: Palo Santo Designs

Palo Santo Designs, along with its developer partners, has meticulously designed these commercial spaces to blend modernist aesthetics with practicality.

  • Ownership Opportunities: The Studios are intentionally designed to provide ownership opportunities for local small businesses.
  • Size and Price: With an approximate gross floor area of 1600 square feet and a pricing model targeted at owner-occupied businesses, the Studios at Parkway are poised to be a significant addition to Santa Fe’s business community.

For any inquiries or interest, do not hesitate to contact us as soon as possible.


How Much Does it Cost to Build in Santa Fe, NM?

So, how much does it cost to build in Santa Fe?

Well, that is the million-dollar question.  Actually, it’s more like a 2-3 million dollar question for most people looking to build a custom home in Santa Fe.  In fact, I get several emails a week asking, “How much does it cost to build in Santa Fe?” And it’s always a nuanced answer, because there are so many variables associated with determining that price point. 

The Most Common Factors

These include among other things, the existing soils and topography of your chosen building lot, the proximity the building site has to existing utilities, the length of the drive from existing roads to the building site and of course, the design characteristics of your one-of-a-kind hand-crafted custom dream home.  These variables have been constant in their influence over the cost to build forever.  And once we are able to assess your building site, we can often make some predictions about how much these factors may influence the final construction cost.

The Time Factor

But there is another factor which historically wasn’t as influential as it is now, and that is the factor of time.  Einstein realized that time was relative, and Newton was missing the point when he said time was constant.  And although Newtonian physics seems the order of the day when it comes to something as material as building a custom home from scratch, Einsteinian relativity may now be worth considering.  Time and construction costs are in fact relative, and time plays a much greater role in the final construction costs than ever before.  What do I mean, you may ask?

The Data

We recently did a thorough analysis of our custom home construction costs dating back over the last 15 years.  The graph above shows our actual cost data for completed custom home construction projects depicted by the solid orange line.  The dashed gray line represents an average trend and incorporates a projection beyond 2023 based on our expectations.  What the data shows is that, yes, construction costs have increased in the last decade.  I think we all knew that.  But more interesting was the rate of increase over time. 

Throughout the 2010’s construction costs were somewhat stable with a relatively predictable 5%-10% per year increase. And this ramped up from 2015-2019.  Average costs per square foot slowly increased from roughly $200 per square foot in 2010 to just under $500 per square foot over the course of that decade.  This relatively stable rate of cost increase made it pretty easy to predict the general cost per square foot of a custom home from year to year. Then COVID hit!

An Accelerating Trend

What we saw was a massive disruption to the supply chain and labor market at the same time.  Yes, we all have heard about inflation. It’s been in the headlines for years, but what most people don’t consider is that inflation affects different parts of the economy in different ways, and at different rates. And it also affects different local markets in non-homogeneous ways.

For custom home construction in Santa Fe, the previously predictable annual cost increase quickly changed.  And we began seeing increases across all sectors of the construction market, concrete, steel, lumber, and labor.  This amounted to annual cost increases of greater than 20% between 2020-2023. For this reason, we have seen the cost of custom home construction rapidly move from +/- $500 per square foot in 2020 to well over $700 per square foot in just a few years.  And in some instances, we are seeing prices above $900/sf for highly complicated or specialized home designs on challenging lots.

Our Design-Build Approach

At Palo Santo Designs, we recognize our customers rely on us to be as accurate as possible in our pre-design budget forecasting.  It is one of the main benefits of our Design-Build approach.  The integration of real-time construction cost knowledge within our integrated architecture team allows Palo Santo Designs to be very efficient in the value engineering of custom homes. 

Until recently, our predictive models were somewhat static, assuming the cost of construction at the time design commences would be +/- within 5%-10% of what they would be a year later when groundbreaking actually happens.  Now our Updated Pre-Design Budget Exercise has built into it a time factor.  That is, what we can assume for construction costs at the time design begins is factored up according to when you anticipate breaking ground.  That way, we can take into account the accelerated cost trend currently being seen in the market. This allows us to better assist our clients in being financially prepared for the likely construction costs to come.  Also, our integrated Design-Build approach can also reduce the amount of time to commencement of construction. This further optimizes your dollars by staying ahead of growing costs as much as possible.

