She was known for her paintings of oversized flowers, and her penchant for animal skulls and black stones. But did you know that Georgia O’Keeffe’s Abiquiu home was as minimal as her canvases?
Purchased in 1945, and four years in restoration, her large and rambling adobe was created to reflect Miss O’Keeffe’s precise vision, her own interior landscape. Its rooms are rigorous examples of “curated” spaces, where each object is carefully chosen for its function or aesthetics. She treated this home as a living canvas, constantly editing, adding and subtracting.
The kitchen in particular represents a dramatic example of how much she allowed herself to think outside the box. Although actually comprised of three rooms, the main space (shown here) has no refrigerator, and rather than traditional upper cabinets mounted on the walls, there are two sets of barely discernible white metal built-in cupboards, purchased from the Sears catalog, that blend in seamlessly with the walls. No art, minimal counter space, and a table made from two sawhorses and a plywood top. A large walk-through pantry holds the majority of cookware and dried foods she needed. The refrigerator and a freezer are in the adjoining back porch.
No art, minimal counter space, and a table made from two sawhorses and a plywood top.
This minimalism continues throughout the home. Curtains (when she allowed them) made from white bed sheets, and Miss O’Keeffe’s preferred method of lighting was a bare, hanging lightbulb, even in the kitchen. Her meeting with famed Japanese-American designer Isamu Noguchi eventually resulted in the use of rice-paper lantern covers for some of these bulbs.
Clearly, she was willing to trade convenience for visual simplicity. Touring this home always throws me back on myself, inspiring a fantasy dialog with Miss O’Keeffe about her selection process. It also forces me to confront, question and confirm my own design choices.
Although I’m moved and inspired by spending time in Georgia O’Keeffe’s Abiquiu home, the overall effect is too precise for my tastes, and would be effortful to maintain. But knowing that it had “a warming effect” on her life (her words), I feel a bond with her, as this is how my home works on me.
Maybe living with rocks, bones and bare bulbs isn’t your thing. But a more interesting question would be…what IS?
Georgia O’Keeffe’s Abiquiu home is approximately 1 hour north of Santa Fe, and can be toured this year from March 7 through November 22. The cost is 35. per person, and reservations are essential. For more info, please go to the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum website. The photo in this blog (Georgia O’Keeffe’s Abiquiu House, Kitchen, 2007), Herbert Lotz, © Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, RC-2009-002-043) is from Georgia O’Keeffe and Her Houses, by Barbara Buhler Lynes and Agapita Judy Lopez. This is the only book which features extensive interior photos of both Miss O’Keeffe’s homes. Her Ghost Ranch property is not open to visitors, and her Abiquiu home does not allow photography of any kind.