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2011 - Volume 1 Issue 2
Casas Bonitas
Feature Home
Article: Charlotte Tallman
Photos: Bill Faulkner
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Soledad Canyon Earth Builders is known for environmentally friendly houses, but when it comes to unique designs and custom details, one of their latest homes in the Talavera Subdivision captures the best of both worlds.


Design and Build:
Soledad Canyon
Earth Builders

Pat Bellestri-Martinez,
Max & Melissa Bellestri

Photovoltaic Panels:
Solar Power of
Las Cruces


Bathroom and
Kitchen Fixtures:
Las Cruces Winnelson

Classic Kitchens

Rawson Builders Supply

Western Stoves
& Fireplaces


Wood Flooring:
Stout Hardwood Floors

Heating and Cooling:
Four Seasons
Heating & Cooling



Lighting Fixtures:
Kitchen Kraft

Casa Mexicana

Wood Vigas & Latillas:
New Mexico
Timber & Viga

The energy efficient 3,085 sq.-ft., three bedroom, two and a half bathroom home is a rammed earth masterpiece. The exterior 18-inch rammed earth walls create a home that provides a sense of security that is felt upon walking into the home.

“The walls have the excellent thermal mass qualities of an earth wall plus the thermal resistance of the foam board, which is attached to the exterior,” Pat Bellestri-Martinez, owner of Soledad Canyon and licensed contractor says.

Pat runs the company with her son, Max, and daughter-in-law, Melissa. The family continues the work that the late Mario Bellestri started in the company. Mario was a leader in rammed earth building in New Mexico, and along with Joe Tibbets and the late Stan Huston of Albuquerque, had a significant role in the formation of codes specifically for rammed earth construction for the State of New Mexico.

“We encourage clients to let us participate in property selection and hope for a sight that will allow a passive solar orientation. We create home designs that are influenced by the size and location of the property, the topography, and of course, the views. The best solar home site is one with a view to the south. A challenge in Las Cruces because our beloved Organ Mountains are to the east. To support the weight of our walls, we pay close attention to ground compaction. Our footings are 24 inches wide and 24 inches deep. In a typical rammed earth home 200 tons of earth goes into construction of the walls,” Pat says. “We’d like to sell our homes by the pound instead of by the square foot.”

Energy efficient construction of Soledad’s homes began in 1985 with rammed earth walls and continues today with everything from dual flush toilets to photovoltaic solar panels, provided by their partner company, Solar Power of Las Cruces.

The home in Talavera might be energy efficient, but it is also full of detail. A sand-blasted design on the entryway tiles and latillas strategically placed in the entry ceiling bring the details of the house together upon the first step in. A plastered ceiling with pine vigas extending through the fur down grabs attention from the dining room to the living room. Kiva fireplaces can be found in the living room and the breakfast nook. The guest powder room highlights an onyx countertop filled with peaches, greens and browns. A larger master bedroom highlights a hickory wood floor and salt cedar wood shutters created by Ernest Thompson.

The rounding of the rammed earth house softens it considerably, especially when taking in the stunning view of the Organ Mountains. The house sitting on five acres does not have a rock wall directly behind it, opening up the beauty of the earth and bringing it together with the beauty of the home.

The view of the backyard also shows a sign – Calle de Bellestri. A sign that not only signifies the relationship between the homeowners and the builders, but one that keeps the memory of Mario and the talent he poured into the home alive, as well as the commitment Pat, Max and Melissa have for their clients. ///
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