Optimizing Value

It is also important to understand that contractors have very limited control over the costs of construction.  That may sound counter-intuitive, but general contractors are the orchestral conductors of the varied resources needed to build custom homes.  Labor, lumber, windows, or concrete are all externally priced by market forces outside of the contractor’s influence.   Our team of architects and builders are focused on providing our clients with the most realistic cost modelling possible. We do this by working closely with our trade partners and vendors to optimize value.  And whether you are looking to build at the $1.5 million or the $15 million dollar price point, we will always take great effort to deliver as much bang for your buck as possible.

Find Out More

Email me [email protected] to receive a free consultation about your project and a copy of our Updated Pre-Design Budget Exercise. We can guide you through the steps to realize your dream. Your one-of-a-kind hand crafted custom home in Santa Fe with Palo Santo Designs.  

The New Mexico Monsoon

The majesty of the New Mexico Monsoon. Slow, deliberate, obstinate, discerning and generous. From the great deep of the equatorial Pacific it rolls into and across the vast deserts of Sonora and Chihuahua and tips its brimming cup onto the sun scorched mountains of the upper Rio Grande valley. The Sangre de Cristo. The life blood of New Mexico. Aqua es Vida. The moisture laden air mass moves with impunity from the south being pressed upward upon the Colorado Plateau. Wrung out upon the land, the arroyos fill, reservoirs and water tables are replenished. The acequia comes back to life after a long dreadful sleep, and native Blue Gramma grass will soon become green again, pushing up its short and proud stalks to form the ubiquitous sickle shaped seed top, both recognizable and easily overlooked. This year, looking down upon the seemingly barren soils of the Piñon Juniper forest that is Santa Fe’s home, it seems impossible that these low clumps of dry grass can actually be alive. Yet they are, and the monsoon rains now soaking the ground will prove that fact again.

The mega drought, as they call it, has been a few decades in the making. Lower than average rain and snow cumulating year upon year has left our soils desiccated, and the pinon tree susceptible to the bark beetle. It’s natural defense against the beetle is the production of its sticky sap, which engulfs and kills insect invaders as they try to burrow into the bark. In drought conditions the pinon is unable to produce sufficient sap to defend itself and the beetle population thrives. 2022 has seen another decline in the pinon population in and around Santa Fe.

People often ask, how will we continue to provide water to this growing community? A valid question. And it is heartening to know that Santa Fe is a world leader in water conservation, with one of the lowest per capita water use profiles in the U.S. We remain ahead of the curve in that regard. https://www.santafenm.gov/water_conservation

I recently re-listened to Woody Guthrie’s “Dust Bowl Blues”, a tribute to a previous mega drought from nearly a century ago. It is a first hand account of the severity and disregard nature can show to our needs, wants, and prayers. Caused in large part by the combined events of a massive scale up of till agriculture across the western plains and a 10 year drought, the dust bowl is recognized as one of the worst environmental disasters of our age. During this unusually dry and windy spring, I found myself wondering, will I be a dust bowl refuge? Thankfully, decades of soil conservation efforts, and improved water resource management has allowed the lands of the arid southwest to handle drought far better than we were able 100 years ago. And now with a record setting start to the 2022 New Mexico Monsoon, my nerves are again calmed, and I settle into the knowing that the rains do come.

Perhaps the greatest challenge facing the west in times of drought are wild fires. We have just seen New Mexico’s largest recorded wild fire. 2 fires, in fact, who merged to combust an area encompassing about 350,000 acres along the east side, the wet side as it were, of our Sangre de Cristo range. From the small town of Las Vegas, NM through Mora to the north up to Guadalupita nearly to Angel Fire. I fitting name. This blaze now known as the Calf Canyon/Hermits Peak fire sparked to life in early April. A season once still considered winter in the northern slopes of the Sangre de Cristo. A prescribed burn set with the good intention of reducing fire risks by the US Forest Service which quickly grew out of control. Having misread the signs, the lack of humidity, lack of stored moisture in the soils and canopy, the winds, it quickly became an inferno. What was once predictable in earlier years, now seems unpredictable. Simultaneously, in a nearby wilderness, an ember emerged from last year’s prescribed burn. A smoldering subterranean ember, having been resuscitated by the spring winds emerged upon the land to ignite those conifer forests in Calf Canyon and join its twin at Hermit’s Peak to form the largest burn recorded in our state.
Once underway, this blaze had only one remedy, despite the valiant efforts of firefighters on the ground and air tankers from above to contain its wrath. The mighty monsoon, which came on June 15 this year, the official beginning our our fifth and most beloved season. It came on time, not a day too soon, and has proceeded in its first couple weeks to drench our beloved landscape with life giving water.

