A House of Her Own

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Photo: Architectural Digest.

Over the holidays I read a biography of the twentieth century American artist Georgia O’Keeffe, “How Georgia Became O’Keeffe: Lessons on the Art of Living” by Karen Karbo. This was a woman, who, once she listened to the thing inside of her that she must do while she was on this earth, spent her life doing it, tenaciously, single-mindedly. She drew, she sketched, she painted — expressing her experience of, and response to, the wild world which inspired her so much.



She chose New Mexico as her home, entranced by the arid desert and the flat-topped Padernal Mountain which she could see from her home, Ghost Ranch, near Abiquiu. She said, of the mountain: “It’s my private mountain. It belongs to me. God told me if I painted it enough, I could have it.”


And, as much as I enjoyed her story, and admire her art, I was almost even more fascinated about how she chose to live. Georgia choice of home was as uncompromising as the other choices she made in her life. Ghost Ranch was an unpretentious adobe home in the middle of an arid desert landscape. Upon buying the ranch she had large windows installed so she could look out over “her” landscape, and participate in its changing moods.

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georgia o'keeffe house 2Above photos: Robert Rack, Architectural Digest.

What I love about Ghost Ranch is its comfortable place in the landscape, and the use of simple, natural building materials — adobe, wood, stone. Having been in many Berber homes in Morocco, it resonates with the same simplicity and honesty, but, unlike the inward-looking Berber homes, it is unashamedly extrovert with its outward-looking windows which invite light, air and the landscape to participate in the experience of living in this unique piece of architecture. For me the landscape becomes an intrinsic part of the architecture of Ghost Ranch. Without the dialogue between the landscape and the structure, the building would lose its unique essence.

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Photos: Robert Rack, Architectural Digest.

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Another thing I admire about Ghost Ranch is the clean-lined mid-century furniture combined with ethnic rugs and large canvases of Georgia’s art. It’s contemporary and unexpected, especially when one considers the rustic exterior. But there is an artist’s eye at work in these spaces — the furniture useful, the design exhibiting a modern aesthetic sensibility, and it is placed to balance, just so, the vast amount of clean, white space. But it is not pristine. It was her home, after all. Georgia brought her collections of stones and skulls and baskets and local pottery into the spaces, lining them up on ledges and along windowsills. She was not against putting a comfortable old wooden chair in amongst the modernity — if it had a shape she responded to and a useful purpose, then it, too, could find a home here. As could an ethereal mobile by Alexander Calder.

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Photo: Robert Rack, Architectural Digest.

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georgia o'keeffe house 10Photo: Robert Rack, Architectural Digest.

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Photo: Robert Rack, Architectural Digest.

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Photo: Robert Rack, Architectural Digest.

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Photo: Robert Rack, Architectural Digest.

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Photo: Robert Rack, Architectural Digest.

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Photo: Robert Rack.

I admire this easy, almost careless, mix of old and new, combined with honest, natural materials, space and light. And art. If I were to be asked about my dream home, the answer is easy. Ghost Ranch. Hands down.

georgia o'keeffe

Photo: Architectural Digest.

About Adrienne Chinn

I'm a writer, blogger, interior designer, traveller, photographer, dog lover, foodie, slow jogger, nature walker, adventuress and aspiring eccentric.
This entry was posted in architecture, Contemporary Design, earth, georgia o'keeffe, Ghost Ranch, inspiration, Interior Design, Interiors, nature, New Mexico and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to A House of Her Own

  1. Fascinating to see how her art, home life, and personal style work together. In fact, it’s rare that a peek inside an artist’s home doesn’t captivate our attention. So exciting to see the mix of “treasures” they choose for their own collections. Thank you for piquing our interest in one of America’s most fascinating artists.

  2. Sueann Zaren says:

    Hi would you mind stating which blog platform you’re using? I’m looking to start my own blog soon but I’m having a tough time deciding between BlogEngine/Wordpress/B2evolution and Drupal. The reason I ask is because your design and style seems different then most blogs and I’m looking for something unique. P.S Sorry for being off-topic but I had to ask!

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