Rina Swentzell’s Adobe House

Rina Swentzell’s Adobe House


Judy introduced me to Rina Swentzell’s house and I am really impressed. This house does not fit in the tiny house size but fits more in the small size but I find the simplicity and the beauty of the home well worth sharing for inspiration and ideas.

The house is based in Northern New Mexico and was designed for the grandmother of Bill Steen’s children and Athena’s mother. The grandchildren were involved in the construction and were able to show and develop there construction talents.

Benito worked on the building from start to finish, being there from the foundations through the walls andfinish plasters. Anything that was done with wood, from the roof to the finish carpentry and furniture.

The house itself, approximately 700 sf, is a tribute to Rina’s architectural design skills. The house is simple in shape, rectangular, but tastefully divided on the inside with curving walls that transform the angularity of the outside into subtle interior sculpture. As a whole, the little adobe house is a beautiful work of art and yet at the same time, ever so practical and functional.

The wood was local, as were the adobes used for the walls. The finish plasters were simple and elegant, a medium brown blend of finely screened clay with sand and straw. For me, one of the beautiful things about Rina’s little house is that, instead of being a cheap imitation (Santa Fe style) of the old pueblo style of building, her house is a thoughtful interpretation of the past and yet very contemporary. The comfort level is high, the passive solar design requires little to no additional heating or cooling.

To view more photos of the construction and see more of Rina’s house visit Bill’s blog.


  1. I fell in love with Adobes, earthships, strawbales and other earthen homes when I lived in Taos, NM. My path is taking me to central Florida and I am wondering if it is possible to have an Adobe or Strawbale home built there. Does any one have any knowledge about building homes like this in such a humid climate?

    • I was researching this too, and it seems that strawbales in humid climates are more susceptible to mold especially if they are not sealed right and arrived to the building site with mold spores already in them. Google “straw bales” and “mold” for more info.

  2. Beautiful house!

    The floors look to be earthen/adobe as well, which adds to the thermal mass… which helps with heating/cooling, in combination with the passive solar design.

    Thanks for sharing this.

  3. Gorgeous, and the perfect size for a single or a couple. Love the built-in kitchen seating and the sculpted seat in the living room. Throw in a fireplace and a big garden and I’m there!

  4. I much prefer this building approach. Why aren’t more tiny house builders using thick, thermal mass, load-bearing walls? Like adobe, compressed earth blocks, rammed earth or stone. It’s not portable as the sticks and board ones, but are so much better in so many ways.

    • My understanding is that there are adobe buildings — including some very old ones, even colonial period — in the cold-winter Northeast (upstate New York, for example). I was surprised to learn that. Adobe fares well in non-desert areas, it seems.

  5. Hi! I wanted to see more but the link to Bill’s blog takes me to a blog about Bangkok. Could someone provide the correct link. I think this home is beautiful. Thanks, Ev

  6. I’m taking courses with Adobe in Action to build a passive solar direct gain adobe home. I’m a professional artist and love to build. This little house is terrific!! Would the family consider selling plans? Or discussing ideas? Very touched by your motivation. Lost on the Bangkok blog
    …whats that about?

  7. I love tiny houses as well – something about controlling your life space, “footprint” I took a week long class from Bill and Athena down at Canelo, AZ. a few years back. They are delightful people, artist of the earth. I learned a lot and had a wonderful time. Wished I could afford to return for more classes.

  8. are they still in AZ? I would like to be able to contact them or similar adobe people as I will be moving to N.E. Az sometime next year, and love this style of small home.