Because of this generous start to the monsoon, the wild fires are now apparently under control and forest access restrictions are being lifted. The gardens and orchards will thrive this summer. The grasses will come back from their hibernation, and the magnificent display of wildflowers will bloom. The Piñon Juniper forest will be given its ration of life sustaining moisture in this years New Mexico Monsoon and perhaps the bark beetle will be thwarted for now . I sit and listen to the patter of a consistent rain on my roof, watching the runoff flow freely into the catch basins that convey it to the cistern that stores this precious resource. A full tank, that we will use to irrigate our greenhouse, gardens and landscape, we also use the rainwater caught in the cistern to flush toilets in our house, conserving water and re-using it to build soil, grow plants, sequestering carbon and moisture in the soil where life can thrive. https://palosantodesigns.com/green-building/

2020 Haciendas: Parade of Homes – Featuring Our Modern Farmhouse

We’re thrilled to be included in another Haciendas Parade of Homes here in Santa Fe. This year, our recently completed Modern Farmhouse is featured, which is incredible for our team and also dear to us because it’s the home of our principals Mark and Leslie Giorgetti.

“Carefully designed by the in-house architecture and design team at Palo Santo Designs, this modern farmhouse exemplifies the elegance and simplicity of dean-lined minimalism while incorporating many of the best aspects of the traditional pitched-roof Northern New Mexico compound. It simultaneously communicates the classical architecture of sacred geometry and the proportion of the golden mean, while showcasing the best craftsmanship Santa Fe has to offer.”

We are among 18 other homes and builders in this virtual Parade of Homes with remarkable craftsmanship all around. We invite you to discover all of the homes through the Santa Fe Area Home Builders Association website and take in the entire parade virtually this year due to Covid-19.

We also encourage you to vote in the People’s Choice contest, which is running on social media – Facebook and Instagram.

Santa Fe Modern Farmhouse

Carefully designed by the in-house architecture and design team at Palo Santo Designs, this modern farmhouse exemplifies the elegance and simplicity of ‘clean lines’ minimalism, while incorporating many of the best aspects of the traditional pitched roof northern New Mexico compound.   It simultaneously communicates the classical architecture of sacred geometry and the proportion of the golden mean.

A renaissance home.  It not only utilizes nature’s classical proportions within its layout and elevations, it also showcases the best craftsmanship Santa Fe has to offer with hard troweled plaster walls, and artisanal applications of stone, tile, steel, and wood throughout.  Designed and occupied by Palo Santo Designs’ Principals, Mark & Leslie Giorgetti with their two young children, the house exemplifies the fusion of living functionality for a family, high architectural design and exceptional craftsmanship.

The panoramic views of the Jemez, Sangre, Ortiz, and Sandia ranges offer every room an exciting vignette of our dramatic mountain skyscape.  The cathedral-like great room, with exposed timber trusses, accommodates kitchen, dining and living in an open floor plan, aligned to the central fireplace hearth.  The room opens out to both the East and West with sweeping portals that soak the occupants and guests with breathtaking views.  Carefully planned spaces take every view opportunity, room by room, to allow the outdoor and indoor to fuse into a seamless display of beauty.

The manor-like facades are embraced by courtyard walls that shelter gardens and orchards, while providing privacy for the detached guesthouse.  The outer landscaped areas provide sanctuary for grapevines, native grass meadows, wildflowers, and the ubiquitous chicken coop and beehive.  Food production in the form of fruits, eggs, vegetables, honey, and herbs is a central function of the landscaping while also providing shade and a cool microclimate around the home for comfort and relaxation within the aesthetic design.  The gardens and trees are carefully watered with recycled greywater and rainwater catchment.

