Louisa McElwain - The House that Louisa built

1953 - 2013

About 25 miles north of Santa Fe, nestled into the Santa Cruz Valley, is artist Louisa McElwain's magical 10-acre farm and home. I was invited on a private tour this weekend and it was like stepping into the pages of a gorgeous coffee table book.  I crossed a tiny bridge over the ancient acequia that runs through the property and was greeted by Louisa's three dogs and a charming open patio with the house on one side and her gallery/studio on the other.
Photos by C. Whitney-Ward

Tables were set with inviting nibbles...

And  we were invited into Louisa's wonderfully-eclectic home. The  first impression is that it is much-loved and ancient .

 It is indeed loved, but it is only six months old. "We began building just before Christmas and the challenge was to make everything look as if it were made by hand and not available at Home Depot," says Louisa, who remembers hunting up antique shutters, old windows and lots and lots of vintage  doors to make the house look and feel old. And, she applied her remarkable painting talent to floors and walls with gorgeous results.

No these weren't pulled from an old Italian villa. Louisa created stencils of designs that she loved  and spent hours meticulously drawing, snapping chalk lines, and painting the final "look" with  acid dyes. Then the finished floors were sealed with garage floor epoxy. Amazing!

Then she tackled  faux finishes and charming painted wall panels. She learned ragging techniques from Joe Madrid of Madrid's Painting  and used his custom blended paints on all the walls.  "These rooms express a bit of Italy, a bit of French Enlightenment, and a bit of New Mexico," laughs Louisa.

Then she added rustic  lighting...

A fireplace here and there...

A lovely bathroom...

She created a mosaic floor in the shower - it only cost her 10 bucks - using a jumble of tiny pieces of travertine and slate tiles; the shower seat was fashioned from a fireplace mantle cut in two and stacked.

                Next we toured the farm.

There was a nifty "rolling" chicken coup, just beyond the lavender bushes...

Dog houses..the smallest one for this handsome guy...

A wood pile pretty enough to paint...

A bucolic pasture...

And lovely, lovely Norwegian Fjord horses.

And a pond studded with "bouquets" of Flag Iris - a reflecting pool for the trees surrounding it and the sky above.

Thank you to EVOKE Contemporary Gallery in Santa Fe for the invitation to experience this wonderful afternoon.

Photo courtesy of EVOKE Contemporary
1953 - 2013

 And a huge thank you to Louisa McElwain for her immense talent
 and her warm hospitality. 

EVOKE Contemporary



  1. Your posts bring back many wonderful memories of visits to Santa Fe. A truly magical place.

  2. what did Louisa die of, please tell me.