The home takes sustainability to the highest level with LEED Platinum certification pending, utilizing solar photovoltaics, energy efficiency, and rainwater reuse for both irrigation and toilet flushing.    With its super-insulated shell, passive solar design, LED lighting, in-floor radiant heat, and pumice-crete walls, this is not your typical Santa Fe luxury home.  This one of a kind work of art has combined reverence for nature, architecture and craftmanship into a masterpiece, which will provide its soul-enriching lifestyle benefits for generations to come.

 This newly completed Santa Fe Modern Farmhouse to be featured in the 2020 Haciendas, A Parade of Homes.  Learn more here.  https://sfahba.com/project/haciendas-parade-of-homes/ or contact us here.

Best sustainable homes in Santa Fe

The best sustainable homes are in Santa Fe, New Mexico!

Hear Mark Giorgetti discuss the best techniques, materials and methods for the design and construction of sustainable homes in Santa Fe New Mexico, and the world.   On KTRC Talk 1260 and Santafe.com radio podcast “Build Together” with Miles Conway of the Santa Fe Area Home Builders’ Association www.sfahba.com.

Click Here to Listen

Miles Conway introduces Mark Giorgetti, Principal and Founder of Palo Santo Designs.  Palo Santo Designs is a construction and architecture firm based in Santa Fe New Mexico for the last 20 years, specializing in the design-build approach to contemporary high end custom homes that incorporate numerous sustainability features.  Mark discusses how he got his start by working in the solar industry and studying environmental science.  And his discoveries that buildings offer a uniquely attainable way to achieve important environmental improvements by reducing energy consumption, water consumption, waste.   When designed and built right, sustainable homes provide humans with protection from increasing environmental hazards related to climate, while also offering us all an opportunity for peace, joy and recuperation from the stresses of modern life.  Architecture plays such a critical role in the well being of the human race and the construction methods we use also play a critical role in the greater environmental health of our regions and our globe.

Mark also discusses his experiences traveling in other parts of the world and his observations regarding how people dwell in less advantaged places.  He goes on to describe how, when he worked for the United Nations on a global research project he was able to identify an important nexus between indigenous natural building methods like adobe and other social and environmental benefits.  Indigenous building materials and methods are often cost effective, can provide resilience from extreme weather events such as extreme heat, and can also serve to mitigate the causes of global climate change by reducing the embodied energy in the building materials we use and improving energy efficiency.

Palo Santo Designs has focused on how to bring these alternative building systems into the mainstream by producing architecturally beautiful modern homes with all the amenities expected by high end consumers that also utilize sustainable, low embodied energy materials that provide energy efficiency, water efficiency, comfort and afford us all some grace in an otherwise complicated world.

For more information contact us here!


The Best Contemporary Home Builder in New Mexico

Award winning design-build firm Palo Santo Designs is proud to announce it has been named one of the Best Contemporary Home Builders in the US, taking the New Mexico slot!  We appreciate all the support in our efforts to create state of the art modern and sustainable homes in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and look forward to our next round of contemporary homes.  Our skilled team of licensed and experienced architects and builders excel at the design and construction of high end contemporary custom homes.   Palo Santo Homes are both stunningly beautiful and highly sustainable providing state of the art comforts for solar power, water efficiency, energy efficiency and a lifestyle in tune with the natural beauty so abundant in the mountains of northern New Mexico.

Our designs are defined by clean lines, light, space and an understated elegance which is central to contemporary home design today.

Our approach to design and construction of the best contemporary homes in New Mexico is rooted in a few simple ideals.  1.  We listen to our clients and guide them to the outcomes they want and deserve. Most of our projects have award winning results, and we never cut corners on the best practices, fit or finish. 2. We apply our decades of expertise in construction and architecture to validate costs in real time so that our customers know what to expect in terms of the financial implications of their choices, this keeps everyone happy and leads to successful outcomes.  3.  We communicate.  We always keep our customers up to speed on the ins and outs of the project, when the unexpected arises we address it head on with clarity, honesty and expert advisement.

Our passions reside in the creation of beautiful architectural spaces which are clean, open, inviting and restful.  We thrive on the collaboration in artistic expression with our customers in the creation of one of a kind custom homes and apply our knowledge and expertise to make the resulting home, durable, functional, efficient and elegant.

Thank you to Home Builder Digest for the recognition and support in naming us the Best Contemporary Home Builder in New Mexico!


Santa Fe Ranked #6 Best City in the World 2019

Time and time again our great city of Santa Fe is ranked high for tourism and living. However, it’s not as frequent that we jump into the top 10 of worldwide destinations and snag the sixth spot among other notable places. 

Recently Santa Fe was voted the number six best city in the world by the Readers’ Choice Awards 2019 (Condé Nast Traveller)

It came in just below other international cities, such as Tokyo, Dresden, and Merida. But we’re cheering because it landed at number six against some stiff competition. 

Why Do We Believe Santa Fe Is One of the Best Cities in the World?

#1 – The Great Outdoors 

Santa Fe is packed with tons to do outside. You’ll find everything from snow skiing to horse-back riding to balloon trips. The scenic area is packed with year-round outdoor activity. So it doesn’t matter what time of year you come, you’re going to find something great to do outside. It’s rare you can find this much to do outside elsewhere. 

#2 – The Art & Culture 

There’s no doubt Santa Fe scored high on this list because of the incredible art and culture of the city. Santa Fe is rich in native American history, which is evident in both the art and culture you can experience here. Everything from the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture to Georgia O’Keeffe’s legacy here in the area, there’s something so beautiful about the art and something so unique you won’t find elsewhere in the U.S. or the world. 

#3 – The Cuisine 

Red and green chiles are king here. The spice is real and people come to Santa Fe to get their taste of chile on just about anything. It’s truly unique to this area and you won’t find red and green chile sauce quite like it outside of the state. So, what makes a city one of the best in the world? Well of course it’s food, and we certainly have some of the best and the most unique in the world. 

#4 – The Architecture 

Touching on our niche, the architecture is one-of-a-kind here and connects perfectly with the surrounding landscape. You’ll find plenty of natural tones and materials throughout the structures in the city, with adobe style stretching from historic to modern and everything in between. Just as the other destinations in the top 10 of the list have one-of-a-kind architecture, so do we, and it’s truly different here in Santa Fe. 

Building In One of the Best Cities

If you’re intrigued by everything Santa Fe has to offer and might be considering relocating to this area, then we’d be thrilled to connect with you. 

We’re proud to be a design and build team under one roof delivering some of the best custom homes in such a thriving city. Building in Santa Fe is an absolute dream. And we’d like to be the ones to turn that dream into a reality for you. 


Palo Santo Designs Achieves Its 8th LEED Certified Home in Santa Fe

We’re proud to announce our team received its 8th LEED certification for a another new home build, and the 5th at the Platinum level which is the highest level for LEED. 

What is LEED? 

LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, which is a cornerstone here at Palo Santo Designs. We are committed to green building and sustainability in everything we do. 

LEED is the most widely used green building rating system in the world and provides a framework for us to design and build highly efficient, green homes. 

To achieve a LEED certification requires close adherence to efficiency in multiple categories—location, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials, indoor environmental quality, innovation, sustainable sites, and more. 

To receive the minimum LEED certification, a project must score at least 40 points within those efficiency categories. 

Not only did we score enough to become certified, we scored more than 80 points for this home build putting us at the Platinum level—the highest level of certification awarded. 

Our team is unmatched in the Santa Fe area in LEED certified home builds. We pride ourselves in being leaders in energy efficient and sustainable design and builds. 

We’re honored to achieve another Platinum certification, but beyond that we’re proud to be committed to such high levels of energy efficiency and sustainability in our projects.

Santa Fe Architect Spotlight – Sandra Odems

We sat down with another one of our great architects here at Palo Santo Designs—Sandra Odems—to talk about her background in architecture, her favorite part of the whole process, and how she approaches architecture now in Santa Fe.

What Led You To Architecture?

For Sandra, it was her interest in drawing from a young age. “I remember (as a child) finding art books stacked near the road, next to someone’s trash, and thinking I had found treasure,” she says.

As she journeyed through high school she always chose art classes instead of foreign language classes.  Once she arrived at Tulane for college, she determined architecture would be a great path for her, one that would nurture her creativity and allow her to become a professional.

What Did You Do in Early Your Architecture Career?

For her college junior year abroad, Sandra studied at the Architectural Association in London, which had a strong emphasis on design.  After graduation she flip-flopped, and jumped into residential construction, getting her hands dirty learning how buildings are actually constructed here in New Mexico.

As a licensed Architect several years later, Sandra was involved in the construction of larger projects: schools, recreation centers and visitors’ centers across the state.  After ten years as a principal in a bigger firm, Sandra started her family and her own practice, with a new focus on residential architecture.

She also spent some time working with Ed Mazria and his team on The 2030 Challenge, which is an initiative that aims to reduce carbon emissions from the building sector by the year 2030.

Sandra now has 15 years of experience in residential design & construction in addition to approximately 10 years of experience working in the public sector.

What Brought You to Santa Fe?

“I’m originally from New Orleans,” Sandra says, but she landed in Santa Fe after considering options in other areas of the country and moving around a bit.  Sandra initially moved to Taos with her husband. They began building houses together in the area and learning construction.

“We were young and it seemed cool.” Sandra says.  About a year later, they moved to Santa Fe together to pursue larger projects and decided to stay.

Sandra says they fell in love with Santa Fe because of the beauty of the area, the clean air, and outdoor activities.  She and her family enjoy skiing, hiking and sailing on the NM lakes as much as possible.

How Do You Approach Architecture & Design of Custom Homes?

Sandra says it’s a lot about context: the owner, the site, tangible and intangible items.

“You’re always looking for something unique – something special that the client brings to the table – that inspires the project.” she says. For Sandra, it’s about being a great listener, and figuring out what is significant and important about each project.  Then it’s about transforming what’s heard into something that can be built.

It’s also about creating a connection to the outdoors, especially here in Santa Fe where the climate is comfortable and enjoyable.

Sure, modernism influences design and trends, but sometimes it’s also about designing buildings to be timeless; something that isn’t so dated.  That’s a real accomplishment.

But at the end of the day… what Sandra mostly wants is for a project to be successful for the client.  Success defined on their terms, because she has listened to them and created a building that they can enjoy for years to come.

What’s Your Favorite Part of the Design-Build Process?

“I love the day-to-day coordination with engineers and just getting it right,” Sandra says.

The complexity of the design and construction is exciting to her. It’s everything from the big vision to the tiniest of details—the daily push forward to a great finished project.

At Palo Santo Designs, Sandra is pleased to work with a team of people committed to thinking everything out and putting together a great project for each client.

What Are Some of the Unique Solutions You Deliver to Clients?

“I’m always thinking about daylight and energy-efficiency, and context, and how these things can come together,” she says.

Palo Santo Designs is committed to projects that are energy-efficient and it’s also second nature for Sandra since she’s been working on energy-efficient design and construction since the early 1990s.  “I was doing green design long before it was trendy”, she says.

Sandra is also a LEED certified professional.  It’s everything from the orientation of a home for natural light to envelope design and efficient systems. “We like to consider all of this,” Sandra says, but we understand that each client has their own goals and needs in their home.

All-in-all, Sandra is passionate about architecture and loves walking a project from design to build with careful attention to detail throughout the process.  

What Makes Santa Fe’s Architecture Different, Especially in 2019?

“I love that in Santa Fe we have both contemporary and traditional styles.  Contemporary is just starting to gain in popularity, but there is a big push happening right now in this direction.” Sandra says.

She loves the historic quality of the area and the City’s commitment to historic preservation – and a desire on the part of the community to continue to blend architecture into the earth, but she also appreciates and enjoys designing contemporary buildings.

It’s not a greater appreciation for one or the other. It’s an appreciation for how both can exist side-by-side, and in doing so, create a place that is comfortable and exciting.  Old and new, together.

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